Solar panel farms will be economical in 10 years
Debate Rounds (4)
I will propose a solar panel farm to be built in 2021 as a private company, not as a "cover an entire state, or nation" but merely to serve a particular community. My model will likely be based around providing electricity for a few thousand people, though I reserve the right to go larger or smaller.
As such, I may also have back up generation for nights/overcast or choose to use a battery power supply.
Since we are dealing with 10 years in the future, costs will be determined based on their historical trends. This applies to cost of materials, labor, electricity, etc. For this debate, it is agreed that we use historic trends, not what some analyst predicts (since people can be on payrolls, history, not so much).
By "economical," we are refering to it's ability to make money at market values. As seeing as it will be a small scale farm, it will not have a significant impact upon the market value of electricity, and so it will charge market rate and attempt to make a profit. The measuring stick will be against the Utility Bonds annual rate of 4% (this is kind of becoming the standard measuring stick thanks to RoyLatham).
If you have any questions regarding this, or something that I may have forgotten, please ask in the comments.
Also, my opponent should allow me to go first (as I need to setup my model of them to attack), though if they feel the need to make some statements in their R1, they are more than free to.
Things that need to be factored in. Cost of electricity, maintenance, land, panels, labor to install, backup systems, power delivery, inflation, replacements when needed. We also need to figure in the rate of efficiency decay on the panels. If my opponent has more that he can think of that needs to be factored in, he may bring them up in his round.
Moving on to figuring out what these will be in 10 years. Let's look at each individually.
1)Cost of electricity. From 2000 to 2011, we've observed a 3.8% increase in the national average of electricity , this is also matched up with Arizona's average growth over the same time frame . AZ is currently at 10.98 cents per kWH (as of the end of 2010), and so in 2021 it will likely be 16.55 cents per kWH. Now, it could be argued that we are going to be experiencing heavy inflation sometime in the not too distant future, because of massive government debt and money printing, which would speed up the rate of cost increases, but that is too much speculation for me to dive into.
2)Panels. The cost of solar panels has historically been dropping at a rate of 10.1% a year. This is the average from the first commercially available solar cells in 1955 . Since 2005, we've seen price decreases on the average of 12.3%. 11% price decreases per year is a good estimate between what we are currently seeing and the historic. This means that panels that cost $1.44 per watt today , will likely cost $0.45 per watt. We also need to look at how their efficiency is increasing. Solar panels have increased an average of 6% a year in efficiency from 1955 to 2010 . Since the current model that we based the price on was getting 143W per square meter , it would be safe to assume that in 2021, the models would be getting 256W per square meter. It should also be noted that based on the warranty, these panels deteriorate at about 0.75% per year, which will need to be factored in.
3)Land. Open land in Arizona can run as low as $450 an acre , or in the area that I'm particularly looking at, around $1,800 an acre . The value of this land has not changed much over the years, so we'll just apply inflation to it. Average inflation over the last 15 years has been 42.63%, or 2.4% per year. This will put the value of our land at $2,300 per acre for the close land, and $570 per acre for the distant land.
4)Electricity Transmission. Transmission lines cost around $940,000 per mile to install . Since we are not going to be traveling a huge distance, the high power lines are not needed. These too will also be increased based on inflation, since I cannot find a direct history of their costs. So they will come to about $1,190,000 per mile.
5)Labor costs. Labor per solar panel to install has been sitting roughly around $360 per panel . While new technology is bring that done greatly, such as the FlexRack, I have been unable to get a number for the cost of the actual FlexRack, and so we will have to use the standard labor costs.
6)Maintenance. This greatly depends on the number of panels, so this will go more in depth in my actual plan. When it comes to generally cleaning the panels (removal of dust), cheap labor is readily available, however, there will need to be individuals with EE degrees on hand for when more serious issues come up.
7)Backup system. There are two options for this. A massive battery system that the solar panels will charge during the day to power at night, or a separate generator to work at night. For this, I will go with the generator. Natural gas power plants currently cost a little under $1,100 per kW to construct , meaning a 10 MW plant would cost around $11 million to build. This labor cost has been pretty level over the years, even with inflation. Natural Gas is the cheapest of all energy sources to construct. The cost of fuel has been pretty level, though it is coming down from a recent high (it has been elevated over the past 8 years and has come back down just recently), it is at about $5.00 per 1,000 cubic feet  and 1,000 cubic feet will be 351.7 kWh, since the power plants of today are about 60% efficient , so 211 kWh. This can also show that $23.50 of fuel is needed per MWh.
Okay, let's move on to the system. First, the NW part of AZ get 8 to 8.5 average sun hours a day, but we'll use 8 sun hours  (these are the average hours the panels are fully operating, really, you get about 8 hours of partial use and 4 hours of full, but it averages to 8). We are going to make the solar farm � of a square km, or about 123 acres. Now since I showed that land can be found in 77 acre chunks, finding 123 acres is not an unreasonable stretch. I will also need land beyond that for the backup and offices, so I'll round to a nice 150 acres. On this, we'll put 311,000 solar panels to get a nice 128.05 MW of solar. These panels will cost about $57.6 million, the labor to install will be about $111.96 million. The land will be only $345,000 (as we can see, land is not an important factor). Since the land is nice and flat, and solar has no noise or pollution emitted (and the backup is going to be small to keep emissions at a minimum), the facility can be close to town. I set the power lines at 20 miles away with 20 miles to spread to reach the homes. This gives a power line cost of $47.6 million. That makes the total for the solar section $217.5 million to build.
On a national average, we use 35% less energy at night . So the backup needs to be able to handle 65% of peak demand and the average home has a peak demand of 1.7 kW , so the average night time is going to be 1.1 kW per home. If we let the solar provide the 1.7 kW per home per day, that means that 50,200 homes can be hooked up. This also means that they'll have a night time need of 55.2 MW backup at night. This will cost $60.7 million, which brings our total to $278.2 million to construct. This will also allow the back up to not need to be on at all during the day so that it can be cleaned regularly and can fire up its full load when needed on cloudy days when the solar is not performing at 100%.
With 1/2 the day being at 1.7 kW and 1/2 at 1.1 kW, this puts the total monthly consumption at 1,042 kWh, which is fairly close to the state average. This means that there is a total of 761,280 MWh produced a year for a gross income of $126 million.
Plato_ATODT forfeited this round.
Plato_ATODT forfeited this round.
Plato_ATODT forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro made a wonderful case drawing from many reliable sources, and outlined the details on how the plan would work. Con did nothing.
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