Monday, June 15, 2015

Cost of solar power (53)

In recent weeks, a large PV plant in Australia at Nyngan has come online and a companion plant at Broken Hill is slated for completion later this year.  I blogged about these plants in 2012 (link), so I thought it might be useful to revisit the post to see if expectations were met.

First, some information sources:

The plants are being built for AGL, a large Australian energy utility.  The overall project cost for both plants will be AUD 440 million, supported by funding of AUD 166.7 million from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and AUD 64.9 million from the NSW Government.

The installations will use thin film panels from First Solar fixed at a 25° tilt.  The total capacity of the two plants is 155 MW grid AC (Nyngan 102 MW, Broken Hill 53 MW).   Nyngan has a 250 Ha footprint, whilst that for Broken Hill is 140 Ha.

Construction has been quick.  Nyngan was commissioned in June 2015 after construction started in January 2014, whilst Broken Hill is due to be completed in November 2015, after construction started in July 2014 and first panels were installed in January 2015.

The annual output caused me trouble in 2012.  It was stated to be 365 GWh per year from a plant with peak power 159 MW.  That gave a Capacity Factor of 365,000/(159 × 365 × 24) = 0.265.   Based on other projects I had studied, I thought the Capacity Factor was too high, and for my estimate I used a Capacity Factor of 0.18.

Now the as-built plants have peak power 155 MW and the annual output is said to be 360,000 MWh, corresponding to a Capacity Factor of 360,000/(155 × 365 × 24) = 0.265.  Exactly the same Capacity Factor as in 2012!

It still seems high to me for fixed panels.  Admittedly the solar resource at Nyngan and Broken Hill at latitude 31-32°C is good.  But the resource at the Barcaldine Solar Farm at latitude 23.5° is better (see here for an insolation chart) and their panels will have one-axis tracking.  Barcaldine has a Capacity Factor of 0.256 (details here).

Reluctantly I’ll accept First Solar’s CF and proceed to calculate the Levelised Cost of Electricity using my standard 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 revised results for Nyngan and Broken Hill (combined) are as follows:

Cost per peak Watt              AUD 2.84/Wp
LCOE                                     AUD 139/MWh

The components of the LCOE are:

Capital           {0.094 × AUD 440×106}/{360,000 MWhr} = AUD 115/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × AUD 440×106}/{360,000 MWhr} = AUD 24/MWhr

By way of comparison, LCOE figures (in appropriate currency per MWh) 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 205 (Nyngan & 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)
(34)      USD 272 (Daggett, California, designed 2010)
(35)      GBP 148 (Wymeswold, UK, PV, March 2013)
(36)      USD 139 (South Georgia, PV, June 2014)
(37)      USD 169 (Antelope Valley, CdTe PV, end 2015)
(38)      AUD 137 (Mugga Lane, PV, mid 2014)
(39)      AUD 163 (Coree, fixed PV, Feb 2015)
(40)      AUD 298 (Ferngrove Winery, PV, July 2013)
(41)      USD 125 (Cerro Dominador, CST, mid 2017)
(42)      USD 190 (La Paz, PV, September 2013)
(43)      USD 152 (Austin Energy, PV, 2016)
(44)      AUD 304 (Weipa, PV, January 2015)
(45)      AUD 256 (Kalgoorlie-Boulder, PV, August 2014)
(46)      AUD 141 (new Moree Solar Farm, PV, one-axis tracking, December 2015)
(47)      AUD 184 (Brookfarm, PV, December 2015)
(48)      USD 110 (Amanecer, PV, June 2014
(49)      USD 113 (DEWA, PV, April 2016)
(50)      USD 284 (Ashalim, solar thermal, 2017)
(51)      USD 256 (Xina Solar One, solar thermal, 2017)
(52)      AUD 129 (Barcaldine, PV, one-axis, March 2017)
(53)      AUD 139 (Nyngan & Broken Hill, fixed PV, late 2015)


You can compare results with my LCOE graphic.

I’m suspicious of the claimed Capacity Factor for the Nyngan and Broken Hill plants.  On their data, which I reluctantly accept, the LCOE is 23% more than leading results in recent time (Amanecer, DEWA) and about 8% more than planned for the Barcaldine installation.

I really welcome these utility installations in Australia.  My spirits would be even brighter if we could get a big solar thermal CSP plant built.  I’m working on my plans J

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