An article came out yesterday in the MIT Technology Review entitled “Why Solar is Much More Costly Than Wind or Hydro.” However, the headline is somewhat misleading. Solar may be more costly in terms of pollution due to what goes into manufacturing them; for example, many scarce metals and a complex industrial process are involved in making solar panels and those resources are limited. This is not new information.
In terms of environmental cost, solar power is still far less polluting than coal fired power plants and natural gas. The data is shown in the table below. Environmental cost is measured in “euros per Megawatt hour” because the study was commissioned by the European Union, and represents 2012 measurements. The article mentions that in 2014, however, the cost effectiveness of solar may have improved over these 2012 measurements since the technology is under constant development.