PV plants lasting longer, with lower operational costs


From pv magazine U.S.

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.

By William Driscoll

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