Renewable Energy Cost Analysis
So which forms of solar energy have the best short-term and long-term economic potential?
The State of Texas having some of the constantly highest wind conditions in America, is ideally suited for the installation of windfarms. Farmers used to curse the winds for drying out the land, but they are much better off now with the land-lease payments that supplement their crop growing. Wind turbines do not affect the growing or harvesting of these crops, nor the grazing of their beef stock. There is little effect on the environment other than the CO2 emissions when using cement in the concrete foundations, with the aesthetic component being a matter for the individual.
The payback period for windfarms makes them a viable investment. This is evident by the loans and government backing for the $1 billion Roscoe Windfarm development, the largest windfarm in the world. This data coupled with the low electricity production rate of 2 cents/kW, with a payback period of one year, make it the best short-term investment of the renewable energy power plants examined.
- The Geysers Geothermal Power Plant California
The State of California is ideally located for the exploitation of geothermal energy due to its position on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and unusual amount of plate tectonic activity.
The dry stream produced is the most economic and efficient type of geothermal energy hydrofluids. The location of the power plants in relation to consumers is also a contributing factor to the suitability of California’s use of geothermal energy, promoting the average electricity production cost of 3.6 cents/kW.
These facts along with the enormous employment prospects, and notwithstanding a relatively long payback period of up to 10 years, still make geothermal energy the best long term investment prospect.
- Solar Energy Power Plants
The two types of solar power plants, PV and solar heating are popular for desert locations. However the production of power costs is very high when compared to other renewable energy and fossil fueled plants.
The costs are likely to be elevated due to the cabling/transmission of the power from outlying dry, sunny areas, coupled with the manufacturing and maintenance costs of the many thousand PV silicon cells, parabolic mirrors, or heliostats.
Solar power plants can only produce power during daylight, with the night-time generation coming from fossil fuels (unless a storage system such as molten salt is being used). So, even with the six year payback period (where data is available), the average cost of up to 15 cents/kW, along with the above data, renders solar powered power plants the least attractive long and short term investment potential of those plants examined.
A table collating the above data is shown below.