LPPFusion has now raised over 80% of our minimum goal of $400,000. To be exact, we’ve raised $334,250 from 152 investors. Since we are only a month into our crowdfunding campaign, this makes us confident that we will raise not only our minimum goals, but our maximum of one million dollars.
We realize that those reading these updates are spread out over much of the world, but for those who will be in our neck of the woods, we want to invite you to our Solstice Fusion Party December 21, 7-9 PM at the Stone Creek Bar, 140 E 27th St in New York City. It will be an informal event, with the opportunity to ask the LPP Fusion team about anything. You can RSVP via Facebook or Meetup.
During our equity crowdfunding campaign, people have been asking us: “Isn’t solar getting a lot cheaper? Can’t we replace all fossil fuels with solar?”
The answer is no, we can’t. Right now, solar costs about $25 per average watt produced. Now that is a lot higher than the numbers that solar companies sometimes advertise of $2 per watt or lower. There are two reasons for that. Solar companies quote prices per peak power watt—the peak power the unit can produce with maximum sunlight. But the average year-round power, including nights and cloudy days is much less—about five times less.
Second, they are quoting the price of the solar panel alone. An actual working solar facility needs a lot more than the panel—it needs support structures, invertors to change the power to AC and storage batteries, among other things. So all that increases the price by another 2 and a half times. (International Renewable Energy Agency—IRENA) (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
To give a concrete example, the recently-built Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, California was completed for a cost of $2.5 billion and produces an average 130 MW of power— or $19 per watt without any battery storage, so it can only be used when the sun is shining.
So let’s look at what it would take to replace ALL the US fossil fuel energy consumption with solar. Total US power consumption—not just electricity—is now around 2.8 tera watts—trillion watts--averaged over the year. So replacing that with solar would mean an investment of about $70 trillion dollars. (2.8 trillion watts times $25 per watt equals $70 trillion.) If we do this over a 20 year period this will cost $3.6 trillion dollars per year. For scale, the US Federal budget has been $4 trillion per year over the past few years.
This is not just putting a solar panel on everyone’s roof. To power the whole US requires covering 140,000 sq km, more than the area of Pennsylvania , with solar farms. (Solar farms produce at best an average of 20 MW per sq km.) This also means transporting power over large distances. Powering New York City for example, requires solar farms that cover more than eight times the area of the city.
By comparison, the US spends roughly $1.5 trillion per year on fossil fuel costs, including health-related costs due to pollution. (See, for example, Lancet study) So, a transition to solar would be extremely costly, roughly doubling what we are now spending on energy. And that initial investment will not be the end of the story as solar equipment is typically warrantied for about 20 years, so ongoing replacement and maintenance costs will be about the same.
It is true that the costs of solar panels themselves continue to fall. But even if solar panels could be produced for free—and they can’t be—the rest of the cost of a solar facility would still be more costly than fossil—and those other costs are not going down. This does not even factor in the costs of building a bigger grid to carry solar energy over much greater distances than current energy production.
In contrast, with the Focus Fusion generators that we are now researching and developing, the costs of round-the-clock power will be about 10 cents per watt—250 times less than current solar costs. ($25 per watt divided by 10 cents per watt). Replacing all of existing US energy sources with Focus Fusion generators over a 20 year period will cost about $14 billion per year—about 1% of what we are spending on fossil fuels. Even including maintenance and installation costs will bring this total only up to 2% of present fossil fuel costs.
So in reality replacing fossil with solar would increase energy costs—but replacing fossil with focus fusion would decrease energy costs 50-fold.
Of course Focus Fusion is not available yet and won’t be for at least five years. So in the meantime, solar can still be a good idea for reducing air pollution, especially in regions where there is more sunlight.
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