Report Claims Solar Energy Now Cheaper Than Nuclear Power

August 04, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Duke University has issued a report claiming that solar energy costs are now cheaper than those of nuclear energy after what it describes as a "historic crossover" in North Carolina.

The study was written by John O. Blackburn, professor of economics at Duke University in North Carolina, and Sam Cunningham, a graduate student at Duke. Titled "Solar and Nuclear Costs – The Historic Crossover," the study states that changes in cost on both solar and nuclear energy have brought the competing energy sources to a point of equality, and that now solar has become the lower-cost renewable energy resource.

The authors argue that solar energy costs have met nuclear energy costs, which occurred at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, then fell below nuclear costs, and that there is hope that the push for nuclear will slow down and that the government may look to a combination of solar and other renewable energy resources that are low carbon and low cost.

"Everyone should understand that both new solar and new nuclear power will cost more than present electricity generation costs," the authors state. "That is, electricity costs will rise in any case for most customers, especially those who do not institute substantial energy efficiency upgrades. Power bills will rise much less with solar generation than with increased reliance on new nuclear generation."

Blackburn and Cunningham see great opportunity for North Carolina – and other U.S. states – with the new findings, and hope that the lower costs of solar, which is much less hazardous than nuclear, will be implemented. According to their paper, commercial-scale solar companies are already "offering utilities electricity at 14 cents or less per kWh" while nuclear plants would generate electricity at 14 to 18 cents per kWh.