Trump's Solar Tariffs Won’t Bring the Coal Industry Back to Life
- July 31, 2018
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As far as efforts go, President Trump’s solar tariffs to bring the coal industry back to life is a very poor one. Renewable energy is unstoppable, and solar tariffs don’t have the power to change that.
A solar auction in Nevada just gave birth to the most inexpensive solar project in the country, breaking a record that was only set a week prior. The amount of money that it takes to make this new plant operational is a lot less than what new natural gas and coal plants ask for.
It was the 30-megawatt farm in Arizona that held the title for the cheapest solar project in America just a few weeks ago. The project was conceived in an effort to replace the Navajo Generating Station, which caused some friction with tribal members of the area. The project was auctioned for the incredibly low price of $24.99 per megawatt-hour over the duration of a 20-year contract.
Nevada’s sunny weather and federal tax credits have a lot to do with this, but the project is clearly a consequence of solar power becoming cost-competitive and starting to beat fossil fuels in the market.
This new project is called Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm, and it will become operational in 2021. The farm will have a generating capacity of 300 megawatts, which is enough to power around 210,000 homes in the US. If you don’t think this is impressive enough, wait until I tell you about the price!
This farm will operate at a flat rate of $23.76 per megawatt-hour over the course of a 25-year-long contract. If you’re not particularly knowledgeable about this new energy movement, then the price won’t seem like a big deal, but it is.
According to Ramez Naam, energy expert and lecturer at Singularity University, “the price of building these energy farms is less than a third of the price of building new coal or natural gas power plants.”
Naam goes on to say that building these farms is even cheaper than operating existing coal or natural gas plants.
The 30% federal investment tax credit dedicated to solar projects such as these is a big help; however, Naam affirms that even if there wasn’t such a credit, the farms would still be cheaper.
Included in the Nevada auction were several projects that link utility-scale solar with batteries. This brings us a step closer to mastering the solar-plus-storage dilemma, which is essential for renewables to completely overtake fossil fuels in all facets.
According to Naam, “Batteries weren’t a part of solar or wind projects in the past, but in 2018 we’ve noticed that battery storage has become a frequent part of the bids.”
What do all these projects have in common? They’re located in the Southwest region, known for its sunny weather.
Location definitely plays a major role in keeping the prices low, but so does technology. According to Naam, these prices are only a taste of what’s to come in places like Colorado, California, and Texas in a few years.
These projects don’t only show that green energy is more affordable—they also show that there’s nothing the Trump administration can do to bring fossil fuels back to life. The solar tariffs, says Naam, “only move the price of solar back by a year, at most.”
In fact, the tariffs have not been successful at slowing down solar projects at all. The latest report by the Solar Energy Industries Association showed that 55% of the country’s electricity-generating installations in the first quarter of 2018 was solar.
This is all a clear sign of great progress, but if we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, the transition to green energy needs to happen even faster.