Everyone knows that the price you pay for a vehicle isn’t the only cost. Cost-to-own can vary significantly from vehicle to vehicle, and includes the price of the car, insurance, interest, fuel, maintenance, and repairs. Tobacco has a lifecycle cost that goes way beyond the price of a pack of cigarettes, including perhaps hundreds of packs of cigarettes, lighters, matches, sick days, cancer treatments, and hospice care.
Lifecycle costs, that is, all of the costs that come from the use of any particular object can be calculated as well for electricity generation on the nation’s power grids.
According to a study by Forum Ökologisch-Soziale [FÖS], in Berlin, wind power generation just might have the least lifecycle costs of any other power source. After taking into consideration the cost of infrastructure, engineering teams, and wind turbines, that goes into a typical wind farm,
there are no other costs aside from maintenance on the structures. Other power generating plants such as coal, nuclear, even solar, have much greater costs, once you consider the pollution they generate.
Usually, when we think of energy costs, we think of the utility bill that arrives every month, but dirty power plants can add to that cost significantly. They emit carbon-dioxide [CO2] on a massive scale, as well as unburned hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Emitted CO2 is adding to the global warming phenomenon, and is resulting in extreme weather patterns as the planet tries to self-regulate, adding to the costs of food.
Other emissions are carcinogenic, adding health-care costs to the bill. Nuclear power plants have their own problems, nuclear accidents, radioactive fallout, and even when everything runs well, there is still the radioactive waste material that needs to be stored for generations.
According to the report released by FÖS, one kilowatt hour [kWh] of electricity produced by wind power stations costs an average of 9¢. Solar energy plants are actually more expensive, once you take into consideration the costs of mining silicon and higher production costs.
“New solar energy plants in central and southern Europe produce electricity for an average of 18¢/kWh,” according to FÖS analyst Bettina Meyer. Nuclear power generation costs as much as 44¢/kWh and coal plants about 37¢/kWh.
An extensive 2006 study by Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, also estimated high costs from the consequences of using fossil fuels. By the end of the century, it said the bill would total over $6.4 trillion.
When you really stop to consider all the costs, wind power comes in way under the rest of the pack.