Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Research update


Next week, I’ll attend Solar2012, the annual conference of the Australian Solar Energy Society.  It will be, in fact, the 50th annual such conference, which is a wonderful achievement for the Society.  I’ll present my recent simulations on passive solar heat collection, the evaporation engine and pebble bed thermal storage.

The title and abstract for my peer-reviewed paper are:

Passive solar power generation with air-blown thermal storage

A simulation study is presented for air-blown thermal storage in a solar thermal power station powered by passive heat collection under transparent insulated canopies.  The principal objective of this study is to investigate the round-trip efficiency of thermal storage in a pebble bed.  In the proposed system, heat energy is converted to power by a new heat engine based on evaporative cooling of hot air at reduced pressure.

The work examines the performance of the canopy/engine/storage system over representative days each month for a full year.  Useful heat reclaimed from the storage system is typically about 95% of the useful heat input, less small additional losses at the walls and ducts of the storage system.  Because the heat reclaimed has a smoother daily temperature distribution than the heat gathered by the canopy, there is another 5% penalty in conversion of heat into power.  For the configuration used in this study, the power output using storage is 88% of what would be obtained without storage.  This estimate includes modest losses due to pumping and heat transfer at walls and ducts.  Coarse economic evaluations indicate that storage would reduce the Levelised Cost of Electricity by 27% and increase the Capacity Factor of the engine by 88%.

Since I became interested in pebble bed thermal storage about 18 months ago, I’ve become progressively more enthusiastic.  The round-trip efficiency of pebble bed storage is excellent as I have shown in the Solar2012 conference paper, parasitic losses are manageable, and the materials are cheap and should be good for a very large (infinite?) number of cycles.  My previous work on pebble bed storage is highlighted here and here.

What next?

In recent months, I’ve been working on a new concept for solar thermal power generation.  Last week I lodged a provisional patent application for the concept, and I’m about to embark on a fresh round of door-knocking of potential investors.  I’m also going to make a thorough revision of the web site for my company, Sunoba Pty Ltd (www.sunoba.com.au).

In the near future, I’ll provide details of the new concept on this blog.  For the moment, however, I invite you to get in touch if you like to have a conversation about issues that I have mentioned here.

Dedication

As I was preparing this blog post, it occurred to me that today is the 6th anniversary of the death of my mother, Gwyneth Marjorie Barton, née Evans, 1915-2006.  My mother was extremely influential to my development, and it is with gratitude that I dedicate this blog post to her memory.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cost of solar power (32)

Today I am going to analyse the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for the Shams plant in Abu Dhabi.  This plant, being developed by a heavyweight consortium (60% Masdar, 20% Abengoa, 20% Total), is due for completion at the end of 2012.

The proponents of this project are both realistic and proud of their achievements.  From the company website:

“With per-capita greenhouse gas emissions among the highest in the world, Abu Dhabi has recognized the need to diversify its economy and reduce its carbon footprint.

Masdar, the multi-faceted renewable energy and sustainability company, wholly owned by the Mubadala Development Company PJSC, was established to ensure energy security through the creation of a diverse mix of renewable and clean energy sources.”

From the factsheet for the project, nearly all the necessary facts about the plant are known:
·         100 MW nameplate capacity
·         2.5 km^2 site  120 km south-west of Abu Dhabi, 23.5 degrees North latitude
·         258,048 parabolic trough mirrors, steam Rankine-cycle turbine, no storage capacity mentioned
·         cost USD 600 million
·         displaces emissions of 175,000 tonnes CO2 annually
·         provides power for 20,000 homes
 
Sadly, however, the annual output in MWhrs electricity is not given, so estimates will have to suffice.  (I’ll update this post should additional information come to hand.)
 
If Abu Dhabi’s power is generated from natural gas at an emissions intensity of 670 kg/MWhr, then 175,000 tons CO2 = 177,800 tonnes CO2 would result from a generation of 177,800/0.670 = 265,373 MWhr.
 
