Solar Power Is Cheaper Than Nuclear for the First Time

by , 07/29/10

solar power, solar energy, solar technologies, nuclear power, nuclear energy, energy costs, duke university, renewable energy

Here’s bright spot in the news of the day: energy from new solar installations has, for the first time, become cheaper than energy from new nuclear plants, according to a new Duke University study. Thanks to cost-saving technologies and economies of scale, price can no longer be an excuse to invest in nuclear power rather than solar.

solar power, solar energy, solar technologies, nuclear power, nuclear energy, energy costs, duke university, renewable energy

In North Carolina, nuclear energy costs 16 cents per kilowatt hour (the energy required to run 10 100-watt light bulbs for an hour), whereas solar is now going for 14 cents per kWh — a rate that continues to fall. In regions with more annual sunlight, the price gap is almost certainly even more pronounced. The data also analyzed only conventional photovoltaic power, not the concentrating technologies of troughs and reflectors, which also bring costs down.

The study was developed in response to aggressive lobbying by the nuclear industry, which has tried to position itself as the most affordable way to reduce carbon emissions. The study factors in governmental subsidies for both power sources, but found that even if all subsidies were removed, solar power would still be cheaper within a decade.

Via The Energy Collective

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  1. Luna333 March 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    As far as real estate is concerned, no one wants to live by a nuke plant. And as far as too many regulations on nuclear energy, there are no regulations that will protect people (or the planet) from natural disasters (or human error) that may hit a nuclear power plant. How do you put a price on the damage and clean up costs of, let’s say, what happened in Japan? And yes, co2 is good for plants, but when we are pulling down forests at an alarming rate, there is a point where it becomes too much for the ecosystem.

  2. dulcimoo April 29, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Solar can run power at night. Using conventional methods of power generation solar could be used, via solar concentrators, to heat a working material like liquid sodium, ammonia, or water where it could be stored underground and then used to drive turbines at night or during bad weather. Photovoltaics could be used to pressurize gas in underground caverns and then be used to power generators in much the same way.

    Power companies would then switch from generating power to storing it in an all solar world. If superconducting cables could be perfected then power could be generated as the world turns. The middle of the oceans perhaps could be utilized as well in giant floating platforms.

    Or solar could be used to break water and save the H2 to burn in generators and mobile platforms (cars).

    Your not thinking big enough.

  3. R. McIver March 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I have 0 electric light costs. Read by the day sun light so
    no electricity used. Why has nobody suggested this?

  4. bugmenot March 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Now if we could just get rid of night and clouds we would have something.

  5. Social SUNY January 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Thats great news, but I think nuclear is still preferable to coal from an enviromental standpoint provided it is well contained and used safely.

  6. kishore bhattacharya December 30, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Someone said that Nuclear Reactors need extra caution and care from angles of proliferation and safety.That’s why it needs a “cultural fit”.All countries may not get access. But for solar there will be no such bar.
    This is a wonderful breakthrough of solar technology. Look forward to its future.Surely, this development will close down many nuclear options, and make the world a safer place.

  7. Solar Power Consultants... October 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    […] unbiased help and walking through the hurdles to making solar happen. Rebates, taxes, incentives, equipment cost, payback, and placement are all changing variables in the decision-making matrix so it helps a lot […]

  8. davidryal October 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    the anti-nuclear crowd needs to learn how to recognize shades of gray. there are other fuel cycles which can produce reactor designs that are meltdown-proof. the story of why they were not pursued revolves around their lack of suitability for creation of weapons grade material, not their technical merits. look up “thorium” and “LFTR” to find out more.

  9. prompt September 20, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    A nuclear plant keeps going no matter what the weather is. Unless solar power can easily store the electricity, it can’t take a different plant offline – because the power has to be available if bad weather conditions keep solar power from being generated.

  10. Galdarol September 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Don’t forget that photovoltaics generally use germanium, which has to be mined and is of limited availability. Then the panels must be manufactured and transported, also. We haven’t figured the long term problems with germanium, or it’s production. Like many “green” ideas, it’s merely a shifting of where the pollution is produced, rather than a reduction in pollution.
    One of the larger problems with solar is delivery. I’m a big fan for use on buildings, but massive installations require massive construction and resources.

