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If you’ve been following the ongoing battle between solar energy vs. fossil fuels, it might seem like the predominant resources on which the global economy depends – oil, coal and natural gas – will be completely phased out of existence in the near future. In reality, these resources still power most of the planet, while renewable resources like solar and wind only contribute some two to three percent of global energy capacity. This reality check begs the following question: how does solar really stack up against fossil fuels, and why is there so much excitement about the growth of solar?
𝐒𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐲 𝐯𝐬. 𝐟𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐥 𝐟𝐮𝐞𝐥𝐬
In terms of environmental impact, solar power is a much more optimal resource than fossil fuels. In terms of reliable application, coal and natural gas have the edge. The ultimate way to compare solar energy to fossil fuels is by cost, where solar has quickly caught up with its non-renewable counterparts.
Comparing the cost of various energy sources is far from simple. Government subsidies play a major role in shaping the growth potential for a new power source, which means that making an “apples to apples” comparison of the costs of solar energy vs. fossil fuels side-by-side is a complicated task.
The best way to compare solar energy and fossil fuels without subsidies is to examine global energy prices. Consider this: global coal prices have historically averaged $0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Until the past decade, no alternative energy resource came close to rivaling that price. Fossil fuel steam averages around $0.05 cents/kWh and small scale natural gas can go as low as $0.03 cents/kWh. It’s no wonder that the world was shocked in 2016 when a major commercial solar installation bid an extremely low price for PV at $0.029 per kWh – effectively leveling the playing field between solar and fossil fuels’ cheapest offerings.
As a result, the discussion of whether solar is cheaper than coal has already become an outdated debate. Today, energy companies are developing solar PV projects that can deliver energy at half the cost of coal, and that’s without factoring in the costly negative impacts of coal – such as heavy carbon pollution, strip mining, and mountaintop removal

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  • LEENA Reply

    Thank you! This was very informative.

    February 26, 2021 at 9:31 pm

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