Monday, March 3, 2008

So, Who is Paying?

Those who follow this blog know that this author is trying to get a handle on the real cost of solar and wind electrical generation, and who is paying. As of now, the costs that we believe to be reasonably accurate for coal is about 4 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), though it may be less.

The cost for wind generation appears to be just over 9 cents per kwh, with 4 cents being subsidized by the taxpayers. That number comes from Business Week.

We're guessing that the real, unsubsidized cost for solar generated power is in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 cents per kwh, though it may be as low as 25 cents per kwh. That lower number was claimed by a solar researcher who also put the cost of wind generation in the neighborhood of 4 to 6 cents per kwh. That suggests that he was comparing subsidized cost to subsidized cost, making the real unsubsidized cost up towards 50 cents per kwh.

A kwh is enough energy to power ten 100 watt light bulbs for an hour, so 50 cent per kwh is very expensive power.

This brings us to a story in the Pueblo Chieftan that discusses the new 2 megawatt solar array on Fort Carson.

[ Vince ] Gutherie said the electricity from the solar panels is broadly used at Fort Carson and not just as a source of power for housing. The Mountain Post doesn't own the solar panels, but is able to purchase power from them at much reduced prices. Army officials estimate they will save $500,000 in utilities over the next 17 years, which is the term of the contract with the providers.

Unless we are mistaken, Fort Carson was buying power from Colorado Springs Utilities which generates most of its power from coal. Not only that, it is cheap coal! CSU owns its own coal cars and has a long term transportation deal with a railroad that it won't reveal to the public. Fort Carson was already getting a deal, but now they are getting a better deal.

It appears that Colorado Springs Utilities rate payers are producing electricity at this site at a cost of as much as 50 cents per kwh, (but not less than 25 cents per kwh) and selling it to the Army at 3 or 4 cents per kwh. This subsidy is a hidden Mark Udall, Ken Salazar, Bill Ritter tax on Colorado Springs rate payers, and it is not a small tax.

For those of you in other parts of Colorado who want to chuckle at how dumb CSU is to do this to its rate payers, recall that this was driven by state law. Will your utility company do as well?

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