Natural gas could be a overpass fuel to $1 solar

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Natural gas could be a widespread appetite source for a subsequent dual decades in a western United States, even underneath a many assertive meridian scenarios, before creation approach for solar, commentary from a University of California Berkeley suggest.

The Berkeley investigate examined a impact of inexpensive solar power, as envisaged by a supposed “sunshot” beginning launched dual years ago by former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

It did not directly analyse or criticism on possibly healthy gas could play a purpose of a transition fuel.

But a formula support a thought that natgas can work as a overpass between high-carbon spark and inexpensive solar appetite in areas with abounding sunshine, as policymakers build adult renewable appetite ability and ancillary infrastructure while pushing low cuts in CO emissions.

There are dual critical caveats, however, to such a conclusion.

First, scientists have nonetheless to determine to what border shale gas prolongation emits a absolute hothouse gas methane, that might supplement to a CO emissions from blazing a hoary fuel.

Second, new gas-fired appetite plants have a lifespan using for decades, risking a long-term “lock-in” of hoary fuel use.


Chu’s beginning directed to boost a competitiveness of a U.S. solar attention by ancillary innovation, that has dragged down a cost of creation solar panels.

It targeted a full commissioned cost of large-scale solar projects of $1 per watt by 2020, from about $4 in 2011.

It appears a solar attention is roughly on track.

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory collates intentional cost information contributions from government, utilities, installers and a ubiquitous public.

The “Open PV Project” annals 238,037 solar projects with a sum ability of 5,525 megawatts, analogous to 72 percent of commissioned U.S. ability as of Mar 2013.

The database shows 681 projects incomparable than 1 megawatt, analogous to a large-scale installations targeted by a sunshot initiative’s $1 goal.

Costs have roughly halved given a initial of these projects, to subsequent $3 per watt now from some-more than $6 in 2003, and seem roughly on march to accommodate $1 in 2020.


The second arrogance in a University of California study, published final month, was a CO emissions cut of 80 percent by 2050, unchanging with tying tellurian warming to no some-more than 2 degrees Celsius.

U.S. movement to top hothouse gases has seen small sovereign movement lately.

Nevertheless, California has enacted law directed during achieving an 80 percent cut (from 1990 emissions levels), while a benefaction administration aspires to a inhabitant 83 percent cut (on 2005 levels), both by 2050.

The investigate focused on a Western Electricity Coordinating Council as an area with clever solar resources; a companion segment includes western U.S. states, Canadian provinces and northern Mexico.

It insincere that solar costs remained during $1 after assembly a sunshot aim in 2020; it used U.S. Energy Information Administration projections for gas and spark prices and appetite direct growth.

The study’s grid dispatch indication comparison appetite generating technologies that met a 2050 CO emissions aim during slightest cost.

It found that healthy gas and solar appetite replaced spark in a nearby term, while inexpensive solar also behind a growth of other low-carbon technologies, including CO capture, geothermal and wind.

Gas was a widespread appetite source for a subsequent dual decades.

Solar increasingly edged out gas from 2030, as deeper emissions curbs kicked in, apropos a categorical appetite source by a center of a century.

The investigate projected rising era costs and a vast build-out of delivery capacity.


There are dual critical caveats to a thought that healthy gas can be a overpass to a decarbonised grid around 2050.

First, scientists are not concluded on a grant of healthy gas, and in sold shale gas, towards methane emissions.

Researchers differ on a volume of methane vented during a “flow-back” duration between initial fracking and prolongation during a shale gas well.

At one finish of a spectrum, Cornell University researchers deserted a overpass purpose for shale gas on a basement that a sum lifecycle hothouse gas emissions could surpass coal.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigate directed a center belligerent – that refugee methane was a regard though did not make shale gas almost some-more polluting than required gas production, after holding into comment best practice.

The second regard is that building permanent gas-fired appetite plants will close in a use of hoary fuels by 2050.

The International Energy Agency estimated in 2011 that as a outcome of lock-in, no new, unabated hoary fuel appetite plants can be built anywhere and stay within 2 degrees Celsius warming.

It took a rather regressive view, that all appetite plants would work during their initial potential, since a instance of Germany shows that aloft levels of breeze and solar appetite force gas plants to revoke output.

It also insincere that healthy gas would not force a early retirement of coal, discordant to justification in a United States.

The new Berkeley investigate did not take pithy comment of possibly refugee methane emissions or a risk of hoary fuel lock-in.

The subsequent investigate step would be to run identical economic, grid dispatch investigate holding comment of these.

This is a important investigate gap, given a open sound over a meridian dangers, or not, from a “dash for gas”.

© Thomson Reuters 2013

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