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Thread: Price of coal more than doubled in past year while cost of solar panel halved

  1. #1

    Price of coal more than doubled in past year while cost of solar panel halved

    I saw this article and wondered if it were true and decided to look it up.

    http://energyboomer.typepad.com/
    July 01, 2008
    WHY IS MY ELECTRIC BILL GOING UP?

    Coal Black Gold If you live where the electric company is allowed to increase their prices, I’ll bet your electric bills are going up. If you have not seen an increase in your electric bill you will. There are two big reasons for the increase.The first is the price of coal is jumping due to international demand.

    The price of coal has more than doubled in the last twelve months. It has gone fro less than $50 a ton to more than $100 a ton on the futures markets. The price of oil is hogging the focus of the news media but the price of coal is just as much of a problem.

    This big jump in coal prices is the result of the growing economy in China and other places around the globe. As of 2008, China has stopped exporting coal and is now importing coal for making electricity.

    They are rapidly moving away from oil as a fuel for making electrical power. China is importing record-breaking amounts of coal from Australia and other sources. This activity in the coal markets is pushing up coal prices worldwide.

    Some strange things are happening here in the USA. Coal mining has become a boom industry again. At the same time, we are importing some coal from South America. Coal has become a worldwide high value commodity.

    The increasing price of coal is driving the cost of making electricity up.

    The second is the price of natural gas is unusually high for this time of year.

    Natural gas is the fuel of choice for meeting the peak electrical demand of air conditioning season across the USA. Natural gas prices are high now and expected to stay high through all of 2008.

    The electric generating companies are being hit with higher fuel prices now for both coal and natural gas. If you use electricity, you can expect to be paying more for it. It may not be in your next bill but higher power prices are coming to your home and to where you work.

    That is not good news. Higher electric prices hit every home and business. Higher electrical rates will make everything more expensive to make and add to the overhead of all businesses.

    Hang on to your wallet, the big bills are coming to get you. Higher electric bills make it even more important to reduce your use.
    According to the DOE, the spot prices for coal depended on the region. In the past month, some places went up by as much as 10% ($104 to $117), some places are unchanged, and one place went from $44 to $54/ton (23% increase). Coal is rated on the basis of BTU and SO2 (i.e. the amount of energy and the amount of sulfur). http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/pa...s/coalmar.html

    Well, it appears that the surge in coal prices is related to the China's growth and increasing energy requirements. Note that that article below was from February when oil prices were still below $100/barrel, seemingly cheap by todays standards in June, four months later.

    http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/0...-china-demand/
    Coal's price is surging on China demand

    Posted Feb 12th 2008 2:00PM by Joseph Lazzaro
    Filed under: International markets, China, Commodities, Oil
    Most investors are aware that China's surging growth and increasing energy use have helped push oil to +$90 per barrel near-record highs. But what many probably don't know is that China's double-digit GDP growth is forcing up the price of another major energy source: coal.

    The price of coal -- the most plentiful energy resource -- is rising at an alarming rate: Asia prices are up more than 30% this year, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday (subscription required), due mostly to China's net importer status. China had been a net exporter of coal, but in mid-2007 it imported coal for the first time. Coal is trading above $125 per metric ton. In 2003 it traded at about $25 per metric ton. Since January 2007 alone, coal is up more than 140%.

    U.S. coal suppliers have benefited from the run-up: Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) is up about 90% since August 2007; ACI was down about $1.50 to $53.32 in Tuesday afternoon trading. Meanwhile, Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) is up about 45% since August 2007; BTU fell 40 cents to $56.12 on Tuesday afternoon.

    Electric rates rise

    About 40% of coal is used as fuel in coal-fired electric generating plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

    Economist Glen Langan told BloggingStocks Tuesday electric utility rates -- already up more than 15% since 2007 in many sections of the United States -- are likely to continue to rise in the years ahead, because despite efforts by the Chinese government to slow its economy, China's coal demand is likely to continue to increase by more than 5% annually, perhaps more, in the immediate years ahead. Langan also noted that coal demand is rising elsewhere, too, including Russia and the U.S.

