I read this oped with great sadness. I also sympathize with Louis Bacon’s case. That being said, to link the Louis Bacon case to solar being expensive is not only irrelevant but wrong. Why would you possibly link the two cases together.
1) It takes a long time to build transmission so I don’t think any planned delays are necessary, they should move as fast as possible to consider the alternatives Mr. Bacon has generously paid to create from his own pocket that are a win-win for ratepayers. No matter what happens, this will be a long process so don’t delay it further.
2) Solar has come down in cost by almost 50% since 2007. When the Alamosa project was built it was a test case for everyone, Xcel, government, law firms, SunEdison, Alamosa County, etc. Today with a few more solar plants constructed the solar industry is dropping the price of solar from $6/Wdc in 2007 to ~$3/Wdc in 2010-11. By the time this transmission line is built solar will probably be at around $2/Wdc installed — generating power at the same cost as retail rates in Colorado — far cheaper than new fossil fuel alternatives.
3) The reason Xcel is looking at solar is that everything is more expensive. The Duke Coal plant in North Carolina was budgeted at $4.5/W — it is experiencing a 20% cost overrun. The coal plant was supposed to be baseload but because there is less off-peak load (big problem in Colorado) the plant will only run about 65% of the time — increasing the cost of the electricity generated substantially. So substantially that Florida Power and Light’s executive now claims that solar is cheaper than new coal capacity in Florida. When it is all said and done, the Duke Coal plant will raise rates probably 10% in North Carolina — almost 5 times higher than the 2% rate increase the renewable generation/efficiency alternative was projected to cost.
No one is saying that solar should be the only resource. There should be wind, CHP, geothermal, small hydro, aggressive energy efficiency, demand response, and targeted storage from Ice Energy (based in Colorado). But for the Denver Post to act as though they don’t read studies from Colorado based entities like the National Renewable Energy Laboratories is sad for Coloradans. It is no wonder the newspaper industry is losing subscribers, when the largest job growth industry in Colorado is maligned by the local paper without any facts to back it up people simply get disgusted.
CEO, Carbon War Room
Founder of SunEdison