Most U.S. coal power plants would save money by switching to wind or solar

Most U.S. coal power plants would save money by switching to wind or solar

Fast Company reports:

As wind and solar power keep getting cheaper, coal power–which was the cheapest source of electricity for decades–is no longer economical in much of the U.S. A new analysis looked at every coal plant in the country and compared the cost of running those plants to the cost of operating a new wind or solar plant. As of 2018, 74% of existing coal plants cost more to operate than new local wind or solar.

“Our hypothesis was that if we can analyze all the coal plants, with a robust data set of wind and solar data, and cross-reference the two, that we would see coal being significantly at risk for losing on cost to wind and solar,” says Mike O’Boyle, director of electricity policy for Energy Innovation, the environmental research firm that did the analysis along with Vibrant Clean Energy, a company that has detailed data about exactly how much wind or solar is in a given location.

By 2025, even as federal renewable energy tax credits are ending, the report found that the number of “at risk” coal plants will grow to 86%. A portion of the coal plants–a third right now, and nearly half by 2025–are classified as “significantly at risk,” meaning they cost at least 25% more to operate than new renewables. (Those costs don’t even include the externalities of operating coal plants, such as the cost of climate change or the healthcare costs of air pollution from smokestacks. Emissions from power plants kill tens of thousands of Americans a year.) [Continue reading…]

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