Aided by federal and state tax breaks, solar energy soon will be cheaper than new nuclear power, according to a North Carolina study.

Solar_PanelsAided by federal and state tax breaks, solar energy soon will be cheaper than new nuclear power, according to a North Carolina study.

Dr. John Blackburn, an economist and former chancellor of Duke University, said the projected costs for new nuclear plants are rising while the price of electricity generated from solar photovoltaic systems continues to fall.

With federal and North Carolina tax breaks for solar production, solar-generated electricity in the state is already as cost effective as building new nuclear plants, and solar should cut its costs again in half within the next decade, Dr. Blackburn said.

“The message is that solar is here and now and not something exotic for the future,” he said.

A study Dr. Blackburn conducted for an anti-nuclear environmental group in North Carolina — NC Warn — estimates that new solar or nuclear power each cost about 16 cents per kilowatt-hour in North Carolina in 2010.

Within a decade, if current trends continue, the study suggests that solar voltaic panels could produce electricity at under 5 cents per kilowatt-hour while new nuclear plants could cost the equivalent of more than 30 cents per kilowatt-hour.

But such costs assume that solar energy, which gets 30 percent tax breaks in North Carolina, will continue to be subsidized and that the next generation of nuclear plant won’t realize the efficiency improvements achieved in the solar industry.

The North Carolina study relied upon recent industry and academic cost estimates, but they appear far higher for nuclear power — and lower for solar energy — than the government’s Energy Department projections.

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Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press