The Sun Also Rises

That’s a Bible verse, used by Hemingway as a title for his most famous novel.

It is an example for a statement that is indisputably true. The sun rises every day.

In contrast, here are some statements about solar that are indisputably wrong:

I don’t know what the prognosis of the photovoltaic industry organization above projects for increases to 2013, but let’s assume it’s even higher than this year, that it’ll be 2000 GWh more per year. So that’ll give us this probably over-generous estimate:

2009 = 6,100 GWh;     2010 = 8,100 GWh;     2011 = 10,100 GWh;     2012 = 12,100 GWh

That’s from my favorite Fossil Nuke site, the useless and harmful “Brave New Climate” blog (link omitted intentionally), written in October 2009 by Tom Blees in a post discussing German energy policy (disclosure: I have no friendly feelings for him, for reasons explained here).

That statement above is indisputably wrong. The record shows 28.5 TWh of solar for 2012, beating Blees’ “probably over-generous” estimate by a factor of 2.36.

That post by Blees then comes to this remarkable conclusion:

So Germany’s ill-considered (and, amazingly, continuing) national experiment with solar power is costing them roughly 70 times (in costs/kWh) what it would have cost them to build top-notch nuclear power plants, disregarding the intermittency problem with solar, which is no small matter.

It is somewhat difficult to verify this one. No one will build new nuclear capacity in Germany in the first place, so no one bothers to find out what it would cost.

But, as reported recently, Germany will be at 11 cents Euro per kWh for new solar from April on.

Dividing that by 70 would result in costs of 0.16 cents Euro per kWh for nuclear. I am no expert on nuclear energy, since it is hopeless as a solution for climate change and therefore not worth my time. But that does impress me as somewhat optimistic.

Of course that is only the price of solar right now. Prices for solar energy will fall even further in the next decade. And any comparison with large-scale project energy like coal or nuclear needs to consider the fact that solar is deployed in a matter of months, while coal and nuclear takes many years to build, and these plants will be in service for decades to come. That means their price needs to beat solar not only now, but for the very least a decade in the future, a point made by Zachary Shahan at Cleantechnica.

I am looking ahead to blog about this particular post by Tom Blees again in 2023, just to see how much the cost of solar energy has come down in that decade. Stay tuned.

The sun also rises. And so does solar energy.


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

2 thoughts on “The Sun Also Rises

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