Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cost of solar power (55)

Today I’ll analyse the Levelised Cost of Electricity for an extension of the Uterne PV installation in Alice Springs.  

As this press report describes, the original Uterne facility opened on 28 July 2011. It was rated at 1 MW, cost AUD 6.6 million and had an annual output of 2,300 MWh.  The original facility comprised 3,048 SunPower mono-crystalline panels installed over 254 tracking arrays and covering more than three hectares.

Therefore the Capacity Factor of the original facility is 2300 / (365 × 24 × 1) = 0.263.  That estimate is a touch lower than I expected, particularly since the solar resource at Alice Springs (in the middle of Australia) is outstanding.  However I see no reason not to accept the estimate.

Now we have Uterne extension, as described in press releases by Epuron (the owner) and CEFC (government-owned Clean Energy Finance Corporation).  The CEFC provided AUD 13 million in finance for the upgrade, which amounts to an additional 3.1 MW of capacity, again with one-axis tracking.  There was no mention about how much capital Epuron injected for the upgrade, so I’ll assume it was zero.  If anything, therefore, the LCOE estimate for the upgrade will be on the low side.

The latest press releases don’t mention anything about the annual output, but it seems reasonable to use the same Capacity Factor for the upgrade as for the original installation, namely 0.263.   That gives an annual output of 3.1 × 0.263 × 365 × 24 = 7,142 MWh for the upgrade.

But there is one more wrinkle to be taken into consideration.  According to this press release from SunPower, the “capacity of the Uterne power plant projects discussed in this release are described in approximate megawatts on a direct current (dc) basis”.  I’ve blogged about this issue in 2011, see here (and links therein), in which I point out the remedy is to downgrade the DC nameplate performance by 14% to get the AC rating.  Here, let me assume a 10% downgrade for AC performance, which is reflected in my calculations below.

We’re now good to go with estimates for the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) 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 results for the original Uterne installation are as follows:
Cost per peak Watt              AUD 7.33/Wp
LCOE                                     AUD 364/MWh

The components of the LCOE are:
Capital           {0.094 × AUD 6.6×106}/{2070 MWhr} = AUD 300/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × AUD 6.6×106}/{2070 MWhr} = AUD 64/MWhr

The results for the Uterne extension are:
Cost per peak Watt              AUD 4.66/Wp
LCOE                                     AUD 230/MWh

The components of the LCOE are:
Capital           {0.094 × AUD 13×106}/{6428 MWhr} = AUD 190/MWhr
O&M              {0.020 × AUD 13×106}/{6428 MWhr} = AUD 40/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)
(54)      AUD 240 (DeGrussa, PV/batteries, early 2016)
(55)      AUD 364 (Uterne Stage 1, PV, one-axis tracking, July 2011)
             AUD 230 (Uterne Stage 2, PV, one-axis tracking, August 2015)


You can compare results with my LCOE graphic.

The immediate conclusion is that the LCOE has fallen from AUD 364 per MWh to AUD 230 per MWh in just over four years.  That’s a 37% decrease in LCOE.  I suspect most students of PV would have expected a bigger decrease over this interval.

Alice Springs is a really remote place, so I can readily accept that installation costs would be significantly greater than in the larger coastal Australia cities.


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