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Earth Power Technology

Coal Market Set To Collapse Worldwide By 2040 As Solar, Wind Dominate ( 375

Jess Shankleman reports via Bloomberg: Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast. That's the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India. The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency's central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come.

The report also found that through 2040:
-China and India represent the biggest markets for new power generation, drawing $4 trillion, or about 39 percent all investment in the industry.
-The cost of offshore wind farms, until recently the most expensive mainstream renewable technology, will slide 71 percent, making turbines based at sea another competitive form of generation.
-At least $239 billion will be invested in lithium-ion batteries, making energy storage devices a practical way to keep homes and power grids supplied efficiently and spreading the use of electric cars.
-Natural gas will reap $804 billion, bringing 16 percent more generation capacity and making the fuel central to balancing a grid that's increasingly dependent on power flowing from intermittent sources, like wind and solar.

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Coal Market Set To Collapse Worldwide By 2040 As Solar, Wind Dominate

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 16, 2017 @07:34PM (#54636727)

    Gods but that Dino sludge and other fuels in the ground for us. If he didn't want us to use them, they wouldn't be there.

    • If you run out of arguments just claim God wants it that way. That excuse worked for many things, including starting wars and committing mass murder.
    • China and India are the biggest markets for just about everything. That includes nuclear power. It seems odd that an article that wants to sing the praises of how wind and solar are going to power the world that they'd not even mention that nuclear power already powers a good sized portion of it, more than what wind and solar do now, and nearly as much as coal.

      I see this as just another example of bias in the news. Bloomberg is an organization with a far left bias and nuclear is seen as some sort of threat or something. Like some evil entity that is only alluded to with words like "he who must not be named" or something. If they left out nuclear power in this piece then I have to wonder if it is because wind and solar don't look so great by comparison. They'll mention coal because coal is no real threat, but nuclear cannot even be mentioned once.

      What we do see is that China and India are taking a true "all the above" strategy on energy since they have active development of nuclear energy. Unlike the USA which has an "all the above... except nuclear" strategy. I believe this attitude will change in time. But will it be soon enough? Until wind and solar is cheaper than coal we will be burning coal. We know nuclear is cheaper than coal, and as green as solar. Obama and friends held back the industry for a decade. We could have saved a lot of carbon in that time.

  • by Troy Roberts ( 4682 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @07:45PM (#54636775)

    I can understand lithium ion batteries for portables and maybe for a home, but grid scale batteries will likely be flow batteries or other such tech. Why because they are big and stationary. You don't need particularly compact or space efficient batteries on that scale. It is more important to be durable, low toxicity, and inexpensive (relatively).

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      Tesla has already installed several grid scale lithium battery sites. One in S. California where they had that large methane storage leak. Others on some islands.
      Lithium battery grid storage can be installed and provide energy for about 1.5 cents/kWh

      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @06:43AM (#54638417)

        Tesla is a mega manufacturer of a single battery technology. They will continue to tell you that their battery can do everything and is ideal in every circumstance. The existence of their product at grid scale doesn't necessarily mean it's the best one. Kind of like my nextdoor neighbour who owns a Dodge Ram (I live in a dense European city) who drives around for 15min after he gets home looking for two parking spots next to each other because he doesn't fit in a single spot. He has this car which is great for the purpose it's built, but not so good as a daily commuter.

        Flow batteries are larger than Lithium by a factor of 2 currently. This is not relevant in grid scale applications. What is relevant:
        - 100% depth of discharge.
        - Hugely increased cycle count.
        - End of cycle count means one cheap component needs to be replaced: the membrane.
        - Estimated 20yr life span is much higher than lithium.
        - No cooling required.
        - Non-flammable, non-toxic.
        - Expansion is as simple as dropping a container of liquid next to the existing battery and connecting a hose.

        Lithium battery grid storage can be installed and provide energy for about 1.5 cents/kWh

        The most conservative estimate for Tesla's grid storage solution which is the cheapest on the market includes daily cycling over 15 yrs is $0.15/kWh for wholesale cost of a Powerwall (double for retail), and $0.08/kWh for grid scale solution.
        Vanadium flow batteries had that cost several years ago already due to their much longer life times and much deeper cycle capability. UET estimates they'll have grid storage available for under $0.05/kWh by the end of the year.

        Speaking of because someone has something available it must be good: Redflow ZCell is a lovely little flow cell you can buy for your home. You can replace the Tesla Powerwall with it in a couple of years when the Powerwall is dead. The ZCell costs about 1.5x more and lasts nearly 3 times longer.

        • Speaking of because someone has something available it must be good: Redflow ZCell is a lovely little flow cell you can buy for your home. You can replace the Tesla Powerwall with it in a couple of years when the Powerwall is dead. The ZCell costs about 1.5x more and lasts nearly 3 times longer.

          Your numbers appear to be obsolete. And also specific to Australia. ZCell's cost ~$17,000AUD installed for 10 kWh with a 10 year warranty and isn't available in the US. Telsa Powerwall 2's now cost $8,200USD installed for 13.5 kWh with the same 10 year warranty. Both products support 100% discharge of their nameplate capacity. The Tesla does it by overprovisioning cells. The ZCell does it inherently to the tech.

