Capital cost of PV is four times nuclear

by Ginosar  

The main, key, primary attention of our global community should be on reducing global warming in conjunction with a viable economy. If we do not devote maximum effort [all demanding extreme amount of capital] to this area very soon dangerous temperature rise would make this world unhealthy to human life. To this end we must not even discuss second order environmental issues, [such as unappealing transmission lines,] and focus on curtailing the global emissions of GHG.

To this end I am comparing below nuclear vs. solar PV roof installations. One of the reason I am selecting these two technologies is because many caring people for our earth too often see only part of the picture and simplify things very much. For example, "PV is good,  free sun energy, no moving parts, look how marvelous it is." And the opposite: "nuclear is bad, danger of explosions like Chernobyl, the lack of permanent storage for spent fuel, and danger of terrorism." They do not think out the issues in a comprehensive manner. These issues are too complex and often they see just part of the situation.

People who "hate" nuclear power are not focused on the most crucial issue, cut GHG ASAP and as much as possible and instead are looking at secondary issues. Many unaware good people have been happy in the last few months when they found that the cost of nuclear power stations is very high, as much as $12 Billion per 1000 mw station. Not so fast...

Green power that is nature driven, solar and wind, can be more expensive than nuclear when the total network and backup needs are included, as they must. Nature driven power has many limitations, such as intermittent power that must be backed up by human-controlled thermal power, such as gas, nuclear or oil. I am sure few would like to have their lights and refrigerators work only when the sun is in full power....

Here is a quick comparison of mainly cost:

1. Nuclear power:

Typical nuclear power station is rated at 1000 MW.

In the US most plants achieved 92% availability in the last two decades.

Available energy: 8760 hr/yr x 0.92 x 1000 x 10^6 W : 1000 kW/mW =

8 x 10^9 = 8 billion kWh/yr

Capital Cost: $12 Billion.

2. Roof- installed Photovoltaic systems:

Good output is 1,500 kWh /yr/ kW installed, typical PV system is 3 kW/home

Cost of full system, including subsides, since we all pay for it, is $9,000 per installed kW.

Or $27,000 per home. Despite promises and media noise, the price for individuals did not go down in the last five years. The same in Germany, the reduce cost of silicon panels did not reduce system costs.

Amount of installed PV capacity to deliver the same  energy as a nuclear power station:

8 x 10^ 9 divide by 1500 x 3 = 1.8 x 10^6  homes

That is, to generate the same amount of energy of one nuclear power station, that is available most of the time on command, requires PV on 1.8 million homes.

Cost of nuclear power station $12 B

Cost o all solar systems: 1.8 million homes x $27,000 per home: $49 Billions.


In addition, as I said, nuclear is available on demand, while PV systems can not be run alone and need steady power station to supply the three-quarter of the time solar is not available. [PV average power is one quarter of peak rated power.]

Several days of cloudy weather will reduce the average solar output even lower.

This is the reality of intermittent low emission power.

Note, the cost of operation and maintenance of nuclear station per kWh output is considerably lower than for PV system.

Wind energy systems have less of these problems of high costs and also have higher average output then solar PV. However, wind still must be complemented by human-controlled power and must have long transmission lines from a variety of wind energy farms distributed over great distances.


We are seeing here just part of the real problem, and electrical untilities must be a major part of the solution. As much as we suspect them they are the ones with real solid experince, and that is crucial.

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