Saturday, September 22, 2007

Practical solar power is still a ways away

The Economist claims that solar power is making a comeback:
The first large CSP [Concentracted Solar Power] plant to be built since the 1980s went online in June in Nevada: it will generate 64 megawatts.
It's electricity is expected to cost a whopping 17 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to as low as 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour for coal-power. Coal power is dirty but how many consumers, even committed environmentalists, would be willing to have their electric bills raised that much?

Solar has its own environmental problems. Take, for example, the previous CSP plant, built in the 1980s. It produces even electricity for a small town (90,000 homes) but the plant itself fully occupies four square miles. When environmentalists start to figure all the environmental cost to the ecosystem for both plants and animals of converting that much open land to use as a power plant, solar will look a lot less attractive.

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