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2025 solar and wind energy costs charted

The capital cost to install a 20 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) facility by 2015 will be US$7981/kW, according to a report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

That capital cost remains static until 2025, EPRI predicts in Integrated Generation Technology Options:  Technical Update, November 2009 and the levelised cost to generate electricity will also remain static at US$456/MWh. The prediction assumes 10% efficiency for solar PV modules and a capacity factor of 26%.

Solar thermal trough technology will cost US$4851-6300/kW by 2015, and will generate solar electricity at US$225-290/MWh. By 2025 costs remain static.

The capital cost to install a 100 MW wind farm will be US$2350 by 2015 and also remain static to 2025, although the cost of wind energy generation will drop from US$99/MWh to US$82 over the decade.

The report analyses 9 technologies that will dominate the supply of US electricity over the period, and provides a snapshot of current cost, performance and trends in the central station category (>150 MW except for renewable energy technologies). It describes the current options in power generation infrastructure capital investments and updates the results of EPRI studies performed in 2008, and offers a reference point for generic cost estimates.

Gas CTCC is cheapest

The cheapest capital cost by 2015 will be to install a combustion turbine combined cycle running on natural gas, which will cost US$880/kWh and generate electricity for US$74-89/MWh. By 2025, the capital cost increases to US$902/kWh but the levelised cost of generation drops to US$67-81/MWh.

Supercritical pulverised coal (with no CO2 capture) goes from US$2,650/kW and US$66/MWh in 2015, to  US$4435 and US$101 by 2025. Nuclear goes from US$4860 and US$84, to US$4127/kW and US$74/MWh over the period.

Wind

"The cost for a wind unit varies widely depending on the resource type (wind class), regional considerations, site specific conditions, owner design philosophy etc," EPRI explains. The major influencers for capital, operation and maintenance costs for any given site are location (regional labour cost differences, labor productivity, climate requirements) and construction techniques and requirements based on code.

Solar PV

Solar PV system costs have continually decreased, from about US$0.40/kWh in 1990 to US$0.20-0.25/kWh by the early 2000 timeframe," notes the section on solar. "The price of power from today’s grid-connected systems is roughly in the US$0.15-0.30/kWh range (and) the DoE goal is to reduce the cost of electricity to US$0.09-0.18/kWh by 2010.”

'Key uncertainties'

"Several key uncertainties impact near-term and long-term project decisions and research priorities" including renewable energy technology development, stringency of future CO2 emissions reduction programmes, the future price of natural gas (high sensitivity and variability), CO2 capture and storage technology development and costs, siting requirements, technology-driven escalations and reductions in plant costs, and dedicated biomass feedstock costs could raise the feedstock price and levelised cost of electricity substantially.

“As optimum sites are depleted for siting of wind turbines, the assumed national average wind capacity factor could go down substantially from 42%,” it adds. If the total capital requirement for nuclear approaches US$7,000, the capital costs for nuclear “could go up substantially.”

The report contains no conclusions, and was produced to provide a "useful generic basis for comparison of technologies for base load generation." It says there is an “extraordinary opportunity to develop and demonstrate a portfolio of very low cost generation technologies.”

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Wind power

 

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