Solar is an established — and constantly improving — form of renewable power. But according to a new report by the European Union its economic impact is incredibly costly, and far worse than wind and even hydroelectric power.
The report, you see, considered not just the capital and operating costs of power plants, but their economic impacts in terms of climate change, pollution and resource depletion. That might sound tough, but there’s plenty of data out there to base such calculations on.
The report writers calculated a levelised costs — the estimated economic cost per megawatt-hour of electricity generated using each technology. And it didn’t end well for solar. According to the analysis, new coal and natural gas plants cost just over $US64 per megawatt-hour; onshore wind $US102; nuclear power $US115; and utility-scale solar plants $US127.
Why? It seems, according to Technology Review, to be because of the manufacturing of solar cells. Most cells are manufactured in China and, there, electricity is incredibly carbon-intensive. Combine that with the fact that the cells use important metal resources, and the overall economic impact isn’t good.
It’s worth noting that the report was based on data from 2012 though — that’s just how long these kinds of reports take to arrive. So things could, possibly, have changed in the last two years. Though probably not by much. [European Commission via Technology Review]
Picture: AP Photo/Jerry McBride