  11. Kmuzu September 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

    It has always been cheaper .. try to find one Nuke plant that has private insurance .. only governments put up that kind of money. Without the public spending money to protect the nuke industry, it wouldn’t exist.

  12. rnpking August 15, 2010 at 9:11 am

    A few comments:
    -It is encouraging that costs of solar are coming down, but the assumption that, without subsidies, solar will be cheaper than nuclear in 10 years involves a lot of unproven assumptions about the continuing decline of costs of production and improvement in efficiency.
    -Without dramatic and unforeseen improvement in energy storage costs solar will never be a base load energy source.
    -“spent fuel” is not waste. Since only about 5% of the usable nuclear fuel in the “spent fuel” has been used, it needs to be reprocessed to extract the remaining usable fuel and burned in a different type of fast reactor. The technology is readily available and was proven in the 60’s. The result would be a dramatic increase in power available and a dramatic decrease in radioactive waste to be disposed of. Yucca Mountain would be unnecessary.
    -Follow the science and engineering facts, not the emotion.

  13. aligatorhardt August 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    When considering the costs of nuclear energy don’t forget to add the cost of mining and fuel transport. Don;t forget the cost of radioactive waste storage which after 30 years still there is no suitable site for storage. The insurance industry will not cover the costs of disasters, that must be absorbed by taxpayers.

  14. Fossil Fuels Receive 12... August 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    […] a familiar refrain: renewable energy won’t look as enticing after government subsidies are removed. While renewable energy does get government incentives, it […]

  15. sunbeam60 August 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Two words: Base load.

  16. mike002 August 2, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Total rubbish, the fact is solar is only good for certain times of the day, you still need base load plants oil, coal & nuclear to make up for the times when the sun or wind is not producing much.

    Sorry no major breakthroughs in solar they improved the effiency of solar pannels only 1-2 over the last 5 years. This is just propaganda. Go look at Spain who is super green, they cranked up massive debt building solar plants, which a recent report said caused a drop of 2 jobs for every green job person employed at a cost of $550,000 Euro’s per job created in the green energy sector.

    Climate change is rubbish propaganda, take care of the planet but Co2 is not a bad thing, plants love it and planets grow faster and healthier with more Co2. Just the king makers telling the sheep to get ready for more regulation and more taxes. And you all believe it.

  17. Ricyteach August 2, 2010 at 2:47 am

    The last paragraph nullifies the veracity of the headline (in other words, the headline is a LIE), and the story gives no basis for which the study believes solar will magically become cheaper in 10 years (kind of important given that, again, the headline is currently a LIE). They’ve been saying the same thing about electric vehicles and recycling for decades now ( “IN 10 years, it will be profitable!” )- and it always remains out of reach.

    If you believe this wishful thinking, you are slow.

  18. Walkingagh August 2, 2010 at 12:21 am

    The main cost of nuclear is NOT actually building it. It’s working with all the regulators and making sure everything is “up to code” that is actually an ancient code that hasn’t been updated in 30 years. The cost of Nuclear is truly 1/10th of what it is currently listed at if we had good but not excessive regulation.

    For example, there are $20 valves that are inspected for quality, given a Nuclear rating and then cost $2000. This is maintained because the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has only approved certain manufacturers to build Nuclear rated equipment. The problem is because the NRC is backwards looking, and only wants to do what has been done in the past. They only approve people who have already done the work before, and they only approve the type of work that has been done before. One supplier means he can charge whatever the hell he wants. It’s a multi-billion dollar project right? What is a couple of thousand percent markup?

    Nuclear is stuck in a regulatory trap. The old nuclear power plants have an unbelievable safety record: no deaths ever. So they want to keep building old ones. But new ones can be safer, cheaper AND more efficient, if only we could build them without being regulated to death. Imagine if solar were stuck with 30 year old tech, then who would be in the lead? Or imagine if solar had to get community approval that is almost unanimous for EVERY installation? Or what about $50 million per 100 megawatt just to inspect the ground it was placed on? It’s the regulations, red tape, and crazy litigations that are killing nuclear, not the technology.

    I would expect to see China, Russia, Japan, and Korea take the lead on nuclear in the next 10 years and to be kicking Europe and the US’s butts on greenhouse emissions within 2 decades primarily thanks to nuclear power.

