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)


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).



  1. Noel, in working out the annual capacity for Uterna PV plant you use the figure 4 , what does this represent please?

    Regards Alex Cross

  2. Sorry for my typo. It should be

    0.30×365(days/yr)×24(hrs/day)×1.0(MW) = 2,628 MWhr/yr.

    Also, I should have drawn attention to Giles' comment:

    "It has performed above expectations and has generated in excess of 2,300kWh for each kilowatt of peak capacity. That translates into a capacity factor of nearly 30 per cent, .."

    Accordingly, the MW plant should give "in excess of" 2,300 MWhr/yr. My figure of 2,628 MWhr/yr is probably an overestimate, in which case I've underestimated the LCOE.

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  5. Dear Renata

    Thank you for your comments. I'm glad you like my blog. At this stage, I'm not looking for posts from other people. However I'd be happy to analyse the cost of solar power for examples from Africa. All that is required is (1) some details of the project, (2) cost, (3) peak power, (4) annual output in MWhr.

    If you wish, you can use my direct email address:

    With kind regards from Sydney
    Noel Barton