If Abu Dhabi’s power is generated from oil at an emissions intensity of 800 kg/MWhr, then the annual power output would be 177,800/0.800 = 222,250 MWhr

Another way to estimate the annual output is from an assumed Capacity Factor.  Suppose the Capacity Factor is 0.22, which would seem appropriate for a sunny desert location.  Then the annual output would be 100 × 365 × 24 × 0.22 = 192,700 MWhr.

Well, that’s all I have to go on, so let me make a nice round estimate of 200,000 MWhr per year, in the middle of the three estimates above.  I should note that I have previously had to estimate annual power outputs in similar ways; see Cost of solar power (28) for an example.

I now have sufficient information to apply my customary assumptions to estimate the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for the project.  The assumptions are:
          there is no inflation,
          taxation implications are neglected,
          projects are funded entirely by debt,
          all projects have the same interest rate (8%) and payback period (25 years), which means that the required rate of capital return is 9.4%,
          all projects have the same annual maintenance and operating costs (2% of the total project cost), and
          government subsidies are neglected.

For further commentary on my LCOE methodology, see posts on Real cost of coal-fired power, LEC – the accountant’s view, Cost of solar power (10) and (especially) Yet more on LEC.  Note that I am now using annual maintenance costs of 2% rather than 3% as in posts during 2011.

The results for Shams are as follows:

Cost per peak Watt              USD 6/Wp
LCOE                                     USD 342/MWhr

The components of the LCOE are:

Capital           {0.094 × USD 600×10^6}/{200000 MWhr} = USD 282/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × USD 600×10^6}/{200000 MWhr} = USD 60/MWhr

By way of comparison, LCOE figures (in appropriate currency per MWhr) for all projects I’ve investigated are given below.  The number in brackets is the reference to the blog post, all of which appear in my index of posts with the title “Cost of solar power ([number])”:

(2)        AUD 183 (Nyngan, Australia, PV)
(3)        EUR 503 (Olmedilla, Spain, PV, 2008)
(3)        EUR 188 (Andasol I, Spain, trough, 2009)
(4)        AUD 236 (Greenough, Australia, PV)
(5)        AUD 397 (Solar Oasis, Australia, dish, 2014?)
(6)        USD 163 (Lazio, Italy, PV)
(7)        AUD 271 (Kogan Creek, Australia, CLFR pre-heat, 2012?)
(8)        USD 228 (New Mexico, CdTe thin film PV, 2011)
(9)        EUR 200 (Ibersol, Spain, trough, 2011)
(10)      USD 231 (Ivanpah, California, tower, 2013?)
(11)      CAD 409 (Stardale, Canada, PV, 2012)
(12)      USD 290 (Blythe, California, trough, 2012?)
(13)      AUD 285 (Solar Dawn, Australia, CLFR, 2013?)
(14)      AUD 263 (Moree Solar Farm, Australia, single-axis PV, 2013?)
(15)      EUR 350 (Lieberose, Germany, thin-film PV, 2009)
(16)      EUR 300 (Gemasolar, Spain, tower, 2011)
(17)      EUR 228 (Meuro, Germany, crystalline PV, 2012)
(18)      USD 204 (Crescent Dunes, USA, tower, 2013)
(19)      AUD 316 (University of Queensland, fixed PV, 2011)
(20)      EUR 241 (Ait Baha, Morocco, 1-axis solar thermal, 2012)
(21)      EUR 227 (Shivajinagar Sakri, India, PV, 2012)
(22)      JPY 36,076 (Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan, PV, start July 2012)
(23)      AUD 249 (NEXTDC, Port Melbourne, PV, Q2 2012)
(24)      USD 319 (Maryland Solar Farm, thin-film PV, Q4 2012)
(25)      EUR 207 (GERO Solarpark, Germany, PV, May 2012)
(26)      AUD 259 (Kamberra Winery, Australia, PV, June 2012)
(27)      EUR 105 (Calera y Chozas, PV, Q4 2012)
(28)      AUD 245 (Nyngan and Broken Hill, thin film PV, end 2014?)
(29)      AUD 342 (City of Sydney, multiple sites, PV, 2012)
(30)      AUD 281 (Uterne, PV, single-axis tracking, 2011)
(31)      JPY 31,448 (Oita, PV?, Japan, to open March 2014)
(32)      USD 342 (Shams, Abu Dhabi, trough, to open early 2013)

