Post Reply The changing economics of renewable energy.
mxdan 
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28 / M / A Husk.
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
tldr; Solar energy in particular is now cheaper then gas and coal by a factor of two. Renewable energy still not showing any signs of slowing down in price reduction and accessibility. Solar and wind plants soon to be cheaper to operate then all coal plants. A quarter of nuclear power plants never get finished because of high cost. Nuclear prices increasing. Nuclear makes sense in some places but does not make sense for the majority of the planet.

Energy storage is the real revolution. Lithium Ion battery cost has dropped by 5x. Price drop has been similar to solar.

Clean energy is no longer the expensive alternative. Conservative organizations now beginning to agree with its viability.

Solar is growing exponentially.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwSkQa1tNmE&feature=youtu.be
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22 / M / US
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
The only reason coal is still an industry is tradition and lobbying

The problem with Solar is efficiency, which is continually improving, and space. It takes a lot of space to be useful, but we don't have said space in Urban centers and we can't put them too far out of the way for maintenance reasons.

Nuclear is a great, but it's a large endeavor and people are generally still scared shitless by it despite it not being particularly harmful (the biggest issue would be the raw amount of excess heat that has to be runoff; if done poorly, it can destroy local ecosystems).

Overall, renewable energy will happen, it's jut going to take a while
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27 / M / Laramie, WY
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
Statistically speaking, nuclear fission is actually quite safe so long as the thermal runoff is handled correctly and the failsafes to shut the reactor down in case of runaway or meltdown are in place and functional. The problem is that, on the VERY few chances that nuclear reactors do go wrong, they go wrong BADLY. Incidents like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima are now part of the public vernacular despite the fact that they were statistical anomalies overall.

As for solar, the issue of space could be solved via microwave transmission from orbital solar array if we could figure out how to do it safely without cooking a whole town if the beam gets knocked off target.

Then there's nuclear fusion, which has been done, but has yet to reach a point where it has a scalable net positive in regards to energy input/output. If we can get to a point where we do have a positive energy generation, though, that's pretty much going to be the go-to from that point forward. Not only are the materials for fusion easier to acquire (Hydrogen and helium isotopes are everywhere, while heavy metals like Uranium are rare and only harvestable in a select few geographic locations on Earth), but the design of a fusion reactor itself precludes the possibility of thermal runaway and meltdown. An active fusion reaction is like a miniature star, but unlike an actual star it lacks the mass and energy to sustain itself. Thus, even a fusion reaction with a net positive would require a constant input of energy to maintain a fusable temperature, and if that energy is cut off then the reaction cools and blinks out. This is opposed to a fission reactor which is much easier to sustain - in fact the necessarily controls for a fission reactor are designed to keep the reaction under control, while a fusion reactor controls keep it running. Anything that simply stops working when control is lost is going to be inherently safer than something that melts down when control is lost.

But I digress. The point is, both renewable energy and nuclear energy are becoming much more viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Furthermore, energy storage tech has accelerated to the point where vehicles like cars and aircraft can be run off of electricity alone. Soon the only fossil fuels we will be burning will be for rocket launches, and then only for the initial ascent and orbital insertion.
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22 / F / USA
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
There are several reasons why everyone is still using coal. The main reason being magic isn't a thing.

1. We already have an extensive coal energy infrastructure in extraction, supply, and production. It cannot overnight be replaced with a solar or wind infrastructure at no cost. As we will see in my point, cost is an issue in replacing the existing infrastructure.

2. Speaking of cost, you cite prices for supplying renewable energy. Once the facility is built it is cheap to maintain and operate. But what about building it? I found a study published last year comparing the cost of building a 4800 MWh (enough for 160,000 people) natural gas vs solar facility in Arizona, the optimal kind of place for a solar plant. The Solar plant is almost 14 times more expensive than than the natural gas plant at $2.74 billion! How many communities have $2.74 billion lying around? The natural gas plant was $200 million. Still expensive, but much more doable than the solar option. Now natural gas plants are cheaper to build than new coal plants, but once again still expensive.
Study: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/04/01/a-solar-power-plant-vs-a-natural-gas-power-plant-capital-cost-apples-to-apples/

3. Another issue is labor force. A study by the AEI using widely publicized statistics from the US Department of Energy last year show that solar energy is very labor inefficient compared to coal. Despite employing over twice as many people as the entire coal industry, the solar industry produced a miniscule amount of power in the big picture. It takes 79 people in the solar industry to produce the same amount of power one person in the coal industry can produce. So to replace coal we would need about 12.5 million more people to work in that industry. And they won't show up overnight. And I would imagine we can't just grab people off the street, either. They likely need at least training if not some kind of technical certification or degree.
Study:http://www.aei.org/publication/inconvenient-energy-fact-it-takes-79-solar-workers-to-produce-same-amount-of-electric-power-as-one-coal-worker/

So there are some really good reason that without the power of magic, coal will keep going for a long, long time.
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37 / M / UK
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
Ravenstein,

Looking at your source for point 3 and the article they are responding to, the issue has been overly simplified. The majority of solar jobs relate to creating the infrastructure (manufacture, construction & installation) whereas the majority of coal jobs appear to relate to operating the existing infrastructure. You would have to include jobs in the coal industry for building/replacing the infrastructure for anything close to a like-for-like comparison. Even then the data appears to be a mix of part time and full time jobs, so direct comparison is even harder.
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F / BuBbLeS!
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
it takes coal, energy and the likes to make these solar and wind items, but they are also more harmful than helpful. kills birds, makes people face insanity, causes global warming.... so I'm against these so called green energy. they aren't even life time they only last a minor bit, they die and take more energy to use. I see no benefit to them as of right now until they can address some of these issues and people stop being upset they are placed off the ocean and/or in the area regarding wind/solar. nuclear is the better of the versions and if we could find a solution to nuclear fusion or something cleaner. such as the method where someone was trying to create "free energy for all" and he was "mysteriously" killed for this. it'll hurt big companies, and these so call green energy also helping the companies they aren't just putting the truth out there. just my opinion on the whole thing and this is based entirely on research into the matters.
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14 / M
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Posted 11/1/17 , edited 11/1/17
Bruh I'm just waiting for the aliens to come from the 9th dimension and give us zero point energy...or some catastrophic disaster that causes us to go back to the dark ages.
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