Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Prices

Solar is getting competitive on power generation costs but on average is more costly than nuclear power.

NV Energy’s had solar power pricing of $24.99/MWh in Arizona. This was 2.5 cents per kwh. A dual nuclear power plant in the US has 2.4 cents per kwh in pricing. The average pricing for new solar in the US is about 3.6 cents per kwh.

The O&M costs of solar have been flat for four years at 0.8 cents per kwh. The land for solar is about 1.6 cents per kwh. Solar projects get a 30% tax write-off and has other subsidies.

Panels are less than half the price of the installation.

How low can solar prices go? GTM predicts under $15/MWh in 2022 (1.5 cents per KWh).

U.S. Solar Market added 10.6 GW of PV in 2018.

Xcel Energy received a median bid price of $21/MWh for wind-plus-storage projects and $36/MWh for solar-plus-storage projects.

The most recent comprehensive US solar costs I can find is a 2018 Berkeley Lab report of 2017 prices and projects.

For a typical solar installation, the general rule of thumb is that for every 1kW of solar panels needed, the area required is approximately 100 square feet. A 1mW solar PV power plant, the area required is about 2.5 acres or 100,000 square feet. This amount of land is just for the panels themselves and more space is needed for other solar equipment, which can bring the total closer to about 4 acres for a 1mW farm. Land for solar is leasing out at about $4000 per acre per year. Each Megawatt needs $16000 per year in land. This is $16 million per year for land leasing on a gigawatt. A gigawatt of solar generates about 1 TWh. This would be 1.6 cents per KWh for land charges.

Installed Prices: Median installed PV project prices in 2017 were $2.0/WAC (or $1.6/WDC) for projects completed in 2017.

The median price is $2000 per KW (AC) install/. $1600/KW (DC).

The lowest 20th percentile of projects within our 2017 sample (of 76 PV projects totaling 2,303 MWAC) were priced at or below $1.8/WAC, with the lowest-priced projects around $0.9/WAC.

Operation and Maintenance (“O&M”) Costs: What limited empirical O&M cost data are publicly available suggest that PV O&M costs were in the neighborhood of $16/kWAC-year, or $8/MWh, in 2017. These were costs incurred to directly operate and maintain the generating plant, and should not be confused with total operating expenses, which would also include property taxes, insurance, land royalties, performance bonds, various administrative and other fees, and overhead.

Capacity Factors: The cumulative net AC capacity factors of individual projects in a sample of 392 PV projects totaling 16,052 MWAC range widely, from 14.3% to 35.2%, with a sample median of 26.3% and a capacity-weighted average of 27.6%. This project-level variation is based on a number of factors, including the strength of the solar resource at the project site, whether the array is mounted at a fixed tilt or on a tracking mechanism, the inverter loading ratio, degradation, and curtailment.

Nuclear Costs in the USA

US Nuclear capacity factor has been about 90% for nearly 20 years. All nuclear reactors. The US nuclear industry has reduced shutdowns for refueling to 25 days on average. The US Nuclear capacity factor has been over 91% for 5 years running.

The US Nuclear industry reports generating costs without capital of 2.5 cents per kwh for dual plants or 3.4 cents per kwh for single unit plants. Vogtle and others are dual plants. 4.3cents per kwh looks like it includes capital costs for single plants.

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