Conclusion

The LCOE for the Shams project is around 50% higher than that for recent big US-based projects such as Ivanpah (number 10 above) and Crescent Dunes (number 18 above), both solar thermal projects.  I expect construction in Abu Dhabi would not be cheap, especially since major components would need to be shipped in from distant locations.

I acknowledge the uncertainty in my estimate for the annual power output, and I close with a plea to those who write the Press Releases and web sites: when describing your lovely new project, please provide an estimate of the annual power output in a precise way, namely MWhr/yr, not in CO2 displaced, cars removed from roads, or homes that are powered.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cost of solar power (31)

As it happens, I attended an interesting conference in Fukuoka last week, for which I’d like to mention the web site: http://fmi2012.imi.kyushu-u.ac.jp/.  The conference was concerned with applications of mathematics in industry.

Fukuoka lies on the south-western Japanese island of Kyushu, so it was with interest on my return that I read a press release about a solar installation planned for Kyushu.  The first two paragraphs read:

Marubeni Corporation (Marubeni) has decided to launch a mega-solar power business by constructing a large scale solar power plant at the 105,000 square meters coastal industrial area of Oita No.6 owned by its subsidiary, Marubeni Ennex Corporation, Showa Denko K.K. and others. The total capacity amounts to 81.5MW and it is the largest power business at one single place in Japan.

Marubeni is to create a new special purpose company and start plant construction from November this year. The commissioning and start of the power plant are scheduled after March 2014. The expected annual power generation will be 87,000,000kWh, corresponding to the annual electricity consumption of 30,000 ordinary houses.

Moreover, Bloomberg reports the price: JPY 24 billion.

If the annual output is 87,000 MWhr, then the Capacity Factor is 87,000/(365×24×81.5) = 0.122.  That’s not a terrifically high CF value for an installation with approximate latitude 33°N.   I suspect that Kyushu has rather cloudy summers.  The technology to be applied at Oita wasn’t mentioned in any of the press releases I read, but I strongly suspect the project will have fixed PV panels.

I also have sufficient information to apply my customary assumptions to estimate the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for the project.  The assumptions are:

          there is no inflation,
          taxation implications are neglected,
          projects are funded entirely by debt,
          all projects have the same interest rate (8%) and payback period (25 years), which means that the required rate of capital return is 9.4%,
          all projects have the same annual maintenance and operating costs (2% of the total project cost), and
          government subsidies are neglected.

For further commentary on my LCOE methodology, see posts on Real cost of coal-fired power, LEC – the accountant’s view, Cost of solar power (10) and (especially) Yet more on LEC.  Note that I am now using annual maintenance costs of 2% rather than 3% as in posts during 2011.

The results for Oita are as follows:

Cost per peak Watt              JPY 29.4 /Wp
LCOE                                     JPY 31,448/MWhr

The components of the LCOE are:

Capital           {0.094 × JPY 24×10^9}/{87000 MWhr} = JPY 25,931/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × JPY 24×10^9}/{87000 MWhr} = JPY 5,517/MWhr

By way of comparison, LCOE figures (in appropriate currency per MWhr) for all projects I’ve investigated are given below.  The number in brackets is the reference to the blog post, all of which appear in my index of posts with the title “Cost of solar power ([number])”:

