Solar will be competitive with coal in two years. That is why we should counter the vested interests that continue to push for the development of coal as a source for energy.
Sometimes the best news presents itself gradually, hidden from the screaming daily headlines. Here’s such a piece of very promising news: The price of rooftop solar power is falling rapidly, and is already lower than new natural gas electricity plants or nuclear energy. And if the rapid decline of the price of solar power continues, solar will be competitive with coal just about two years from now.
The costs for solar power have come down from $60 a watt in the mid-1970’s to about $1.50 a watt today. Last year there was 17 gigawatt of solar power installed. This is the equivalent of building 17 nuclear plants. However there is one big difference: These solar panels were manufactured, shipped and installed in one year, whereas it can take more than a decade to install one nuclear plant. Similarly it takes six to eight years to bring a new coal plant online. So if solar is going to be competitive with coal in about two years, it doesn’t make any sense anymore to begin building coal fired electricity plants today. In fact, from the same perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to look for or mine coal in new places.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s still happening. Coal companies and the City of Los Angeles, for instance, are proposing the build a 3,500 acre coal strip mine right next to Bryce Canyon National Park to extract coal to power LA. That’s a disastrous idea. And very unnecessary given that LA is one of the sunniest places in the planet. The LA area provides great opportunities for the large-scale production of solar energy.
We have to counter the vested interests that continue to push for the development of coal as a source for energy. The Bureau of Land Management in Utah is accepting comments on the strip mine plan now. Please tell them what you think.
Remember the famous quote of Sheikh Yamani, the oil-minister for Kuwait many years ago: “The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” The fate of coal will and should be similar to that of oil. Hello solar, goodbye coal.
By Jurriaan Kamp
Photo: david.nikonvscanon via Flickr