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Tag: Energy (Page 1 of 14)

Electric vehicle price is rising, but cost-per-mile is falling

Enlarge / IEA's findings in graphical form (credit: EIA)

Around the world, the average price of electric vehicles (EVs) rose in 2016, but that's not necessarily cause for alarm according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). When the agency divided the list price of EVs with their range, it found a downward trend in how much bang an EV buyer is getting for their buck.

The average price of EVs sold around the world was at its lowest in 2012, according to data from the annually compiled World Energy Investment 2017 report. In the following five years, that number has been growing steadily—a trend you'd expect to worry advocates who think electrifying a significant part of the auto industry is one of the most important ways to make a dent in CO2 emissions. While higher prices reflect "faster growth in more expensive models," they don't "take account of increases in driving range through battery improvements," the IEA wrote.

Dividing the list price of EVs on the market by their maximum stated driving range shows a different story. In 2012, EVs cost on average $400 per kilometer of range, whereas in 2016 that number was closer to $250 per kilometer of range. If EVs are getting more expensive, they're also becoming more functional. "For now, reductions in battery costs are translating into longer ranges rather than lower vehicle prices," the EIA wrote. "The average price per kilometer of driving range declined by six percent in 2016."

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Solar now costs 6¢ per kilowatt-hour, beating government goal by 3 years

Enlarge / From the Department of Energy: "This photo shows the construction phase of a 16.5 MW DC solar farm built in Oxford, MA. This 130-acre property was previously known as the largest piggery in Massachusetts." (credit: Lucas Faria/ US Department of Energy)

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that utility-grade solar panels have hit cost targets set for 2020, three years ahead of schedule. Those targets reflect around $1 per watt and 6¢ per kilowatt-hour in Kansas City, the department’s mid-range yardstick for solar panel cost per unit of energy produced (New York is considered the high-cost end, and Phoenix, Arizona, which has much more sunlight than most other major cities in the country, reflects the low-cost end).

Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on "the sales price paid to the installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware," according to a department presentation (PDF).

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a DOE-funded lab that assesses solar panel cost, wrote that, compared to the first quarter in 2016, the first quarter in 2017 saw a 29-percent decline in installed cost for utility-scale solar, which was attributed to lower photovoltaic module and inverter prices, better panel efficiency, and reduced labor costs. Despite the plummeting costs for utility-scale solar, costs for commercial and residential solar panels have not fallen quite as quickly—just 15 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

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In Irma prep, GasBuddy downloads increased 10x, nuclear reactors stayed online

Enlarge (credit: GasBuddy)

Before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Key West, FL on Sunday morning, Floridians hustled to make final preparations in case the storm severed the critical transportation, communication, and power lines that keep modern life humming. That sent much of the state driving to gas stations to top off tanks in the event an escape was required. But many stations couldn’t meet the sudden demand, so fuel shortages and miles-long lines fast became a reality.

Enter GasBuddy, an app that crowd-sources gas prices for bargain hunters. The app helped locals search for well-stocked gas stations in the days leading up to Irma, earning an endorsement from Florida Governor Rick Scott last week. On Thursday it was downloaded 350,000 times, up from the app’s usual 30,000 installations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

GasBuddy even sent two of its gas analysts to Florida’s state capitol to help lawmakers there figure out where to direct relief gas supplies. The company, which was founded in 2000, has previous experience disseminating information during crises like superstorm Sandy in 2012, and recently Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

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As Irma approaches nuclear plants in Florida, lessons from Andrew resonate

Enlarge / The Energy Information Administration’s “Energy Disruption's Map” as of Saturday morning. You can check out the interactive map at (credit: Energy Information Administration)

In advance of Hurricane Irma, officials from Florida Power and Light (FPL) announced on Thursday that the utility would start shutting down the state’s only two nuclear power plants—Turkey Point, just south of Miami, and St. Lucie, north of West Palm Beach—as a safety measure.

The Turkey Point plant seems to be closest to the hurricane’s probable path according to the latest models. It has two reactors, each capable of 693 megawatts of output while operational. The plant was built in 1972, so Irma won’t be its first Category 5 hurricane. In 1992, the eye of Hurricane Andrew passed right over Turkey Point.

At the time, Turkey Point didn’t sustain any structural damage to its most sensitive facilities, despite facing sustained winds up to 145 miles per hour and gusts as strong as 175mph. The Miami Herald writes that Turkey Point’s nuclear reactors “are encased in six feet of steel-reinforced concrete and sit 20 feet above sea level.” According to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) report published in 1993, damage to the “safety-related systems” at Turkey Point during Hurricane Andrew was limited to “minor water intrusion and some damage to insulation and paint.” No radioactive release occurred, either.

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Power company kills nuclear plant, plans $6 billion in solar, battery investment

Enlarge / A solar farm under construction in Punta Gorda, Florida, in 2016. (credit: KERRY SHERIDAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, power provider Duke Energy Florida announced a settlement with the state’s public service commission (PSC) to cease plans to build a nuclear plant in western Florida. The utility instead intends to invest $6 billion in solar panels, grid-tied batteries, grid modernization projects, and electric vehicle charging areas. The new plan involves the installation of 700MW of solar capacity over four years in the western Florida area.

There's excitement from the solar industry, but the announcement is more bad news for the nuclear industry. Earlier this year, nuclear reactor company Westinghouse declared bankruptcy as construction of its new AP1000 reactors suffered from contractor issues and a stringent regulatory environment. Two plants whose construction was already underway—the Summer plant in South Carolina and the Vogtle plant in Georgia—found their futures in question immediately.

At the moment, Summer’s owners are considering abandoning the plant, and Vogtle’s owners are weighing whether they will do the same or attempt to salvage the project.

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