Solar project developers, long-term owners, and other industry participants surveyed by Berkeley Lab expect utility-scale solar plants to have a useful life of 32.5 years, up from 21.5 years in 2007, when the surveys began.
“Directionally, this tracks the increase over time of the typical duration of module warranties,” says the Berkeley Lab report on the survey results.
The industry participants surveyed expect that levelized, lifetime operational expenditure (OpEx) will be $17/kWDC per year, down from $35/kWDC per year for projects built in 2007.
The OpEx expense decline is driven by a “precipitous” decline in recent years in operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, to “$5-8/kWDC per year in many cases,” says a press release. Other OpEx line items are property taxes, land lease costs, security, insurance, and asset management.
Based on the new data, the report’s authors calculated the levelized cost of energy for utility-scale PV, excluding the investment tax credit, at $51/MWh, or 5.1 cents per kWh.
Some respondents broke out OpEx into its constituent parts, “albeit using different categories of costs,” and the report provided breakouts from three respondents:
The survey results “may inform assumptions used by electric system planners, modelers, and analysts,” says the press release.
The report “Benchmarking Utility-Scale PV Operational Expenses and Project Lifetimes” was written by Ryan Wiser, Mark Bolinger, and Joachim Seel. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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“The OpEx expense decline is driven by a “precipitous” decline in recent years in operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, to “$5-8/kWDC per year in many cases,” says a press release. Other OpEx line items are property taxes, land lease costs, security, insurance, and asset management.”
There have been several articles written over the years that quote BNEF and LAZARD saying solar PV and wind are more cost effective than mechanical fueled generation sites. Compare, commodity fueled generation, that has transportation, storage and emissions remediation all as part of the O&M program. Fueled generation is often a 30 to 40 year amortized operation, where it seems solar PV and Wind can amortize at about 10 years of operations.
The major “problem” is the rote electric utility industry themselves. Finally in 2017 a wind farm in Australia became the poster child of what large scale energy storage can DO for the operations and revenues of an intermittent wind farm (Neoen). This TESLA big battery that has recently been upgraded to 150MW/193.5MWh has already paid for the original battery system this year. So, two things will be proven by this first system of its kind in the World. It has already proven that FCAS revenues can pay for the system early, it is “supposed” to have a 10 year life and it will be interesting to see if the upgrade also pays for itself in three to five years. Can’t do that with a peaker plant.
This study doesn’t seem to address the recent practice of “clipping” where the D.C. buss is a ratio of something like 1.3 to 1.5 to 1 on the A.C. output side of the facility. The price of solar PV panels from their initial time period of 2007 have fallen precipitously over just a few years. Chinese manufacturers are quoting large scale manufacturing runs of solar PV panels in the $0.17/watt to $0.30/watt and have announced manufacturing runs of bifacial solar PV from $0.21 to $0.23/watt. Panels and strings are going towards the 1500VDC buss and the inverters are also being sold for the 1500VDC buss. Single axis tracking seems to have become popular in the last three or so years. More sun hour harvest available for solar tracking strings and bifacial solar PV panels to gather a little extra side and back reflected solar radiation during the day.
With such practices as ‘clipping’ it also allows for less maintenance due to dusting and allows for an energy storage system to be installed in the future, the plant is pretty much “predesigned” for more constant energy production during the day and the night.
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