How can we compare the cost, performance and value-for-money of alternative large-scale clean energy projects? Actually, it’s pretty tough to try and avoid apples-and-oranges comparisons. Still, some adjustments can be made, such as for capacity factor, to partially levelise comparisons.
Below is a simplified comparison of four recent real-world projects. All can be considered first-of-a-kind installations, except for the wind farm.
1. A large proposed wind farm in South Australia (600 MWe peak)
The wind project will use 180 of the 3.4 MWe Suzlon turbines and “generate enough electricity to power 225,000 homes“. It includes a biomass plant that could produce up to 120 MWe of backup power to cover low-wind periods, and might offset up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. At average 8m/s winds the capacity factor is estimated to be about 35%. A 60 km undersea high voltage direct current cable will connect it with Adelaide. Cost is $1.3 billion for the generating infrastructure and $0.2 billion for the cable.
The in(famous) Olkiluoto 3 NP unit, a European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built by the French (AREVA). The project has seen significant delays (first electricity now expected in 2014), and a cost blowout from the original € 3.7 billion to a new figure of € 6.4 billion. Despite this, the Fins have ordered two more EPR units. Assume it runs at the average Finnish capacity factor of 86%.
To be built in Moree, this will cover 3.4 km squared with 645,000 multi-crystalline PV panels, and is forecast to output 404 GWh per year (enough for 45,000 households). Part of the “Solar Flagships” programme, the cost is $A 923 million. Estimated to abate 364,000 tonnes of CO2 per year (based on NSW emission factor 0f 0.9 tCO2/MWh). Estimated capacity factor is 30.7% (based on peak power and GWh forecasts) — this seems high compared to typical PV performance.