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Big Capacity Cost Reductions Seen for Utility-Scale PV

EIA sees solar PV cost declines of 21% from 2013 for plants sized 1 MW and above.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has been collecting data on construction costs for new utility-scale generators installed in 2013. The annual data, which covers utility-scale solar PV as well as other forms of generation, reflect projects completed in each year of the survey.

While construction costs alone do not determine the economic attractiveness of a generation technology, the trends for key types of generation, while very favorable, need to be taken in proper context. (For example, power plants are often constructed over a period several years, which means the reported costs are not necessarily indicative of the cost of a project initiated in the year in question. In addition, EIA points out that government grants, tax benefits, and other incentives are excluded from these costs.)

The cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic generators declined 21% between 2013 and 2015, from $3705/kW to $2921/kW.

More than half of the utility-scale solar photovoltaic systems installed in the United States track the sun through, and in general, those systems cost slightly more than those installed at fixed angles.

Construction costs differed slightly by technology type, with crystalline silicon systems (73% of the 2015 installed solar photovoltaic capacity) costing slightly less than systems with thin-film panels made using cadmium telluride.


Electric generator construction costs for 2015.

More information is available in EIA’s construction costs data, which is based on data collected through EIA’s Annual Electric Generator Report (EIA-860). Construction costs for generators installed in 2016 are expected to be available in January 2018.

The full EIA press release for utility-scale solar PV and other key types of generation and associated data is available at this link. A similar Energy Times story presents EIA’s results for gas-fired plants. ♦




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