People don’t seem to believe me when I say that Nuclear would be one of the cheapest ways to switch over to zero-carbon energy. So welcome to another rough and ready math attempt.
We’ll take 3 different scenarios: nuclear, solar PV and off-shore wind as these seem to be the most common grid-scale applications of these technologies.
First, let’s do Solar PV. The current largest Solar PV facility is the Tengger desert facility in China with 1500+ MW of solar nameplate capacity. The largest facility I could find a price for however is the Solar Star I farm in California with 579 MW nameplate capacity and a bond price of $1 Billion USD for that price, it seems like it costs about $1.72 per Watt. It covers 13 square km.
For offshore wind, there is the London Array just off the coast of Great Britain, near… North Forland. It has a nameplate capacity of 630 MW and cost 2.2 Billion Euros in 2013 ($3.01 Billion USD 2013) for a price of $4.76 per Watt. It covers an area of 122 square km.
And finally, let us peruse the Bruce Power generating station in Ontario with a whopping 6,288 MW of nameplate capacity. The total cost of construction in 2013 dollars is $27.56 Billion dollars for a price of $4.38 per Watt. It covers an area of 9.38 square km.
So that’s already Way better showing for nuclear than people were expecting wasn’t it, but it does make it seem like nuclear still loses out by A Lot to solar.
Remember that I listed them all as nameplate capacity, which is the total amount of energy they create running at peak power. To figure out how much these facilities actually cost compared to what they produce we have to divide those costs by their capacity factors.
This puts the construction cost per unit of generation to $5.24 per Watt for solar PV, $11.92 per Watt for offshore wind… And $4.92 per Watt for nuclear power. And that’s a CANDU facility which is generally thought of to be one of the more expensive forms of nuclear generating station… But it goes to show that for the amount of energy, nuclear is the cheapest form of energy we have. And not just in terms of money. It is also the most space efficient, taking 1.49 km^2 per GW. Compared to Solar Star I taking 22.45 km^2 per GW and the London Array taking 193 km^2 per GW I’d say nuclear is coming out way ahead. I don’t know about you but when I go out to enjoy nature and get away from the city, I’d prefer it not to be covered with solar panels and windmills.