This question has been bugging me for a little while now. Governments and their good buddies in big business keep talking about big and bigger infrastructure. Whenever questions of renewable and non-polluting energy and utilities come up, the responses are always in terms of massive wind-power farms, so called “clean” coal and desalination plants.
How much does a coal fired power plant cost? Around $780 million dollars, according to Wiki Answers. After building it, coal must be purchased on an ongoing basis to run it.
A reference on “UtiliPoint” claims that a 1.9 megawatt coal plant will supply 1.9 million homes with power. I guess that’s based on the ‘one home, one kilowatt’ basis. In Australia when rebates for home solar were cancelled by the Rudd government, the coal business had been discouraging people from moving to solar by saying that a 1Kw system won’t meet all the household’s power needs. Well, it certainly would here! If we built houses of a reasonable size rather than McMansions, perhaps 1Kwatt, which was considered sufficient for coal power, would also be sufficient for solar?
If putting a 2Kw solar system on a house costs $6k, as is quoted by a few companies now, for the cost of one coal power station you could put enough solar on 130 thousand homes, which would not only supply power to the homes but have plenty left over to sell into the grid. And no ongoing coal purchase costs. And they’d last for around 25 years.
Also according to Wiki Answers, there’s only 10 million households in Australia…
AGL wants to build a $1 billion 420 megawatt wind farm in Victoria’s south east. Apparently it will supply 220 thousand homes. $1 billion would put solar on 165 thousand homes, which would not only be supplying the households, but putting excess power into the grid.
There’s talk about solar being insufficient for so called “peak load” in Australia. This seems odd because towns and cities in Europe are running on solar and they have no trouble. They get a whole lot less sunlight than we do.
The Victorian Government is currently installing so called “smart meters” in homes. On the letter they put in my mailbox there was no costing estimate. The reason for this becomes apparent when you search for it. The initial estimate was just over a billion dollars. It blew out by another 500 million before they even started. The other reason it wasn’t included is because the costs aren’t going to be borne by the Government that made the decision. It will be passed on to the consumer, every quarter on the power bill, year after year.
A robust “off the grid” solar system, the kind designed for rural areas, can cost $20k to $60k. This looks like an awful lot. Ten times more than a smaller system that’s connected to the electricity grid. However, it’s a one off cost for a system that will supply the home with power for 20 years or more.
But if we take houses off the grid, people aren’t paying through the nose to buy power from privatised utilities, so I guess this all comes back to the Government/business/media closed loop, three ring circus of spin.