    Thanks NRC, for keeping nuclear expensive.

  19. abrucer August 1, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Should do a little more research. Sorry, wish as you like Nuclear is cheaper and full time. Solar is grand for home owners and small point of use, where power delivery is not a demanding point.

  20. coolpower August 1, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    There are a lot of valid comments on this post.

    However, if you want to talk about *real estate costs*, think about the negative effect a nuclear power plant has on surrounding real estate.

    IMHO A lot of people are NOT willing to live near a nuclear power plant, while they’re fine with having solar panels around.

    +++Living off the grid since with solar since 1993+++

  21. calpatriot July 31, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Atoms still split at night and when it is cloudy.

  22. zondi July 31, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    This would be nice if it were true, but it seems very unlikely that it is. The study this article has cherry picked is written by a group of lobbists against nuclear and for solar power. It does not clearly cite its data sources, and comes across as more of a advertisment than a scientific paper. It, on this shaky basis strongly contradicts most other studies (such as “”) which show solar power as still well over twice the cost of nuclear.

  23. aggy July 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    So, in response to “aggressive lobbying” by the nuclear industry, a new report was drawn up by aggressive lobbyists for the solar industry … blah blah. Solar still has a long list of obstacles, including real estate (as I see someone else mentioned). If you’re not including the amount of land in the price, the comparison is pointless. I love solar, but it’s not quite ready yet.

  24. CitizenPlusPlus July 30, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    The 5 easy steps to being green, creating jobs, and adverting the worst effects of climate change and peak oil.

    1) Stop SprawL!!! 2) R.R.Recycle! 3) ReForest/FoodForest!/VirginForest!! 4) Wind!/GeoThermal!!/Solar! 5) Electric&OpenSource Trains!!/Cars/Media!

  25. arnavd July 30, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Actually I believe that while Solar installations have their place, IMO we need to put a solar panel on every house, building, school etc. Only a thorough distributed system will work as transmission losses will be minimized by producing locally and land covered is not much of an issue since its part and parcel of every house.
    I read a long time ago that a good comparison would be leaves and plants. Leaves are not terribly efficient when it comes to converting solar energy to chemical energy but because of their large numbers plants are able to survive. We need a distributed model for solar panels also IMO.

  26. lukep July 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I’m with xsimpletunx on this one; this research sounds oversimplified.

    No one wants solar to take off more that I do, but c’mon… It takes up SO much more real estate per GW than a nuke plant does. Surely if you were an investor today trying to decide which to invest in the overall cost from A to Z would be much cheaper for the nuke plant than for the solar plant, GW per GW.

    Still, the downtrend is encouraging. I’m much more interested in making a home self-sustainable and getting off grid so it’s just great to hear that solar and wind tech are advancing faster and faster.

    (But if I were staying on the grid, the Terrapower Inc Nuke reactors, which Bill Gates has sank many tens of million into recently, would be the only source of energy I’d want suppling it.)

  27. Alex23 July 29, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    We still need baseload power, and it\’s either coal or nuclear. Nuclear still has a much higher energy density in terms of land use.

    That being said, it\’s great to see that solar power is getting cheaper, as it is much needed too. There isn\’t one silver bullet.

  28. ines p July 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    This is a very good news and a proof that research can be more powerfull tha lobbying.

  29. sanud002 July 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I’m glad to know that good solid research has the ability to overpower aggressive lobbying. It feel like justice is being served for the planet. It seems like daily I read about a new breakthrough in the solar cell revolution.  I saw a great video yesterday about how the military just made a solar cell that is not only cheaper and more flexible but 10,000 times more efficient. I’ll post a link if you want to check the video for yourself.

  30. xsimpletunx July 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    good to see more work being put into this. what these studies often fail to take into account are operating costs and a comparison on a relative scale. that is, what does it cost to build and operate a plant capable of producing 1 GW of electricity at any given time during a 24 hour period whether its solar, coal, nuclear, wind etc.? often the studies compare things on a kw-hr basis but the subjects are say a brand new 5 MW solar plant compared to a 40 year old 1 GW nuclear plant. this better comparison is necessary to really respond to the issue.

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