Today, there are widespread demands for nations and individuals to adopt green energy as a substitute for nonrenewable sources. Renewable electricity options, which include wind turbines, solar power, and electric vehicles, minimize carbon emissions and are thus referred to as renewable energy. However, there are costs associated with the use of these renewable energy sources. This paper examines the cost of renewable energy by focusing specifically on solar power, wind power, and electric vehicles. This article is broken down into four parts. The first section after this introduction discusses the cost of solar power as one of the forms of green energy. The second section looks at wind power while the third examines electric cars. The last section draws a conclusion based on the discussions.
A good question in discussing wind power as a source of green energy would be whether the additional costs of wind and solar are justified by the benefits of reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Studies have indicated that the cost of wind and solar are much higher compared to other three low-carbon alternatives. The cost per megawatt of capacity of putting up a solar or a wind power plant is quite high, higher than the cost of the gas-fired plant (Frank). The cost per megawatt of solar power capacity is particularly high.
The cost of solar-voltaic panels dropped between the year 2010 and 2012 causing a drop in the cost of putting up a solar power plant by up to twenty-two percent (Frank). However, a further drop in the cost of the solar-voltaic panels will probably have very little effects since their cost is just a fraction of the total cost that goes into putting up a utility-scale plant.
For instance, a typical solar plant in the U.S. functions at just about 15 percent of the full capacity, on the other hand, a coal plant can work 90 percent of its full capacity all year round (Frank). Unlike coal-fired plant, solar plants are unreliable in their output since it varies a lot. While for instance, a coal-fired plant can function at 90 percent of its full capacity, the output of a solar plant varies by the year, month, day and even by the hour.
Both solar and wind plants only operate at their full capacity at a fraction of the time, that is, when the sun is shining or when the wind is blowing. For instance, a typical wind plant in the U.S. functions at just about 25 percent of the full capacity, on the other hand, a coal plant can function at 90 percent of its full capacity all year round. It means, to generate the same amount of power as one coal-fired plant, more than six solar plants and four wind plants are needed.
While for instance, a coal-fired plant can function at 90 percent of its full capacity, the output of a wind plant varies by the year, month, day and even by the hour. In terms of dollars, it may take up to $29 million worth of investment in solar power capacity plus $10 million in wind power capacity to generate electricity as reliable as a $1 million in a gas mixed cycle capacity (Frank).
On average, an electric vehicle on the “affordable” side costs a premium cost of about $15,000. Typically, a battery electric car at a rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour costs $0.03-0.05 each mile for electricity. At this rate, if one compares to a typical energy efficient gasoline car to an electric car, then one saves up to 6 cents a mile on the fuel costs (Herron). Electric vehicles offer significant cost savings compared to gas powered vehicles. Therefore, in both the short-run and in the long-run, electric cars are more affordable than gasoline cars. It is for the same reason that many automobile manufacturers are planning to venture into mass production of the electric vehicles (Tuttle and Gorin).
However, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the electric cars face challenges including driving range, recharge time, battery cost and bulk and weight. On full charge, the cars’ driving range for most models is limited to between 60 to 120 miles, though some models can do 200 to 300 miles. Also, to charging the batteries can take up to between 4 to 8 hours to fully recharge. It takes up to 30 minutes to get 80 percent capacity on a “fast charge.” Finally, the cars use large battery packs that are expensive and replacement may be necessary one or more times (U.S. Department of Energy).
Among the measures to cut on the carbon emissions, electric vehicles are a great way to achieve this. With regards to control carbon emissions the simplest and the most cost-effective. Solar and wind power are not cost-effective sources of green energy since their peak capacity of operation is limited to just a fraction of the time. The limits in the benefits and the high costs of both solar and wind energy make them socially of lesser value compared to other forms of energy such as hydro, gas and nuclear.
Frank, Charles. Why the Best Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power. 20 May 2014. Web. 5 May 2017.
Herron, David. Electric Vehicle Ownership: Costs, Environment, Climate, Politics. n.d. Web. 5 May 2017.
Tuttle, Edward and Brian Gorin. Do Electric Cars Make Economic Sense for the Mass Market? n.d. Web. 5 May 2017.
U.S. Department of Energy. All-Electric Vehicles. n.d. Web. 5 May 2017.