Solar Cheaper than Nuclear?

by Drew Thornley

Sadly the cost of nuclear power is being pushed higher and higher by myriad regulatory roadblocks and uncertainties and the global economic downturn. Regulatory barriers and escalating front-end costs are stifling much-needed investment in the nuclear-power industry. Now, a Duke University study claims that, for the first time, “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants” in North Carolina.

As reported by The Energy Collective, the study says that “When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it ‘crossed over’ the trend-line associated with nuclear power. Of course, such “competitiveness” results from the lavish subsidies that solar power enjoys — subsidies that do no good when the sun’s not shining. Nuclear power is subsidized as well, but on a levelized basis (meaning an output-per-subsidy comparison), there is no contest that nuclear power gives us the best bang for our buck. Rain or shine, we can split atoms.

Fast Company writes, “the fact remains that nuclear plants can pump out energy 24 hours a day. Solar plants can’t. A long-lasting nuclear plant will most likely generate more energy per dollar invested than a solar plant ever could.”  And nuclear power, unlike solar, produces power on a commercial scale — meaning, nuclear-power reactors generate so much electricity that you can’t put them on your roof. So, before we throw photovoltaic panels a ticker-tape parade, let’s be mindful of the limitations of intermittent renewables that are “competitive” simply because U.S. taxpayers are forced to make them so.