Saturday, 30 July 2011

Chubu denryoku and the case against solar

Jonathon sent a copy of this poster, showing Chubu Denryoku are actively publicising against solar power.

Point 3 says that the area of solar panels needed to supply Matsumoto city with all its electricity would be 100 times the area of Matsumoto castle, or 80% the area of lake Suwa. The implication is that this is a huge area. Of course, compared to the total area of Matsumoto city, or even the total area of rooves in Matsumoto, it's not that huge an area. Many of these roofs have tiles on, and after the 5.4 magnitude earthquake the other day, a lot of these were shaken out of place and many rooves now have scaffolding around them and blue sheets on top. How long before the cost of solar panels will be in the same ballpark as roof tiles? 

Point 4 is talking about cost. It claims 1 kW of solar panel costs 1.1 million yen, corresponding to 100 yen per kilowatt hour of production. What is telling is that the prices are stickers, in other words they have changed since the poster was produced, and will continue changing. I paid around half that for each of my kilo watts of panel, so their numbers are out of date. To apply for city and government grants, the cost per kilowatt hour must be under 700 thousand yen, and once the grant is taken into account, the cost to consumer is less, although I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and ignore grants as they don't change the cost--just who pays for it.

Even so, as you can see in the graph on the right, the cost per kWh is still going to be high compared to hydro electric (13 yen/kW), thermal (10 yen/kW) or nuclear (9 yen/kW). As the solar installation cost is out by a factor of two, I'm not sure how much to trust the other figures. The real cost of nuclear is endlesslesly debatable, as we continue to grapple with the events at Fukushima in March 2011. For example, how do you measure the cost of people around the world thinking that the whole of Japan is a disaster zone?

Anyway, rather than being 10 times more expensive, solar is certainly less than five times more expensive.

The point is more about power democracy though. As a house builder, I can, and indeed have, just invested in solar panels that will sit on my house for the rest of my life, requiring minimal attention, pay for themselves within ten years. I'm not going to buy a nuclear power station. Although it may rain a few metres on my land, there isn't enough to generate hydroelectric power, and I'm not going to buy a gas fired power station either. 

Costs will continue to come down, efficiency will also go up, and as well as adding stickers to this poster, Chubu Denryoku is going to to have to change the pictures too. 

Wake up. The sun is shining!