World’s Cheapest Solar Power in Mexico a Coal-Killer

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

China will have installed 54 gigawatts of new solar energy by the end of 2017, instead of the 15 gigawatts forecast last January or the 30 gigawatts forecast as late as last June.

As of last June, the US installed solar capacity was only 47 gigawatts, accounting for less than 2% of American electricity generation. That is, China is putting in more solar energy in 2017 than has ever been installed in the whole history of the United States. The US was installing an anemic 2.5 gigawatts a quarter this year, way down from the 20 gigs of new solar it did in 2016. Republican, dirty-oil politicians in many states have adopted punitive policies intended to hurt solar and help fossil fuels, at the sow-like teats of which their political campaigns suck.

Not only is the sheer amount of solar power generation increasing at blinding speed but the cost is plummeting in unrigged markets, as well. Mexico just accepted bids of 1.77 cents per kilowatt hour. That is, if you had 10 light bulbs with a brightness of 100 watts each, and you burned them for one hour using electricity generated by the solar farm to be built in Mexico by 2020, that would cost you 1.7 cents. In most states in the US it would now cost you 8 cents to 22 cents, if the electricity were generated by coal and natural gas.

Mexico has pledged to get 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2025, but unless they up their game, this goal seems unrealistic. Still, at these prices, it costs them a lot of money *not* to go solar by 2025.

How would you like your electricity bill to fall by 80% or 90%? (I have solar panels on my house in cloudy Michigan and my electricity bill since last May has been averaging $14 a month).

Moreover, in Mexico the cost of a kilowatt hour from solar is expected to fall yet again by 2019 to only 1 cent a KWh. Coal is generally estimated to generate electricity for 5 cents a kilowatt hour, so it is now 3 times as expensive as the cheaper solar, and it is headed toward being 5 times as expensive by the time Trump is running for reelection. Nuclear costs 12 cents a kilowatt hour. Of course those prices don’t count externalities. If you count the damage coal does to the environment, from producing pollution that causes heart attacks to producing heat trapping gases that cause global heating and hurricanes, then coal is more like a dollar per kilowatt hour. It isn’t even remotely in the same league with solar.

In a new Climate Change Performance Index, the top three positions have been left blank because no country is really doing what it needs to do in order to stop climate change.

But Lithuania is number 5, Morocco is 6, Norway is 7.

India ranks 14, mainly because so many hundreds of millions of Indians are still without electricity.

Germany is 24.

About the US, you don’t want to ask.

France plans to double Solar & Wind to 40% of Electricity by 2030

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13 Responses

  1. That picture of the solar farm is really quite stunning and I would love to be able to visit it and see it up close. As for China’s huge leap forward into the alternative energy field, perhaps their form of government has something to do with it. They don’t have to go through endless bureaucracy in order to go ahead with any plan they come up with and Chinese government can allocate funds anywhere it likes. Whilst its not my idea of a fun government, they do get things done!

    • Actually, my understanding of China is they DO have endless bureaucracy — the Chinese invented bureaucracy — but what they don’t have is endless politics where the greedy can prevail if they can successfully deceive the gullible.

  2. “The US was installing an anemic 2.5 gigawatts a quarter this year, way down from the 20 gigs of new solar it did in 2016.”

    If cancer was eradicated during the Obama administration Trump would eliminate all government funded cancer treatments just to spite the former president.

  3. Amazing to me that a coal-fired power plant in Page, Arizona, pumps water from Lake Powell to southern Arizona, the plant being located in the high desert area known for it’s sunlight. Flying over, it is amazing watching the miles long coal trains lined up to service that plant.

    • It amazes me that, flying into, say, Frankfurt or Munich Germany, almost every commercial building has solar, whilst, say, Phoenix and Los Angeles has, maybe, one or two scattered around the area.

      Pure stupidity on the part of Americans, IMHO.

  4. “Alarm as study reveals world’s tropical forests are huge carbon emission source.
    Forests globally are so degraded that instead of absorbing emissions they now release more carbon annually than all the traffic in the US, say researchers.” Link below.

    link to theguardian.com

  5. “How would you like your electricity bill to fall by 80% or 90%?”
    I keep making this argument to my rightwing acquaintences. If you owned a business – or even a house – why would you want to have to keep buying and paying for fuel every month, when you could pay for solar collectors (or say wind turbines) once and get all or most of your power needs FREE THEREAFTER?

    Their only response has been that some days are cloudy and nights are dark. Sure, but this is ALBUQUERQUE. Over 300 “nice days” per year. Forget that some of your power might have to be delivered via PNM; a substantial fraction, maybe most, would not – and that cuts way back on carbon emissions overall. Wait! Scratch that! It cuts back how much of YORE MUNNEY you have to spend – have to remember the audience…

    • If you are going to be in the building more than 7 years, you are losing a lot of money by not putting solar panels on it.

    • With a medium solar array, a residential wind generator and a powerwall, virtually ALL USA homes and small businesses can be completely self sufficient. NOTE: the prices for the three components are DECREASING by the day.

      Right now Chinese, Indian and European companies are investing billions on automated production lines for all three components, driving the prices down. BTW – very few USA companies are making the investment.

      The bottom line is, solar/wind/powerwall is a basic no brainer for even the people in the Yukon.

  6. No comment u nailed it.
    “Republican, dirty-oil politicians in many states have adopted punitive policies intended to hurt solar and help fossil fuels, at the sow-like teats of which their political campaigns suck.”

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