In addition to hydroelectric power, solar energy and onshore wind power are also cheap sources of energy. But which is the best option? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Let's explore these options in more detail. Here are a few examples:
The cost of installing and operating onshore wind energy is considerably lower than that of offshore wind. The LCOE of onshore wind was just $80/MWh in 2015, with global installations expected to increase by 10% by 2019. In addition, the costs of onshore wind energy are lower than offshore, which is more expensive to install and operate. However, offshore wind energy is proving to be an excellent backup resource for a variety of applications, including emergency power generation.
Onshore wind is a growing source of cheap renewable energy, accounting for about 7% of the world's electricity demand. In the last year alone, 93 gigawatts of new wind turbines were installed, with the total installed line expected to reach 743 GW by 2020. Offshore wind farms account for nearly half of this total, with the majority of them located in the UK, China, and Germany. The London Array is one of the largest offshore wind farms, with a total capacity of 0.6 GW from 175 turbines. It cost EUR2.5 billion to build and now covers the private electricity needs of 1.7 million Britons.
Onshore wind is cheaper than offshore wind, according to Caroline Lucas. The cost of onshore wind energy is based on the production of electricity from the UK's wind resources, which is never depleted. As a result, it is far cheaper than other renewable energy sources. However, a few major costs must be considered in determining the cost of onshore wind. The most recent study is by BVG Associates, a renewable energy consultancy, and includes a breakdown of cost per megawatt hour.
Despite its high initial cost, onshore wind is an excellent choice for those on a budget. Technology has been improving over the past 30 years. The capacity of onshore wind energy applications has increased to more than 60 gigawatts globally. By 2022, global onshore wind capacity is expected to reach 750 GW. In addition, onshore wind is a proven, cheap, and environmentally friendly source of power.
Because wind power is cheap, many governments are turning to it. For example, wind power is cheap in Denmark, and the cost of onshore wind power is just 9 cents/kilowatt hour – far lower than fossil fuel-fired power generation. This makes wind power one of the most cost-effective energy sources on the planet. So, what should we expect in the future? And what will it cost? This is a question worth asking.
In the United States, wind energy is the fastest-growing renewable source, accounting for over a fifth of electricity generation. In 2007, wind energy was only one percent of energy capacity, while coal contributed more than half. By 2020, the combined output of wind, solar, and other renewables is expected to surpass coal, which accounts for only one fifth of power generation. It is also estimated to be the most cost-effective energy source for generating electricity in the country.
The cost of renewable energy has dropped dramatically. The cost of large-scale solar projects dropped 85% in just a decade. By 2020, solar and wind power will cost less than energy from existing coal plants. And energy storage is key to the future of renewables. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, battery storage costs fell seventy percent from 2015 to 2018.
Solar energy can also be used to heat low-temperature water. In fact, domestic hot water units routinely use solar energy. In Australia, solar energy is used for solar electricity production. It is also used in utility-scale solar power plants, mostly photovoltaic. These advantages make solar energy a viable investment for many households. The cost of installing solar energy is low enough that many governments are incentivizing its adoption.
The cost of solar power is astronomically high compared to other renewable energy sources. However, if carbon emissions are priced, solar power will become economically viable. Some Californian plants have already made the switch from solar thermal to solar PV. One of the biggest challenges is financing the project. A $6 billion project in Blythe, California will use parabolic trough technology. The plant will comprise four 250 MWe units, occupying a total of 28 square kilometers. The project is partly financed by the US Dept. of Energy with a $2.1 billion loan guarantee and a 20-year power purchase agreement with SC Edison. However, this project was later replaced with a solar PV plant, due to the difficulties in obtaining financing.
Solar PV is a highly viable option for generating electricity for a large number of homes. It is becoming increasingly popular in developing countries, and there are many countries that have implemented grid-connected solar PV systems. In fact, more than 30 percent of all new generating capacity will be generated by solar PV in the next decade. However, many challenges remain. The best way to overcome them is to develop innovative technologies. Fortunately, scientists are working hard on new advancements. Solar roof shingles and skylights are a few examples of what is possible in the future.
In Morocco, the Noor-Ouarzazate CSP plant is one of the largest projects in the world, with 510 MWe solar capacity. Its first phase was completed in early 2016, and the country has contracted for power from it at a cost of $0.19/kWh. Its second phase is scheduled for completion in 2018 and will use parabolic trough collectors and oil and diphenyl oxide to produce steam for the turbine. The plant is based on the Gemasolar plant, which has a 20MW capacity.
The cost of large-scale solar and wind power has dropped 85% in the last decade, and onshore wind has fallen by almost half that amount. With a declining cost, more renewables are gaining market share and lowering system costs. By 2020, renewable energy could cost as much or less than coal plants. With the right investment, a huge proportion of households can switch over to renewable energy. The economic benefits are immense.
If you want to create clean, inexpensive electricity, hydroelectric power might be a good choice. Most hydropower facilities are located in streams or lakes. They use large dams to block the flow of water and create a pool of water above them. This pool is then filled with water and given a path downhill through one or more pipes. When water enters the turbine, it spins it, generating electricity.
The installed costs of hydropower projects vary. Some require significant up-front investments and support from federal incentives, while others need more favorable tax and regulatory environments. Conventional hydro systems fall toward the lower end of the cost spectrum, while those on greenfield and upgrade sites tend to be more expensive. Low-impact hydro systems, which require fewer infrastructure upgrades, are not expected to decline much in the near future. Hydropower also is an attractive option for domestic use.
The biggest concern with hydropower is that the water produced by dams contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, known as GHGs. Hydrocarbons are created by decomposing organic matter and result in CO2 and CH4. Early studies claimed that hydro plants in Brazil emitted up to three times more GHG than coal fired plants. Further, extrapolation from the hydro data has led to the conclusion that hydro alone accounts for four percent of global GHG emissions.
Although hydropower costs have gone up significantly in recent years, the cost of the projects remains low compared to other renewable energy sources. According to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydropower projects cost $0.047 per kWh in 2019. By comparison, solar PV and offshore wind cost about one cent per kWh. Hydropower is the cheapest renewable energy option by far, but it is not without its drawbacks.
One of the most widely used sources of renewable energy, hydropower uses the kinetic energy of water flowing on the Earth's surface. It converts this kinetic energy into electricity at a 90 percent efficiency. Unlike fossil fuels, hydroelectric power plants don't cause any pollution to the air or land. In fact, the first hydroelectric power plant was built on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1882.
Regardless of the type of source, hydroelectric power is an important resource to our country. Modern technologies demand huge amounts of electricity. Hydroelectric plants once supplied 40 percent of the nation's electric energy, but that number has increased steadily. Now, hydroelectric plants provide around 10 percent of the United States' electric generating capacity. Another advantage of hydroelectric power is that it responds to system and load fluctuations quickly. It's also the cheapest source of renewable energy, so why not tap into this resource?
However, there are some challenges associated with hydropower. Changing climate patterns can make predicting river flows difficult. Prolonged droughts can disrupt the energy supply. Brazil is highly dependent on hydropower, and long droughts are causing debilitating power shortages. The increasing frequency of storms can cause dams to become unsafe, which could be an environmental issue. Further, climate change will also make it harder to build dams.