(2)        AUD 183 (Nyngan, Australia, PV)
(3)        EUR 503 (Olmedilla, Spain, PV, 2008)
(3)        EUR 188 (Andasol I, Spain, trough, 2009)
(4)        AUD 236 (Greenough, Australia, PV)
(5)        AUD 397 (Solar Oasis, Australia, dish, 2014?)
(6)        USD 163 (Lazio, Italy, PV)
(7)        AUD 271 (Kogan Creek, Australia, CLFR pre-heat, 2012?)
(8)        USD 228 (New Mexico, CdTe thin film PV, 2011)
(9)        EUR 200 (Ibersol, Spain, trough, 2011)
(10)      USD 231 (Ivanpah, California, tower, 2013?)
(11)      CAD 409 (Stardale, Canada, PV, 2012)
(12)      USD 290 (Blythe, California, trough, 2012?)
(13)      AUD 285 (Solar Dawn, Australia, CLFR, 2013?)
(14)      AUD 263 (Moree Solar Farm, Australia, single-axis PV, 2013?)
(15)      EUR 350 (Lieberose, Germany, thin-film PV, 2009)
(16)      EUR 300 (Gemasolar, Spain, tower, 2011)
(17)      EUR 228 (Meuro, Germany, crystalline PV, 2012)
(18)      USD 204 (Crescent Dunes, USA, tower, 2013)
(19)      AUD 316 (University of Queensland, fixed PV, 2011)
(20)      EUR 241 (Ait Baha, Morocco, 1-axis solar thermal, 2012)
(21)      EUR 227 (Shivajinagar Sakri, India, PV, 2012)
(22)      JPY 36,076 (Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan, PV, start July 2012)
(23)      AUD 249 (NEXTDC, Port Melbourne, PV, Q2 2012)
(24)      USD 319 (Maryland Solar Farm, thin-film PV, Q4 2012)
(25)      EUR 207 (GERO Solarpark, Germany, PV, May 2012)
(26)      AUD 259 (Kamberra Winery, Australia, PV, June 2012)
(27)      EUR 105 (Calera y Chozas, PV, Q4 2012)
(28)      AUD 245 (Nyngan and Broken Hill, thin film PV, end 2014?)
(29)      AUD 342 (City of Sydney, multiple sites, PV, 2012)
(30)      AUD 281 (Uterne, PV, single-axis tracking, 2011)
(31)      JPY 31,448 (Oita, PV?, Japan, to open March 2014)

Conclusion

The LCOE for the Oita project is 13% less than that for the only other Japanese project I’ve analysed -  Kagoshima (also in Kyushu).  At current exchange rates, the LCOE is AUD 380/MWhr, USD 394/MWhr and EUR 304/MWhr.  The LCOE for Oita would seem to be about 25-30% more than for other large-scale projects recently announced.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cost of solar power (30)


Giles Parkinson in RenewEconomy today reported on the sale by the major US solar corporation, SunPower, of the 1 MW Uterne PV plant near Alice Springs.  The buyer is Sydney-based renewable energy developer, Epuron Pty Ltd.  The sale is notable because it is the first time that a major bank (Commonwealth Bank in this case) has provided finance for such a purchase in Australia.

The Uterne facility has peak capacity of around 1 MW, and the annual output is boosted because the PV panels track the sun during the day.  Parkinson reported the Capacity Factor is “nearly 30 per cent”, which seems reasonable with tracking panels at a site with an excellent solar resource.  He also reported that the cost of the plant, when new, was AUD 6.6 million.  That’s enough to make an estimate of the Levelised Cost of Electricity.

At 30 per cent capacity factor, the annual output would be 0.30×365×24×1.0 = 2,628 MWhr.

I now evaluate the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) using my customary assumptions
          there is no inflation,
          taxation implications are neglected,
          projects are funded entirely by debt,
          all projects have the same interest rate (8%) and payback period (25 years), which means that the required rate of capital return is 9.4%,
          all projects have the same annual maintenance and operating costs (2% of the total project cost), and
          government subsidies are neglected.

For further commentary on my LCOE methodology, see posts on Real cost of coal-fired power, LEC – the accountant’s view, Cost of solar power (10) and (especially) Yet more on LEC.  Note that I am now using annual maintenance costs of 2% rather than 3% as in posts during 2011.

The results for Uterne are as follows:

Cost per peak Watt              AUD 6.6/Wp
LCOE                                     AUD 281/MWhr

The components of the LCOE are:

Capital           {0.094 × AUD 6.6×10^6}/{2628 MWhr} = AUD 231/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × AUD 6.6×10^6}/{2628 MWhr} = AUD 50/MWhr

By way of comparison, LCOE figures (in appropriate currency per MWhr) for all projects I’ve investigated are given below.  The number in brackets is the reference to the blog post, all of which appear in my index of posts with the title “Cost of solar power ([number])”:

(2)        AUD 183 (Nyngan, Australia, PV)
(3)        EUR 503 (Olmedilla, Spain, PV, 2008)
(3)        EUR 188 (Andasol I, Spain, trough, 2009)
(4)        AUD 236 (Greenough, Australia, PV)
(5)        AUD 397 (Solar Oasis, Australia, dish, 2014?)
(6)        USD 163 (Lazio, Italy, PV)
(7)        AUD 271 (Kogan Creek, Australia, CLFR pre-heat, 2012?)
(8)        USD 228 (New Mexico, CdTe thin film PV, 2011)
(9)        EUR 200 (Ibersol, Spain, trough, 2011)
(10)      USD 231 (Ivanpah, California, tower, 2013?)
(11)      CAD 409 (Stardale, Canada, PV, 2012)
(12)      USD 290 (Blythe, California, trough, 2012?)
(13)      AUD 285 (Solar Dawn, Australia, CLFR, 2013?)
(14)      AUD 263 (Moree Solar Farm, Australia, single-axis PV, 2013?)
(15)      EUR 350 (Lieberose, Germany, thin-film PV, 2009)
(16)      EUR 300 (Gemasolar, Spain, tower, 2011)
(17)      EUR 228 (Meuro, Germany, crystalline PV, 2012)
(18)      USD 204 (Crescent Dunes, USA, tower, 2013)
(19)      AUD 316 (University of Queensland, fixed PV, 2011)
(20)      EUR 241 (Ait Baha, Morocco, 1-axis solar thermal, 2012)
(21)      EUR 227 (Shivajinagar Sakri, India, PV, 2012)
(22)      JPY 36,076 (Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan, PV, start July 2012)
(23)      AUD 249 (NEXTDC, Port Melbourne, PV, Q2 2012)
(24)      USD 319 (Maryland Solar Farm, thin-film PV, Q4 2012)
(25)      EUR 207 (GERO Solarpark, Germany, PV, May 2012)
(26)      AUD 259 (Kamberra Winery, Australia, PV, June 2012)
(27)      EUR 105 (Calera y Chozas, PV, Q4 2012)
(28)      AUD 245 (Nyngan and Broken Hill, thin film PV, end 2014?)
(29)      AUD 342 (City of Sydney, multiple sites, PV, 2012)
(30)      AUD 281 (Uterne, PV, single-axis tracking, 2011)

Conclusion

The sale price to Epuron was not mentioned in any of the press releases, and the LCOE for this project, based on the as-new cost, is marginally more than some recent projects I’ve analysed. However, the site at Alice Springs is remote, and solar electricity would presumably be more economical than electricity from the main competing technology (diesel generators).

 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cost of solar power (29)

For the past several months, I’ve been working on simulations of air-blown thermal storage, and how it can be integrated with power generation from solar energy collected passively under a transparent insulated canopy.  The simulations have gone well, and I have just finished a draft of a paper* I plan to present at the 2012 AuSES Conference in December.

To give a sneak preview of the results:  if the thermal energy from the canopy is stored and then reclaimed at night, the total power generated is reduced by only 12% compared to the output that would be obtained directly during the day.  If the size of the canopy is doubled (solar multiple of 2) and power is generated both during daytime directly and at night from storage, my coarse economic evaluations show that the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) is reduced by 27% compared to what it would be with daytime generation only.

More details on that work on another occasion …

As a result of all those simulations, I haven’t been actively seeking to analyse the LCOE for other installations.  However, a suitable project for analysis was announced yesterday, and this will give a useful datum for future reference.  So here goes …

The City of Sydney yesterday announced that a number of city buildings are being fitted with PV panels from Solgen Energy.  The total peak output is 1.25 MW PV, and the press release goes on to mention that the cost of the project is AUD 6 million, the annual output is expected to be 2.0 GWhr and the CO2 emissions avoided would be 2,100 t/yr.

I now evaluate the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) using my customary assumptions
          there is no inflation,
          taxation implications are neglected,
          projects are funded entirely by debt,
          all projects have the same interest rate (8%) and payback period (25 years), which means that the required rate of capital return is 9.4%,
          all projects have the same annual maintenance and operating costs (2% of the total project cost), and
          government subsidies are neglected.

For further commentary on my LCOE methodology, see posts on Real cost of coal-fired power, LEC – the accountant’s view, Cost of solar power (10) and (especially) Yet more on LEC.  Note that I am now using annual maintenance costs of 2% rather than 3% as in posts during 2011.

The results are as follows:

Cost per peak Watt              AUD 4.80/Wp
LCOE                                     AUD 342/MWhr

The components of the LCOE are:
Capital           {0.094 × AUD 6×10^6}/{2000 MWhr} = AUD 282/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × AUD 6×10^6}/{2000 MWhr} = AUD 60/MWhr

The cost of CO2 abatement is (0.094+0.02)×6×10^6/2100 = AUD 326/t CO2.

The Capacity Factor is 2×10^6/(1250×24×3650 = 0.183, which is about what I’d expect for sloping roof installations in Sydney.

By way of comparison, LCOE figures (in appropriate currency per MWhr) for all projects I’ve investigated are given below.  The number in brackets is the reference to the blog post, all of which appear in my index of posts with the title “Cost of solar power ([number])”:

(2)        AUD 183 (Nyngan, Australia, PV)
(3)        EUR 503 (Olmedilla, Spain, PV, 2008)
(3)        EUR 188 (Andasol I, Spain, trough, 2009)
(4)        AUD 236 (Greenough, Australia, PV)
(5)        AUD 397 (Solar Oasis, Australia, dish, 2014?)
(6)        USD 163 (Lazio, Italy, PV)
(7)        AUD 271 (Kogan Creek, Australia, CLFR pre-heat, 2012?)
(8)        USD 228 (New Mexico, CdTe thin film PV, 2011)
(9)        EUR 200 (Ibersol, Spain, trough, 2011)
(10)      USD 231 (Ivanpah, California, tower, 2013?)
(11)      CAD 409 (Stardale, Canada, PV, 2012)
(12)      USD 290 (Blythe, California, trough, 2012?)
(13)      AUD 285 (Solar Dawn, Australia, CLFR, 2013?)
(14)      AUD 263 (Moree Solar Farm, Australia, single-axis PV, 2013?)
(15)      EUR 350 (Lieberose, Germany, thin-film PV, 2009)
(16)      EUR 300 (Gemasolar, Spain, tower, 2011)
(17)      EUR 228 (Meuro, Germany, crystalline PV, 2012)
(18)      USD 204 (Crescent Dunes, USA, tower, 2013)
(19)      AUD 316 (University of Queensland, fixed PV, 2011)
(20)      EUR 241 (Ait Baha, Morocco, 1-axis solar thermal, 2012)
(21)      EUR 227 (Shivajinagar Sakri, India, PV, 2012)
(22)      JPY 36,076 (Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan, PV, start July 2012)
(23)      AUD 249 (NEXTDC, Port Melbourne, PV, Q2 2012)
(24)      USD 319 (Maryland Solar Farm, thin-film PV, Q4 2012)
(25)      EUR 207 (GERO Solarpark, Germany, PV, May 2012)
(26)      AUD 259 (Kamberra Winery, Australia, PV, June 2012)
(27)      EUR 105 (Calera y Chozas, PV, Q4 2012)
(28)      AUD 245 (Nyngan and Broken Hill, thin film PV, end 2014?)
(29)      AUD 342 (City of Sydney, multiple sites, PV, 2012)

