More on solar's increasing economic viability as an energy source. The solar price drops have been staggering. Here's a story on how solar plants are offering prices lower than natural gas...Not only that, one of the solar projects below could be offering the lowest electricity prices in the United States full stop, and with the current slump in oil and coal prices that's saying a lot (we wonder if solar's increasing dominance is contributing to these price drops):
Several large solar power plants under construction in the United States have in the past few months promised to do something that none has done before: offer prices equal to or lesser than that of a natural gas-fired power plant, even as gas is abundant and cheap.
The latest to flirt with that threshold is a 156-megawatt Comanche Solar project in Pueblo, Colo., that broke ground yesterday and will be the largest solar-power generating station east of the Rockies. It is being built by solar developer SunEdison Inc. on behalf of Xcel Energy Inc., one of Colorado's largest electric utilities, through a power-purchase agreement that lasts 25 years.
That photovoltaic power station follows the example of other projects across the sunny West. Last month, NV Energy Inc., the principal utility for the state of Nevada, owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, signed a deal with solar developer SunPower Corp. for a 100 MW plant at a price of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Also last month, NV Energy fixed a price with First Solar Inc. for $3.87 per kWh from a 100 MW plant that could be the cheapest electricity in the United States according to PV Magazine.
Also, in May, Austin Energy in Texas signed a 20-year, 150-MW deal with Recurrent Energy for 5 cents per kWh, Utility Dive reported.
As recently as 2014, solar power plants were costing nearly 14 cents per kWh, according to PV Magazine. By comparison, the benchmark 2014 price of electricity from an advanced combined-cycle natural gas plant was 6.4 cents per kWh, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
"I look at these unbelievable [power purchase agreements], and it's remarkable that we've come so far so quickly," said Jesse Morris, a manager at the Rocky Mountain Institute, which focuses on reducing the price of solar power.