By Arnold Kling
The U.S. Department of Energy reports,
Acciona Energy announced on June 7th that Nevada Solar One, a 64-megawatt solar thermal power plant near Boulder City, Nevada, is now online. The new facility is the largest of its type to be built in the world since 1991…The Nevada Solar One plant consists of 47 miles of parabolic mirrors arranged in a grid and will produce enough power to supply 15,000 average U.S. homes.
Let’s see. 47 miles of mirrors per 15,000 average homes. To get to 150 million homes we would need 470,000 miles of mirrors? The entire area of the U.S. is 3.5 million square miles, and it’s not all as sunny as Nevada.
CORRECTION: Some overly picky readers clicked all the way through to the press release of the company and found that the footprint of the plan is 1.3 million square meters, which converts to about 0.5 square miles. So we need only 5000 square miles of mirrors. That we can find.
The press release says that the plant costs $250 million to build and produces 134 million kilowatts per year. That makes the economics seem dicey. The retail price of a kilowatt is about ten cents, which means that the unsubsidized wholesale price would be less. But at ten cents, the annual revenue is $13.4 million. Assume a 5 percent cost of capital, and the annual interest expense is $12.5 million. Then there are operating expenses, depreciation (what if the useful life of the plant is only 25 years?), etc.
This story says that more Americans expect solar power to be the leading source of energy in 15 years than any other source.
Maybe in 20 years. Maybe. Over the last two years, my faith in solar has been going down.