A bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan is being rushed for approval in Congress. If the bill passes, the Philippine government will raise up to $1 billion to finance the recommissioning of the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP).
Cojuangco has done no technical, economic or financial feasibility study to support his claims that a recommissioned BNPP can operate safely and economically. The bill’s explanatory notes contains no comparison between the projected cost of BNPP electricity and renewable sources like wind, solar, microhydro, geothermal, etc.
The photovoltaic panels themselves typically comprise about 60% of the total installed cost of a complete photovoltaic system. With solar panel costs approaching $1/watt peak (or $1.7/Wp for complete systems), we are looking at $1.05 billion for 620 MWp). While this is still as expensive as Cojuangco’s unsubstantiated (“supposed”, according to him) $1 billion for the 620 MWe BNPP, the solar power systems can be installed a few hundred peak watts at a time, as needed, and they will start producing electricity immediately, with none of the associated problems of financial risks, nuclear fuel costs, decommissioning costs, nuclear waste disposal problems, various other hidden costs, higher cancer risks around the plant, accident risks, risks from earthquakes or volcanic eruptions
Furthermore, while nuclear costs keep going up, solar and wind generation costs are going down. So any comparison made today will even be more favorable to these renewables five to ten years from now.
Remember that the most expensive parts of a photovoltaic system are the solar panels and the controllers, which are both electronic and made from silicon (which is made from sand). They will therefore show the same economics of scale as computers, LCD projectors, DVD players, and other electronic products, whose prices are steadily going down. With China coming into the picture in as a major producer of photovoltaic panels and controllers, their prices are bound to go down rather fast.
Here’s one industry report about the costs of photovoltaic cells.
Photovoltaic costs to plummet in 2009
11 December 2008 — The cost of photovoltaic electricity is due to plummet in 2009, according to analysts at New Energy Finance. Its quarterly Silicon and Wafer Price Index shows average silicon contract prices falling by over 30 percent in 2009, compared with 2008.
With thin-film PV module manufacturing costs approaching the $1 per watt mark, crystalline silicon-based PV will come under severe competition for larger projects, resulting in margins shrinking throughout the silicon value chain, the company states.
Although the decrease in silicon prices will be good news for silicon-based cell and module-makers, another threat is now looming larger. According to the new report, “Through Thick and Thin,” New Energy Finance forecasts that production of thin-film photovoltaic modules will more than quadruple to 1.9 GW in 2009.
Thin-film PV is less efficient at converting solar energy to electricity, with efficiencies of as much as 11 percent rather than the up to 18 percent displayed by commercial crystalline silicon technology. However, with manufacturing costs approaching $1/watt, it is an attractive option for larger space-constrained applications.
For a ground-mounted plant in a region with good insolation, this could translate into an unsubsidised generation cost of $0.17/kWh for crystalline silicon – competitive with daytime peak electricity prices in many parts of the world. Meanwhile, thin-film manufacturers can achieve unsubsidised costs of $0.13/kWh for the same large project by 2010.
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