    "China doesn't have the mechanisms in place to have electric companies switch from coal-fired generation to natural gas-fired as we do in many places in the U.S., so the short-term outlook for coal's price is not good. And that means electricity prices in the U.S. are likely to rise in those areas that use primarily coal-fired plants," Langan said.

    Langan said economists and analysts originally had theorized that coal would remain the low-cost energy substitute -- an alternative and a "cost escape valve" as oil prices surged first over $60, then over $70 and $80 per barrel. That has not been the case.

    "What we've seen is that the demand-pull effect on prices that drove oil to high levels is happening in coal," Langan said. "Global demand, especially increased demand in Asia, is driving coal's price massively higher, and it's happening in other commodities, such as copper, and in food stuffs, such as corn, wheat and soy beans."

    Crisis or opportunity?

    Langan said the world is no danger of running out of coal anytime soon: the world has about 120-130 years of coal reserves left at current consumption levels, but its high price, and coal's other negative -- it's a major cause of climate change -- should prompt public officials to speed energy policy revisions.

    "The industrialized world, Europe, the U.S. and China, should seize upon this moment and look upon it as an opportunity," Langan said. "As the years pass it's going to be less and less economical to use coal, which should serve as a second reason to speed the transition to alternative and renewable energy sources: wind, solar, even next-generation nuclear power. The first being climate change because there's no way China, in my view, can develop using current energy methods without serious consequences for the environment."

  2. #2
    Efficiency and cost of solar energy panel lowered by more than half. This is beginning to add up.

    http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-h...-panels-460608
    6.19.2008 12:38 PM
    More Efficient, Lower Impact Solar Panels Developed
    Evergreen Solar Announces Improved Solar Technology

    By Brian Clark Howard

    Buzz up!

    Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar has announced a new line of high efficiency solar panels this month.

    Called the ES-A Series, the 200, 205 and 210 W solar panels are made with Evergreen's proprietary "String Ribbon" technology. Inside the company's custom furnaces, a set of special parallel strings are pulled through a molten pool of silicon. A thin "ribbon" forms between strings as the silicon cools. The ribbon is then cut into wafers, which are fashioned into solar cells.

    According to Evergreen, the carbon footprint of these new panels is up to 50% smaller than those of competitors, and they have a quicker energy payback -- reportedly as fast as 12 months for installed panels. This last point is particularly exciting, since the amount of energy required to make solar panels has long been a bone of contention among critics of the technology.

    Back in the late 90s, energy paybacks for solar panels were as high as seven years. Today, they are often reported as "1-5 years."

    Evergreen says it will begin production of its new panels by July. They will be built in its new manufacturing plant in Devens, Massachusetts, where the workforce has reportedly swelled from 300 to 1,000.

    The company says its final products will include longer cables for easier installation, new clickable connectors and a new low voltage configuration for greater flexibility.

  3. #3
    I looked up the prices of putting solar panels on my one-bedroom 1000 square-foot guesthouse on my parents property and it was something like $12,000 for 1.5 kW. Being in Phoenix, that would probably only take five years to pay for itself, especially with $300 electric bills in the summertime that are going up. I think I can convince my parents to do it once the price drops down 25% or 30%. I'm pretty sure there are tax benefits involved in that also.

    PS-right now it's 109° outside and my A/C is working hard core.
    C-5/6, 7-9-2000
    Scottsdale, AZ

    Make the best out of today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. Nobody knows that better than those of us that have almost died from spinal cord injury.

  4. #4
    rybread, you can get 2kW wind turbines for under $4k. Do you get much wind in Phoenix?
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  5. #5
    I've been kicking the idea of solar energy around as well. I don't think the prices will go much lower than they are right now. Even though technology will allow them to be made at a lower cost, future demand will drive the cost up.

    $12,000 huh???? Thats not too bad if you expect to be in a home for a while. Are they transportable? What is their life expectancy?

    Dave
    Dave

  6. #6
    Here in NE Pa. , In the middle of the hard coal region, we have not yet experianced high coal prices because most of what we buy is local from small local outfits...Seems almost everyone has a relative with a bootleg mine going somewhere in the mountains...This entire area sits atop a lot of coal!

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