          ZCell depended on a longevity advantage for their cost competitiveness with lithium. That

    • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @08:17PM (#54636891)
      There are also some cool designs using molten salt []. This plant [] "...has achieved continuous production, operating 24 hours per day for 36 consecutive days, a result which no other solar plant has attained so far." Pretty neat! And one advantage of molten salt (and perhaps flow batteries, too?) is that unlike, say, lithium ion, the energy can't really come out all at once explosively -- you'd get essentially a lava flow rather than an explosion, AFAIK.
      • Molten salt energy storage? Could we use something else to heat this salt? Something "green"? Molten salt nuclear reactors sound like a great idea to do just that.

        I like solar thermal. Not because I think that they'd ever be viable but because they'll do the research in materials and such that would be directly applicable to molten salt reactors. Solar might work for quite a large band of area at the equator, perhaps between 30 or 45 degrees north and south, but outside that area solar does not work so

      • 36 days?!? That there is absolutely viable and we should do it everywhere.

        Sorry, I am kinda stoned. But that is nothing to write home about. I got better uptime with Windows ME.

    • Development in flow batteries seems to be slowing, precisely because they are stationary. Long term though, I do think they make the most sense as well. Once wind farms need enough local storage to support production contracts I imagine we will see more of a grid scale growth in flow batteries.

      Tesla somehow manages to be competitive now, but it really is the wrong tool for the job.
    • Troy Roberts,

      This rather nice documentary []deals nicely with grid batteries.

    • Like these? [] Or these? []

  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <`blindseer' `at' `'> on Friday June 16, 2017 @08:45PM (#54637051)

    There was absolutely no mention of nuclear power in this article. Is not China and India investing in that technology too?

    It would be great if solar could in fact be cheaper than coal in 20 years or so but I've already been told for 20 years that solar will be cheaper than coal in 20 years. I stopped believing these claims a long time ago. Solar has a lot of issues that merely lowering the price of the panels will not solve.

    I do believe that wind can get their prices down to where it could compete with other energy sources. Like solar though it has problems of being intermittent. I hear claims that batteries and other storage systems can address this but I ask, what stops people from charging these batteries with cheap and reliable coal or nuclear? Batteries can follow load changes better then coal or nuclear can, so use those for peak load and forget about wind or natural gas.

    One thing that puts a limit on the costs between wind and nuclear, wind takes ten times the steel and concrete of nuclear per megawatt of installed capacity. People ask, where is all that concrete? All I you are steel towers and a three big blades turning about. The answer is that the concrete is in the anchor that holds up that tower. If we can assume that the concrete anchors fatigue in 50 years or so, just like it would in a nuclear reactor, then we will need a continuous recycling of concrete to keep up with even an unchanging demand for electricity. If you need X tons of concrete for a gigawatt nuclear power plant then you will need 10X tons for a gigawatt of wind power.

    Making concrete has a carbon footprint associated with it. That means that nuclear not only can have a smaller carbon footprint than wind but already does. Future nuclear reactors will likely require less concrete and steel than it does now with advancements in technology. So wind is already behind and the competition is not standing still.

    So, it's great that we can look forward to cheap wind and solar in a decade or three. What should we do until then? We can keep burning coal. We can shutdown large sectors of our economy, which would likely delay this new wind and solar advancement. Or we can use nuclear power.

    I believe that nuclear power is the only logical choice today. When or if wind and solar catch up then we can switch to that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nuclear already collapsed. Notwithstanding the technical merits, humans cannot be trusted to manage it effectively.

    • * holds nose and puts forward []

      I agree that we should be doing more nuclear.

      But for my state [] anyway, wind production in Texas, not counting government subsidies, runs from $36 to $51 per megawatt-hour while an average national cost for coal-fired electricity ranges from $65 to $150 per MWh and for gas, depending on the type of plant, from $52/MWh to $218/MWh.

    • Agreed, nuclear should be in the mix.

      Also another point: strip mines _should be_ going up in price as the land they are using becomes more valuable for other purposes (even wildlife preservation.) Eventually we should hit the tipping point where coal just doesn't make economic sense.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Nuclear has already been priced out by renewables + storage.

      China has cancelled most of its new nuclear, its just finishing stuff that was already in the pipeline.

  • I still call B.S. on the current incarnations of green energy. Wind and solar haven't been around long enough to reach their inherent lifespan which means nobody has come to grips with the replacement costs. Lots of people are seeing line items on their electric bill for decommissioning coal and nuke plants. That line item will be changed to wind/solar disposal and replacement fees. They aren't going to get more efficient either.

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      This is actually pretty interesting to me, because we've been looking at solar. I dunno about solar at scale to replace plants, but residential setups are pretty damn cool. Even without any tax benefits or subsidies, a setup at my place that would cover most of my energy needs (even in winter, selling the extra in summer to pay for the cost of conventional power in the winter and nights)) would pay for itself in about 6 years, and they can last for 30 or something. That's not half bad.

  • Already old report (Score:4, Insightful)

    by a_n_d_e_r_s ( 136412 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @02:35AM (#54638033) Homepage Journal

    India just scrapped plans for 15 coal plants and went with solar instead. The report is way behind on cost of solar power. Solar is already below cost of coal in India and China.


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