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Solar Power Is Cheapest–Well, At Least In The Atacama Desert!

December 17, 2016

By Paul Homewood




The failed Independent reports:


Solar power is becoming the cheapest way to generate electricity, according to leading analysts.

Data produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) showed the cost of solar in 58 lower-income countries – including China, Brazil and India – had fallen to about a third of levels in 2010 and was now slightly cheaper than wind energy.

In August, an auction to supply electricity in Chile achieved the record low price of $29.10 (£23.30) per megawatt-hour – a record low price and about half the price of a coal competitor.

BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said in a note to clients: “Renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting [fossil fuel prices].”

Renewable energy is cheap in developing countries that are looking to add more electricity to their national grids.

“Renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies,” Mr Liebreich said.

However, in rich nations where new renewable energy generators must compete with existing fossil fuel power stations the cost of carbon-free electricity can be higher.

The dramatic plunge in price had partly been produced by the economies of scale, with China in particular adding a vast amount of new solar capacity.

Ethan Zindler, head of US policy analysis at BNEF, said: “Solar investment has gone from nothing – literally nothing – like five years ago to quite a lot.

“A huge part of this story is China, which has been rapidly deploying solar.”

Beijing has also been helping other countries to pay for solar projects.


Bloomberg New Energy Finance have long lost whatever credibility they may have had, and simply act as shills for renewable energy interests, so it’s no surprise that the Independent want to quote them.

So let’s look at a few things they forgot to mention:


1) The solar project they highlight in Chile just so happens to be in the Atacama Desert.

Now I have never actually been there, but I suspect it might be one of the sunniest and driest spots in the whole world.

Also it will be constructed using Chilean labour working at much lower wages than in Britain.

In other words, the cost of solar power there has absolutely no relevance at all for the UK, or indeed much of the developed world.


2) They also forget to mention that the Chilean government is paying to install the transmission lines from the Atacama to the rest of the country, something that Bloomberg themselves reported in a separate article in August.

Therefore the real cost of using solar power is much greater than pretended.


3) Also, as previously reported by Bloomberg, the capacity of the new solar project is only 120MW.

If we generously assume capacity loading of 30%, we arrive at 315 GWh a year.

Last year, according to the BP Review, Chile generated 75.4 TWh. So the contribution from the Atacama project will be a paltry 0.4%.


4) The claim, that a huge part of this story is China, which has been rapidly deploying solar, is also nonsense.

Last year, again according to BP, solar power still only provided 0.7% of China’s electricity.



China is only interested in one thing, and that is exporting solar panels. That is why they are keen to cut prices and offering finance.

  1. December 17, 2016 12:46 pm

    All very well until the sun goes down. Then about as useful as an ashtray on a push bike.

    • Gamecock permalink
      December 17, 2016 12:56 pm

      Exactly! What is the cheapest way to produce electricity at 8 PM?

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 17, 2016 1:38 pm

      No, no, no, Roland! You miss the point. Everything in AGW is based on averages. So….at 8 pm the average of the day’s power generated will be ‘SolarV/24’. Get with the program.

      Which supports my bitch about Global Average Temps being no more useful a number than the average for Lottery numbers drawn since 1994.

      • AZ1971 permalink
        December 18, 2016 1:06 am

        Word. 🙂

  2. December 17, 2016 2:10 pm

    If these things are all so cheap without subsidies, why do producers stream, tear their hair out and hold their breath trying to turn blue when anyone mentions subsidies can be removed? Maybe Trump needs a copy of this, along with Speaker “Free Money for All” Ryan.

  3. December 17, 2016 3:34 pm

    In fact this Abengoa CSP project received subsudues from the Chilean fovernment in addition to the ‘free’ transmission line.

  4. December 17, 2016 4:15 pm

    I used to live in middle of the Atacama Desert 98/99
    The only reason you need transmission cables is to bring IN electricity.
    Communities revolve arond the mine industry who have their own power stations to provide the massive amounts of energy they need for crushers etc.

    • December 17, 2016 4:24 pm

      Of course it’s boiling hot daytime then 11 hours of darkness when its freezing cold.

      There some very special local conditions: masses of dust, there is wind but local tornadoes are common, as you drive they pass through your car and often over the house.
      And you’d have to pipe water from over the wet side of the Andes 150Km away if you are to use it to clean panels.

