The other day I heard in passing, “wind is now cheaper than coal.” If true, this symbolizes the holy grail of renewable energy. It would mean that a turning point for not only cleaner energy, but global warming, climate change, pollution, foreign oil dependence, and more.
To fact check this, I pulled up the top 20 results from Google and narrowed them down to the below articles (most were duplicates pointing at these 5 stories).
Not at all definitive but it does give you an idea of the state of the industry. Just keep in mind that the prices may or may not include subsidies or tax breaks, which can drastically change the costs quoted below.
Jul 2012 - In India, wind is cheaper than coal in Indi (w/out subsidies) (Bloomberg Business)
The cost of wind power has dropped below the price of coal-fired energy in parts of India for the first time as improved turbine technology (from GE) and rising fossil-fuel prices boost its competitiveness, Greenko Group Plc (GKO) said.
Mar 2012 – In Michigan wind is cheaper than coal (American Wind Energy Assoc.)
The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) recently issued a report that finds that electricity generated from renewable energy sources, at an average cost of $91 per megawatt-hour (9.1 cents/kilowatt-hour), is almost one-third cheaper than the cost of electricity from a new coal-fired power plant ($133 per MWh, or 13.3 cents/kWh).
Further, the report notes, “The actual cost of renewable energy contracts submitted to the Commission to date shows a downward pricing trend.
Feb 2012 – In California, prices doubled in the first decade of 21st century, since 2011 are dropping to parity with natural gas (SF Gate)
The price of renewable power contracts signed by California utilities more than doubled from 2003 through 2011 but has now started to plunge…
The cost of buying electricity from a new natural gas power plant…(in 2011) ranged from 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the length of the contract…The cost of renewable power from wind and solar facilities averaged between 8 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour.
Nov 2011 – Investigation of Bill Clinton’s claim that wind/solar are cheaper than nuclear (Politifact)
- Conventional Coal – 94.8 (dollars/MWh)
- Wind – Onshore – 97
- Nuclear – 113.9
- Solar – Photovoltaic – 210.7
- Wind – Offshore – 243.2
- Solar – Thermal – 311.8
Source: DOE’s Energy Information Administration
Nov 2011 – Google retires its initiative RE
It’s not clear here if Google feels this is already won and moving on, or if they have had enough and are quitting. One thing is certain, Google invested nearly a billion dollars ($850 million) in renewable energy last year.
This initiative was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE<C engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology. At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts.