Print 113 comment(s) - last by heffeque.. on May 18 at 11:11 AM

The profitable nature of solar power in Spain has given rise to strange installation locations, such as this plant which towers over a cemetary.  (Source: AP)
Spain has found a controversial way to boost solar adoption

When it comes to solar power, the real dilemmas are efficiency and cost.  On the one hand, efficiency has steadily improved over the last couple decades to the point where it’s approaching the utility prices of other power generation methods.  Exotic technologies promise even greater gains.  However, the price of solar-generated power still remains at least five times as expensive as coal-power, the chief source of power in the U.S. (compared to the leading candidate, nuclear, which is approximately 1.5 to 2 times as expensive).

While solar adoption from a cost standpoint is unattractive, there's much debate over whether commercial adoption is needed to spur further research to propel solar into the realm of cost competitiveness.  While many nations like the U.S. and China have modestly taken this position, adopting solar at a moderate rate, one nation has fallen head over heels for solar -- Spain.

Spain is allowing solar and wind power plants to charge as much as 10 times the rates of coal power plants, making it possible for solar power installations to earn utilities big money.  On average, recent rate increases have raised solar charges to over 7 times the rates of coal or natural gas rates.   The costs are added onto consumers' power bills.

The results are mixed; while Spanish power bills are at record highs, the number of deployments is soaring.  Spain has 14 GW of solar power, or the equivalent capacity of nine average nuclear reactors, under construction -- the most of any nation.  Florida’s FPL Group Inc. and French Electricite de France SA are among the many jumping to build in Spain.

Gabriel Calzada, an economist and professor at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, states, "Who wouldn’t want to enter a business that’s paid many times more than the market rate, and where the customer is guaranteed for life?"

By 2009, 42 percent of Spaniards energy bills -- approximately 95 euros ($127) on average -- will be provided by alternative energy.  Spanish law requires power distributors to buy all clean energy produced in the first 25 years of the plants' lives.  The government also recently raised the rate of Spain believes this sacrifice will pay off as fossil fuel resources become depleted and emissions standards tighten.

Karsten von Blumenthal, an industrial analyst at Hamburg-based SES Research GmbH states, "The guarantee is more attractive than what other countries offer.  Actually the U.S. has better space for solar, in the deserts of California and Nevada."

The U.S. meanwhile is also advancing thanks in part to President Obama's solar initiatives passed earlier this year as part of the federal stimulus legislation.  Over 6 GW of capacity is planned for the U.S.

Fred Morse, an official at the Washington- based Solar Energy Industries Association trade group and author of the first report to the White House on solar power (1969), says that the U.S. needs to adopt more incentives if it hopes to catch Spain.  He states, "The incentives, if implemented promptly and effectively, should greatly facilitate the financing of these plants."

One promising benefit of the Spanish solar boom is that it is increasing the number of plants utilizing new, potentially more efficient technologies like solar thermal or sterling engines.  Spain is limiting the number of photovoltaic plants (solar panel-based designs), but is giving out unlimited licenses for solar thermal and other alternative plants.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Today
By Keeir on 5/14/2009 11:18:45 AM , Rating: 2
In 2008 Spain exported 11.221 GWh witch is quite an accomplishment taking into consideration that in 2008 three nuclear power plants where closed down.

Although I do not know, nor could find a source for your number of 11.221 GWh, keep in mind this number is very very small. Traditionally speaking, Spain imports 5000 GWh a year in balance. 11.221 GWh translates into around 1.3 MW (24 hours a day and 356 days a year) or roughly what 2 2.5MW wind towers would produce.

Average monthly prices (€/Mwh)

So are these Wholesale? Consumer? Average the Distrub. Companies needs to be paid? Given the unit, I am going to go with Wholesale prices. In comparison I offer you
Wholesale prices for Electricity in the United States
Palo Verde is a transition point dominated by the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, its price per MWh is 34,34 Euros.

In reality, if those are Wholesale prices, the do not reflect the cost of Spanish "Clean" power. According to this article, which unfortunately since I do not speak Spanish I must run with... Spanish power distributors MUST by law purchase all "green" power produced by Spanish power companies which is priced at less than 10 x the rate for coal. Coal is in the United States typically produced and sold for a rate around 30,00 Euros per MWh. In Spain, it probably a bit higher, but even so, Only green power priced at more than 300,00 Euros per MWh will make its way to the Wholesale market in Spain. Spainish Wholesale prices will be governed by the cost to produce the other mixture of powers, IE Coal (since as you point out Nuclear Plants are shutting down).

It seems that clean energy in Spain is cheaper than France's nuclear energy. Maybe the reason is that with nuclear energy you have to spend a huge amount of money on dealing properly with the nuclear waste.

Wrong Wrong Wrong Wrong Wrong. Speaking in terms of -COST- to produce power, since prices can reflect many situations especially in semi-socialist societys such as Spain and France, Nuclear power cost estimates run 0,02 Euros per kWh to 0,08 Euros per kWh depending on the Study. Wind and Solar are 0,07 to 0,35 Euros per kWh depending on the Study and Location. (Wind can be very cheap, but there is usually a limit on the amount that can be installed in the best wind locations. This varies by country). At its very very very best, Wind power can be produced at the same rate as some of the worst Nuclear Power. Given that Wind Power has high variability, in the long run its costs to transmit and use are unarguably higher than Nuclear.

RE: Today
By heffeque on 5/15/2009 11:08:43 AM , Rating: 1
I'm not sure how Spain producing cheaper energy with more clean energy and less nuclear energy than France fits with your statement.

RE: Today
By heffeque on 5/15/2009 11:11:44 AM , Rating: 2
Forgot to put the link: It's in Spanish, sorry :-\

RE: Today
By Keeir on 5/15/2009 12:33:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure how Spain producing cheaper energy with more clean energy and less nuclear energy than France fits with your statement.

But you have done absolutely nothing to show that Spain IS producing "clean" (IE Wind + Solar) power cheaper than France's Nuclear Power.

In fact, the very article we are dicussing says that instead of "Cheaper" its in fact 7x as expensive and allowed by law to be 10x!

You paying 40 Euros means nothing. I pay less than 10 Euros a month for electricity. Its the -rate- thats important. And even further than the rate, its the rate when the subsidies are taken in... In the US, even -coal- power is subsidized to the tune of 0,01 Euro cents per kWh. Wind and Solar have traditionally been subsidized at more like 0,20 Euro cents per kWh.

Yeah, I am thinking of going to Spain and putting up a wind tower. I get 25 years of customers at 10x the wholesale rate! Do that for any particular industry and watch to go bananas.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki