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planned that the Western Research Institute will be utilized to provide
technical and analytical support to the collaborative effort.
Y 1989 BUDGET PROPOSAL:
The $0.766 million requested for fiscal year 1989 will provide for
program continuity, stability and administration and allow for the
fiscal flexibility required to supply the necessary responsiveness to
prospective facility users in areas of cost estimates, environment,
safety and health issues and approvals, pre-test documentation and
Also, the requested funding will be used to provide for the management
and maintenance of the Spill Test Facility, including the continuation
of facility baseline operations support and continued technical
interaction with potential sponsors of research. Appropriated funds for
the Spill Test Facility have been supplemented by user fees.
There is a growing public awareness that the storage and transportation
of pressurized, liquefied gaseous fuels and high vapor pressure
chemicals are major commercial activities and that there are risks
associated with these activities. Moreover, this heightened awareness
appears to be part of an overall national trend that recognizes the
dangers associated with hazardous substances.
The need for further
knowledge on releases of liquefied gases relates the activities of a
number of Federal agencies, especially the Environmental Protection
Agency, the Department of Transportation, Department of Defense
agencies, and the Department of Energy. In addition, the concern of
private industry is shown by those tests that have been conducted at the
Spill Test Facility and those that are being planned.
The Liquefied Gaseous Fuels Spill Test Facility program has responded to
these concerns by extending the capability breadth of the original
facility design to include a broader range of substances that can be
Given its design capability for handling high vapor pressure
and other potentially hazardous fluids, the facility is a national asset
that is making an important "critical initiative" type of contribution
for equipment standards, safety and control issues, and industrial
regulations to help facilitate the growing attention that is rapidly
focusing around the liquefied gaseous fuels and hazardous substances
PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY RESEARCH
Senator JOHNSTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Gibbs.
Miss Fitzpatrick, your statement says that three photovoltaic options could be positioned for industry consideration of production scale up by the early 1990's. What kind of industrial application are you referring to?
Miss FrTZPATRICK. This would be that the PV industry would be able to begin marketing products using advanced materials and cell designs by that time.
Senator JOHNSTON. The industrial application, is that for production of electricity?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Yes.
Miss FITZPATRICK. For both, for central station, grid-connected, or for local applications, and off-grid applications.
Senator JOHNSTON. What do you figure is the cost per installed kilowatt-hour?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Our goal is to get down under $2 a watt, so that would be under $2,000 a kilowatt.
Senator JOHNSTON. How far are you from that now?
Senator JOHNSTON. What makes you think that you would get to under $2 by the early 1990's?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Because of improved efficiencies, so that the same area cell would give you a greater energy output, and also because of improved production techniques which will reduce the manufacturing cost for the cells. Those are the two main areas.
Senator JOHNSTON. But what is your degree of confidence that you can do that?
Miss FITZPATRICK. I am confident, talking to our researchers and also talking to people in the industry who are in the process of designing improved production facilities, they are confident that they can do it.
Senator JOHNSTON. What is the competitive cost of, say, a coal-fired plant by the early 1990's?
Miss FITZPATRICK. It is now, I believe, in the area of about $800 to $1,000 per kilowatt. So we are talking about something that is about twice what a coal-fired plant is for initial capacity. But, of course, the major cost of running a coal-fired plant is fueling it over the life of the plant, and photovoltaics, once you put the plant up, it has very, very low maintenance and operation costs, and no fuel.
Senator JOHNSTON. OK, but say a kilowatt of coal-fired electricity with a scrubber, what is that cost in the early 1990's?
Miss FITZPATRICK. I believe that it is around $1,000, or close to $1,000 a kilowatt.
Senator JOHNSTON. With a scrubber and everything.
Miss FITZPATRICK. I understand. I am prepared to be corrected by the fossil experts, but that is my understanding of approximately what it is.
SOLAR THERMAL ENERGY
Senator JOHNSTON. What is the cost of the electricity from that solar thermal out there, the LUZ plants, for example?
Miss FrTZPATRICK. The solar energy generating stations?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Those generating stations are supplying electricity, mostly for peaking power, to the southern California grid. I will get it for the record, but the general market price for peaking power is around 12 cents a kilowatt-hour in that area.
Their contract price must be public information, since it is a public utility contract, and we will try to get that for you. [The information follows:)
MARKET PRICE FOR PEAK-HOUR POWER The market price of peak power depends on a wide variety of factors including the generation mix and capital costs of generating units of the local utility; the demands for power at various times of the day, the week, and the year; fuel prices; cost and availability of power and other utility interties in the power grid; and other regional and financial variables. Because of the variations in these factors, the market price can have a wide range. Utility practice is to use the new large units coming on line for baseload, and to use older less efficient plants or combustion turbines for peak capacity. Older plants typically have lower capital costs, but higher operating and fuel costs than a new base load plant The cost of generation will also be heavily dependent on the load factor of the unit. A unit running 10 percent of the time would have four times as much capital cost recovery as a unit running 40 percent of the time. The total cost of generation of a typical combustion turbine peaking unit would be about 5 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, of which the cost of an oil or gas fuel at today's prices would be about 2 to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Senator JOHNSTON. Does solar thermal promise the same cost reductions as photovoltaics does?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Solar thermal can now deliver electricity at a lower cost than photovoltaics can, rather substantially lower, but we have high
hopes that photovoltaics will catch up to that in the foreseeable future, because photovoltaics now can deliver power for about 70 cents a kilowatt-hour.
PROBLEMS RELATED TO PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY SYSTEMS
Senator JOHNSTON. What do you see as your problems with photovoltaics? There is a problem with dust collection, you have to clean them.
Miss FrTZPATRICK. Yes; it was thought that this was going to be a problem. It turns out to be not such a great problem. They tend to get washed by the rain or they can be fairly easily and cheaply cleaned. About once a month, just go out and spray them off.
You do degrade the efficiency of the array if you allow it to get dirty, that is true.
Senator JOHNSTON. When you talk about trying to get from $4 to $2 as a price, does that take into consideration storage, where you might have to store during the daytime, or do you figure that you won't have to store photovoltaics because it will be during the peak use, during the daytime?
Miss FITZPATRICK. I don't believe that figure includes storage. It does not. It all depends on how you want to use the system. If you want it as a peaking power system connected to your grid, then you are not particularly concerned about storage.
If you have an off-grid application, such as a navigation post or a communications relay station, and you want 24-hour operation or nondaylight operation, then you would have to have a storage battery, and that does, it is true, add to the cost of the system.
However, for off-grid, remote applications, photovoltaics is already on a life cycle cost basis, competitive with and can beat the alternatives, which are usually diesel-powered generators, and they have much lower maintenance costs.
The Coast Guard, for example, is currently converting 17,000 navigation aids to photovoltaic power, and they expect to save a great deal, especially on maintenance.
Senator JOHNSTON. They would have to have batteries, though, wouldn't they?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Yes; they do have batteries.
RENEWABLE ENERGY POTENTIALS
Senator JOHNSTON. What do you see the future of all of this photovoltaic, as well as the LUZ-type projects, say, in the early next century?
Miss FITZPATRICK. We expect to see these sources grow, both in absolute generating capacity and in their share in contributing to the nation's energy needs. Renewables overall contribute 8 to 9 percent of our energy demand today. We expect that to go up to about 12 percent in the early part of the 21st century, and that is 12 percent of demand. Since demand will be growing, it will be much more energy than would be requested by 12 percent of today's demand.
Senator JOHNSTON. But a good part of that is wood chips and hydro.
Miss FITZPATRICK. Yes; a good part of it is wood, and a good part of it is hydropower, but a growing share is the other renewable sources.
Senator JOHNSTON. Sun energy, as I would call it, solar properly defined meaning something really coming rather directly from the Sun, is a minuscule amount right now, isn't it?
Miss FITZPATRICK. Right now, the nonhydropower, which is really solar energy, since it takes the Sun to evaporate the water
Senator JOHNSTON. Gasoline is too.
I remember, Dr. Trivelpiece claiming last year that it was all really fusion power, which I suppose is correct. (Laughter.]
At any rate, the nonhydropower generating capacity now, renewable generating capacity in the United States, is about 1 percent of our total electric generating capacity. It is about 6,800 megawatts.
Senator JOHNSTON. Most of that is wood chips?
Miss FITZPATRICK. A large share of it is wood chips. Less than half of it, about 3,000 megawatts, is wood chips, about 1,500 megawatts is geothermal, and about 1,200 is wind, and the rest is scattered through solar thermal, and the others.
There are 2,500 megawatts currently under construction, and these systems have fairly short lead times, so that I would expect that to come on line in about a year. The projections are that these systems are going to continue to grow. I think, in large part, the rate that they grow will be dependent upon the conventional fuels cost and how attractive these systems can be made to be, both technically, from a reliability standpoint, and from an economic standpoint.
Senator JOHNSTON. Frankly, we overhyped solar energy in this country a few years ago. Jimmy Carter said we are going to have 20 percent solar by the year 2000, and suggested, by definitional sleight of hand, that it was going to be photovoltaics and that sort of thing, cheap energy from the Sun. Everyone tried to celebrate that and finally realized that that wasn't so.
Now, I think we may be overcompensating in the other direction now, and that is why I am anxious to find out the latest breakthroughs. If photovoltaic is competitive, then it absolutely wipes out other sources, at least in the sunny climates.
Is that a real possibility? Do you see an all across the Southwest, in the 21st century, using photovoltaics or some sort of Sun energy virtually exclusively?
Miss FrTZPATRICK. I wouldn't say, “virtually exclusively,” Mr. Chairman. I think your point is very well taken that there was a lot of hype and a lot of things that were said in great hope before anyone had had a chance to take a very careful look at the technical challenges and the economic realities.
In a certain sense, the industry suffers today from a credibility gap because so many promises were made, and people bought systems that turned out not to work very well because nobody had done his homework on it very carefully. That is a hump that industry now has to get over by producing a quality product and serving the customer.