This blog is an upbeat blog on PV and provides real data from real projects. The Chilean 100 megawatt DC power PV project is up and running. The developer estimated it would cost $2.40 per watt and the solar resource in the Atacama will yield 2,700 watt hours per year for each of the 100 million watts installed. Just this week a friend in California shared a proposal he has been given for a PV system on his warehouse roof here in California. His project will cost $3 per watt and will be for 84 kilowatts DC power (84,000 watts). Although the Chilean project is 1,200 times larger and ground mounted the unit cost in Chile is only 20% lower. Chilean labor is also less expensive than Californian labor. The Chilean project has single axis ground mounted trackers the California project will use non tracking frames that have ballasts to hold the PV modules in place on the warehouse roof. The California project will generate 128 million watt hours per year of AC power or 1,523 watt hours per year for each watt of PV module installed. Of course the Chilean project is a “better” project less unit cost per watt and more output per year per watt, but both projects have their place under the sun. A warehouse in the Bronx NY has installed 1.6 megawatts of PV on its roof. That must be one bloody big roof!! I hope to get data on this project and will make the comparison between the Bronx and the Atacama. These two places are the most opposite extremes of places in the world.
The Chinese did a marvelous job at destroying the profit in PV module manufacture but the end result is some rather good projects in sunny places around the planet. Wind turbines have not come down in price over the last five years and in fact due to the higher cost of steel, copper, and cement the price per watt is up a little over the past five years. A 100 megawatt wind farm that is onshore will cost about $2.50 per watt. A similar capital cost as the Chilean PV project but the wind turbines need a lot of maintenance over the years, whereas the PV modules need little maintenance although the output of the PV modules will decline by about 0.7% each year as the modules age.
Five years ago wind was a more economical source of renewable grid scale electricity, now PV is the lowest cost alternate. Of course I am assuming both project are located in places where the wind or sun is abundant and fairly consistent. The concentrated solar boondoggle in Ivanpah that Google, Brightsource, and their other partners developed at tax payer and rate payer expense is simply the wrong way to go. That project is a travesty and is the poster child of crony capitalism.
Much talk about batteries this week with Tesla announcing they intend to build a $5 billion giga battery factory in the south western US. I think this factory is going to be built and will yield the batteries that Elon needs for his cars that will still remain very expensive. This battery factory will not yield a car that has 300 miles of range on electricity that has an initial cost of $30,000 per complete car. Elon is smart and he may be thinking the batteries can endure many more charge discharge cycles than most think is possible, and the whole business of EVs and of grid energy storage will be a pay as you go model. If the high cost EV or the high cost energy storage for the grid can be amortized over many years then the high initial cost can be buried in the monthly leasing rate. As the batteries lose capacity over time they can be moved from vehicles where peak performance is needed to stationary grid storage applications. Elon knows this better than all of us combined and he is building that mega battery factory for an economic reason and the smokescreen is the promise of the people’s car that can be bought for $30,000.
Two years ago I said Tesla would not produce the $50,000 model S and will concentrate on high end cars. Today I am saying that Tesla may produce a “leased” car for the masses if Elon gets his mega battery factory up and running and then uses it to feed new batteries into EVs and then he uses used batteries to store PV and wind power for the grid. The Green Machine will be tickled pink if this can actually occur as this will green up the planet and also stand on its own two economic feet. This is actually very exciting stuff, I just hope Bolivia and Chile have enough lithium for this endeavor.
I kind of like the idea of a global Zip Car EV company that really changes the transportation world and then uses the older batteries to economically store PV power. My old friend Dr. P with his Tesla and PV system may actually be the smartest guy in the room. When his Tesla dies as a car he can park the old car in the garage and store power for the mudslide event that is certain to happen in Orange County CA and knock out his power to his mansion. I will still be driving the old Mercedes and hoping PG&E is still around to provide me grid power.