  5. December 17, 2016 4:38 pm

    The entire Independent article is GREED energy fantasyland.
    – If you can quote local conditions then there are plenty of places in the world where gas and oil flow out if the ground at close to zero cost, so electricity there means solar cannot achieve parity.
    – Fair play to the Indy it does allow open comments.. GreenBlob workers and dreamers are pushing their dogma, but plenty of sceptics there.
    – Bottom line its not our business to pay for greens dreams, there should be no subsidies ; If they are cobfident their schemes work they should use their own money.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 17, 2016 9:11 pm

      ‘Ruinables’, ,’Unreliables’, and now, ‘GREED energy’: Love it! Good one, Stew.

  6. Jack Dawkins permalink
    December 17, 2016 9:33 pm

    Those who think that wind and solar are the answer should practice what they preach and live by these means of electricity production alone.

    Just where do these eejits think that the CO2 emitted by the of burning of fossil fuels came from in the first place? We are simply returning CO2 from whence it came.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 18, 2016 12:35 pm

      Excellent point. Those on green tariffs should only receive a supply when they are producing electricity and there is enough to go round to them all. Hmm, maybe those ‘smart’ meters could come in useful.

      • December 18, 2016 9:32 pm

        The trouble is, Gerry, that when you analyse what eco-activists actually say when challenged they admit that some clean fossil fuel generation is going to be needed even as in the next breath they oppose the building of low emission (gas) or no emission (nuclear).

        They are past masters, as I know from bitter experience, at tying anyone they choose to argue with in very tight knots, mainly because when defending their cause they have no consistency in argument and will shift their ground as necessary to win their argument. Trying to drag them back to a previous statement simply sets them off on a different track.

        They will agree with your position that it ought to be possible to sign up to green energy and only use green energy but will then hedge this ideal state round with so many provisos and caveats that it becomes meaningless … but they still believe it will be possible by 2030 or 2050.

        Incidentally, as I write this (2125GMT) wind is providing less electricity to the grid than the Dutch interconnector — ie almost certainly less than those same eco-warriors are consuming. Don’t look for logic from a fanatic!

      • December 18, 2016 10:01 pm

        Mike: Turbines here in WY visible from my house are turning, well at least 9 out of 11. I guess they’re so efficient they don’t need all 11 to get optimal output. 😉

  7. December 17, 2016 10:35 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  8. Greg Roberts permalink
    December 17, 2016 10:52 pm


  9. December 18, 2016 2:01 pm

    If it’s cheaper, it’s cheaper, and no amount of howling derision will change that. I just wonder how they did it. Thanks to a glut of production and huge subsidies, Chinese solar panels are sold well below cost, but still.

    • December 18, 2016 2:24 pm

      The key word being “if”. Part of what did it was the transmission line cost was not included, the TINY amount of electricity being produced (not understanding scale is how these useless energy forms are sold—it works on a house, why not a whole town? It works in a tiny country with little electrical needs, why won’t it work on a country the size of the US where manufacturing is done and lights are on 24/7? People fail to understand scale.), the article notes this is in developing countries only (where it keeps people from ever having 24/7 electricity), and so forth. Pricing on goods can be made to equal whatever one wants it to be depending on what is involved and what one counts in and does not count in. It’s what makes advertising to fools a very lucrative business.

  10. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    December 18, 2016 6:48 pm

    The production price might be cheaper when they produce, but then let a solar plant supply all the needed electricity 24/7.
    The plant would need som other (fossil) generators to do that, or they would need arangements with existing generators to secure the supply. Then make the comparision of apples to apples.

  11. December 18, 2016 9:59 pm

    I doubt if many at the Indy can actually count past the fingers on one hand.

  12. tom0mason permalink
    December 19, 2016 3:26 am

    As a way to go, I vote that all government (local, regional, and national) are powered only by renewables.

    Lets see how far our leaders get on with that?

  13. AndyG55 permalink
    December 19, 2016 7:14 am


    I hope you have seen this.

  14. December 19, 2016 9:23 am

    a seasonal ho-ho-ho

    Give us £30 extra on your energy bills and we won’t shut off your power.repoerted with relish by the Green goons at The Press Association.

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