The “renewables cost more” mantra…busted

Every person who has ever read a climate blog has come across windbaggers and their solar counterparts spouting about the cost of renewables being too expensive when compared to fossil fuels….and you know what? They are right when comparing the pitifully small existing renewable systems with the existing fossil fuel systems. But their argument is flawed because they conveniently ignore the effect of economies of scale. Some researchers who haven’t ignored economies of scale as it applies to renewables is Budischak et al (2013).

In a paper to be published in March 2013 in the Journal of Power Sources but available online now, the authors modelled 28 billion (yes you read that correctly) combinations of energy sources and storage techniques against four years of hourly weather data and electricity demand for the power grid that covers approximately 1/5 of continental USA. Did somebody say “economies of scale”? This is a massive study. Now, what did they find?

With a carefully designed combination of renewables and storage systems, 90-99.9% of electricity demand can be met.


renewables modelled

But that’s not all. Most importantly they report that not only can 90-99.9% of the demand be met, but at 2030 renewables prices it can be done cheaper than today’s fossil fuel prices. Read that sentence again if you need to.

So, if renewables can pretty much cover base load and is actually cheaper than fossil fuels when done on a large scale, what have the detractors got left in the arsenal of inane arguments? Let me guess? Ultra low frequencies from wind farms making people sick? Wind turbines killing birds and bats? Wind farms are ugly? Well, its funny how landholders who financially benefit from having wind turbines on their properties don’t get sick. Windows and feral cats kill far more birds than wind turbines. Better ban them. Finally tar sands and coal mining are definitely far more aesthetically pleasing than wind turbines.

tar sands

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