Conclusion

The LCOE for this project is high compared to other projects I’ve analysed recently.  Perhaps that’s not surprising since the project involves lots of installation sites sprinkled around the city, and some of these are presumably old buildings for which installation might be difficult.

I do, however, commend the City of Sydney for their enthusiasm for cutting CO2 emissions associated with their buildings.


* N G Barton, “Passive solar power generation with air-blown thermal storage”, in preparation for 2012 AuSES Conference, Melbourne.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cost of solar power (28)

I had intended that my next blog post would be on a major review of Concentrated Solar Power that appeared last week.  However, there was also a big announcement relating to the Australian Solar Flagships program, so let’s look at that first.

Two winners in the Flagships program were announced in June last year, and I analysed their Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) here and here.  Since then, both successful bidders have struggled to complete their financial arrangements.  The Solar Dawn team has been given more time with their finances, but the Moree Solar Farm had to compete with others in a fresh application.

The outcome is that the PV project has been taken away from the Moree Solar Farm and awarded to a syndicate from AGL and First Solar.  From the AGL press release:

“AGL Energy Limited (AGL) has been selected by the Commonwealth Government as the successful proponent in the solar photovoltaic (PV) category of the Solar Flagships Program independent reassessment process.  AGL, together with First Solar (Australia) Pty Ltd (First Solar), will deliver large-scale solar PV power projects totalling 159 MW at two locations in New South Wales.

AGL will develop a 106 MW project at Nyngan and a 53 MW project at Broken Hill.  First Solar will provide engineering, procurement and construction services for both projects, using its advanced thin-film PV modules.”

The press release goes on to mention that the total project cost is approximately AUD 450 million, including AUD 129.7 million from the federal government and AUD 64.9 million from the NSW state government.

In response to my query, AGL has confirmed that the panels are fixed and that the 159 MW peak output is AC power to the grid.

When it comes to the annual output, the situation is not so clear.  The press release says the projects will provide enough power for 30,000 homes, with no mention of output in GWhr/yr.  In response to my e-mail query, AGL said the annual output would be around 365 GWhr/yr.

But that corresponds to a Capacity Factor of 365/(24*365*0.159) = 0.262, which seems too high for an installation with fixed panels.  By way of comparison, the Kagoshima facility in southern Japan has CF = 0.129, the NEXTDC facility in Melbourne has CF = 0.157, the GERO Solarpark in Germany has CF = 0.125, and the Kamberra project has CF = 0.172.  Why should this new project have CF = 0.262?

In his article on the Solar Flagships situation, Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy also gives the AGL figures:  26% Capacity Factor at Nyngan, 27% at Broken Hill.

What to do?  I’m going to assume CF = 0.18 for the Nyngan/Broken Hill project.  (If fresh information comes to hand, I’ll update this post.)  So the annual output would be 0.18*24*365*0.159 = 251 GWhr/yr approximately.

I now evaluate the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) using my customary assumptions
          there is no inflation,
          taxation implications are neglected,
          projects are funded entirely by debt,
          all projects have the same interest rate (8%) and payback period (25 years), which means that the required rate of capital return is 9.4%,
          all projects have the same annual maintenance and operating costs (2% of the total project cost), and
          government subsidies are neglected.

For further commentary on my LCOE methodology, see posts on Real cost of coal-fired power, LEC – the accountant’s view, Cost of solar power (10) and (especially) Yet more on LEC.  Note that I am now using annual maintenance costs of 2% rather than 3% as in posts during 2011.

The results are as follows:

Cost per peak Watt              AUD 2.83/Wp
LCOE                                     AUD 205/MWhr

The components of the LCOE are:
Capital           {0.094 × AUD 450×10^6}/{251000 MWhr} = AUD 169/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × AUD 450×10^6}/{251000 MWhr} = AUD 36/MWhr

By way of comparison, LCOE figures (in appropriate currency per MWhr) for all projects I’ve investigated are given below.  The number in brackets is the reference to the blog post, all of which appear in my index of posts with the title “Cost of solar power ([number])”:

(2)        AUD 183 (Nyngan, Australia, PV)
(3)        EUR 503 (Olmedilla, Spain, PV, 2008)
(3)        EUR 188 (Andasol I, Spain, trough, 2009)
(4)        AUD 236 (Greenough, Australia, PV)
(5)        AUD 397 (Solar Oasis, Australia, dish, 2014?)
(6)        USD 163 (Lazio, Italy, PV)
(7)        AUD 271 (Kogan Creek, Australia, CLFR pre-heat, 2012?)
(8)        USD 228 (New Mexico, CdTe thin film PV, 2011)
(9)        EUR 200 (Ibersol, Spain, trough, 2011)
(10)      USD 231 (Ivanpah, California, tower, 2013?)
(11)      CAD 409 (Stardale, Canada, PV, 2012)
(12)      USD 290 (Blythe, California, trough, 2012?)
(13)      AUD 285 (Solar Dawn, Australia, CLFR, 2013?)
(14)      AUD 263 (Moree Solar Farm, Australia, single-axis PV, 2013?)
(15)      EUR 350 (Lieberose, Germany, thin-film PV, 2009)
(16)      EUR 300 (Gemasolar, Spain, tower, 2011)
(17)      EUR 228 (Meuro, Germany, crystalline PV, 2012)
(18)      USD 204 (Crescent Dunes, USA, tower, 2013)
(19)      AUD 316 (University of Queensland, fixed PV, 2011)
(20)      EUR 241 (Ait Baha, Morocco, 1-axis solar thermal, 2012)
(21)      EUR 227 (Shivajinagar Sakri, India, PV, 2012)
(22)      JPY 36,076 (Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan, PV, start July 2012)
(23)      AUD 249 (NEXTDC, Port Melbourne, PV, Q2 2012)
(24)      USD 319 (Maryland Solar Farm, thin-film PV, Q4 2012)
(25)      EUR 207 (GERO Solarpark, Germany, PV, May 2012)
(26)      AUD 259 (Kamberra Winery, Australia, PV, June 2012)
(27)      EUR 105 (Calera y Chozas, PV, Q4 2012)
(28)      AUD 245 (Nyngan and Broken Hill, thin film PV, end 2014?)

Conclusion

On these estimates, the new PV project (LCOE AUD205/MWhr) in the Solar Flagships program is clearly superior to the now-abandoned Moree Solar Farm (LCOE AUD 263/MWhr).  Moreover the cost per peak watt has dropped from AUD 6.15/Wp for the Moree Solar Farm to AUD 2.83/Wp for the new project.

This provides confirmation about the substantial fall in PV prices over the past year.

If I had used the CF = 0.262 figure provided by AGL, the LCOE would have been AUD 141/MWhr, which I think is too good to be true.  One further estimate is given by Jack Curtis of First Solar, as quoted in Giles Parkinson’s article:

“Jack Curtis from First Solar says the AGL project translates roughly to $180/MWh without subsidies”.

First Solar would have a different methodology to mine for LCOE calculations, and I acknowledge the uncertainty in the Capacity Factor I have used.  As I said, I’ll update this post if fresh information becomes available.


Update (16 June 2015):  The Nyngan plant is now on-line and Broken Hill will be completed later this year.  See my post of 2015-06-16 for an update on these estimates.