Solar or Offshore Wind: Which Is Cheaper?

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said that offshore wind is less expensive than solar power. “The levelized cost of energy comparison among technologies is problematic,” explained Lawrence Berkeley National Labs Staff Scientist Ryan Wiser. Solar and offshore wind are “two different products” and comparing their LCOEs does not account for their very different production profiles.

According to the report Cost Reduction Potentials of Offshore Wind Power in Germany, the present LCOE for Germany’s 400 megawatts of operational offshore wind is $0.169 to $0.188 per kilowatt-hour. The report estimated that those costs can come down between 32 percent and 39 percent by 2023. The solar PV high LCOE, according to the U.S. EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2013, is $0.224 per kilowatt-hour. The EIA’s LCOE for offshore wind is $0.295 per kilowatt-hour.

To fact-check Grybowski’s claim that offshore wind is cheaper than solar, Rhode Island PolitiFact obtained post-2011 National Grid contracts for eighteen Rhode Island solar projects. The prices, fixed for fifteen years, were $0.185 to $0.33 per kilowatt hour.

“Over time, offshore wind will become less and less expensive,“ Wiser said. “But most of the offshore PPAs we’ve seen so far are closer to the twenty-cent range.”

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