Solar Power is getting cheaper and getting grid stabilized with natural gas

Grist has an article that makes the claim that solar PV will become the cheapest option to generate electricity by about 2018 in the sunniest places in the world.

Cumulative installed PV capacity globally was 40 gigawatts (GW) at the end of last year. Three doublings mean this has to grow by a factor of eight, to 320 GW, to achieve the necessary halving of cost (to 6 cents per kwh). From 2005 to 2010, PV capacity installed annually grew by an average of 49 percent per year. Even if this slows down to 25 percent per year in the near future, we will reach 320 GW in 2018.

320 GW would be about 500 TWh. China recently announced a target of 50 GW for solar by 2020. I think China will add 25-40% of any world solar installation. So for the Grist estimate to be right there would have to a further acceleration of Chinese solar power.

China has the following targets for 2015 and 2020

Targets disclosed early 2011      target 2015       target 2020   
 Hydropower                250       260 (865 TWh)   390-430 GW (1300-1430 TWh)              
 Wind                       90       100 (190 TWh)   200-250 GW  (380-470TWh)
 Solar                       5        10 (15 TWh)         50 GW (70 TWH) 
 Bio-energy                 13        13   
 Geothermal                N/A         0.1   
 Tidal wave                N/A         0.01-0.02   
 Nuclear                    40        40 (320 TWh)       65 GW (520 TWh)

Nuclear is targeted for 40 GW which is the equivalent of 200 GW of solar and 160 GW of wind.

The cost of solar power and wind needs to include the extra energy storage or the fact that they have to be paired with natural gas or some other load following energy generation.

New California natural gas plant has stated purpose of grid stabilizing renewable power

The CPV Sentinel 800 MW natural gas plant in Riverside Country, California, is funded by GE Energy Financial Services (GE), Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) and Diamond Generating Corporation (DGC). The $900 million project is being built by Gemma Power Systems California and is set to go into commercial operation by the summer of 2013.

Powered by eight GE Aero LMS100 turbine-generators that are specially designed to reach full load within in 10 minutes, the CPV Sentinel will act as a partner for the increasing number of solar and wind projects in California.

Natural gas generation will be used to guarantee grid stability in California as a group of companies break ground on a new power plant designed to complement renewable generation.

The radio news coverage about the new natural gas plant touts the fact that is stabilizing the California grid for the higher amount of renewable power.

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