More Unreported Hidden Costs

More Unreported Hidden Costs

The fact that wind and solar are more costly than coal-fired, natural gas, and nuclear power plants is easy to explain: They need backup or storage which automatically increases the cost of wind and solar.

What’s not usually recognized is that wind and solar also increases the cost of electricity in other ways.

For example, the latest natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants can have  efficiencies as high as 63%, but with wind and solar on the grid these plants would have to operate in a following mode which decreases their efficiency.

The same is true with all NGCC power plants already in operation. These plants must respond to wind and solar’s ups and downs in output, i.e. operate in a following mode, which lowers their efficiencies.

This is evident when viewing ongoing capacity factors (CF) for existing NGCC power plants. 

The latest CF for NGCC power plants in the US is 56.6%.

If they could operate as intended, which is as baseload power running 24/7, their CF would be around 80%.

The fact that their current CFs are at around 57% means they have been running in following mode which has resulted in their being less efficient. With lower efficiencies, the cost of electricity increases.

Photo by D. Dears

This is just another cost of using wind and solar that’s not reported on by the media.

Even hydro is affected by the intermittency of wind and solar. When hydro has to follow load, the ups and downs increases maintenance costs. Coal-fired power plants are even more adversely affected by having to follow load, with the rapid changes in temperature and differing expansion and contraction rates of materials creating serious maintenance problems.

These hidden costs are not included in the LCOEs touted by Lazard and others.

There is no getting around the fact that adding wind and solar to the grid increases the cost of electricity for everyone.

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9 Replies to “More Unreported Hidden Costs”

  1. Thanks for the hidden costs reminder. This reminds me of the age old medical practice where they used leaches to cure the patient.

  2. Follow mode for CC gas plants also increases maintenance cost as well as decreasing efficiency. And then there are the zero-efficiency sunny and windy days when the plant is hot idled to respond immediately when a cloud comes over.

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