$43 billion is the estimated price tag that South Korea will pay to build the world’s largest offshore wind power network. The news release said this is an “eco-friendly energy transition and moving more vigorously toward carbon neutrality.”
Hard to argue with that. Wind is a terrific resource for power and certain latitudes are naturals for wind power. ECC has noted that wind is an energy source that ought to be used in the right places.
The news release spurred a discussion on one social media site about wind versus nuclear cost efficiencies. That discussion is constructive as a way to show that there are few easy comparisons when it comes to energy resources. (And before you think I’ll favor one versus another, wrong. I am someone who favors diverse carbon-free sources to reach our energy needs.)
Here’s the initial post about the Korean wind power news release:
Yesterday Reuters reported that a new 8.2GW offshore wind farm off the coast of South Korea would cost $43 BILLION dollars. Regardless of the ecological impact, is this a good deal? Conveniently we know what a South Korean nuclear build looks like cost-wise, as they are just completing one in the United Arab Emirates. It’s $24.4 billion.
Let’s do some napkin math:
$43 billion of offshore wind buys you
8.2 GW * 8760hrs * 50% * 20yrs = 718,320 GWh over its life
$24.4 billion of Korean nuclear (Barakah plant) buys
5.6GW * 8760 * 90% * 60 yrs =2,649,024 GWh over its life.
16.7 TWh/per billion $ vs. 108.6 TWh/per billion $ [ECC note: A terawatt-hour equals to one trillion watts for one hour.]
Conclusion: KOREAN OFFSHORE WIND IS 6.5X MORE EXPENSIVE THAN KOREAN NUCLEAR. On top of that, today’s nuclear plants were “built for 40 years” in the 60s and 70s are now getting extended to 80 years. Even 100 years isn’t out of the question. If Korea’s APR1400s run for 100 years? They’re 11 times cheaper than this offshore wind project.
The running discussion online is constructive, with points like using only Capex for the formula and not including life cycle cost models for both technologies, for instance. Used fuel was another question when it came to the nuclear facility discussion. Yucca Mountain was mentioned, though that was a political issue versus technical.
Fishermen even factored into the discussion, saying they like wind installations for fishing. Attracts fish. (I recall in my oil days that the same point was made about offshore rigs.)
Other factors that I have not seen yet, but might, is the footprint of the facility. Lots bigger for a big wind energy field than for a nuclear plant.
Wind blades have been a topic of debate. Tough to recycle now, but being worked on. Then again, there are technologies to squeeze lots more power from used nuclear fuel.
Not so easy an analysis in the end.
The lesson is, as I see it, we are fortunate to have choices on carbon-free power generation, and one source is not the ultimate answer. The energy world has lots of factors to consider when upgrading our energy system. Healthy discussion about the science and economics is important. The ultimate goal is to build a carbon-free, reliable and overall cost-effective system.
Feature image is the Barakah nuclear plant, UAE