2013 construction costs for different energy sources

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Construction of the above is four times as expensive as natural gas, but at least this won’t incinerate birds. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Million Dollar Way pointed me to EIA data for 2013 on the costs for construction and amount of new capacity for wind, solar, natural gas, hydro and biomass. As expected, the non-reliables have extremely high construction costs.

The data can be found here

Since the graph is public information, I will post it below:

Source: Energy Information Administration

Source: Energy Information Administration

Here are the average construction costs for the year for a megawatt of capacity:

  • $3.705M – solar photovoltaic
  • $3.495M – biomass (let’s go back to burning trees to power our lives!)
  • $1.895M – wind
  • $2.294M – hydro
  • $0.965M – natural gas

That puts solar PV at 3.8 times as expensive as natural gas, with wind only being 1.96 times as expensive.

Solar – 4x gas.

Wind – 2x gas.

Keep in mind that solar and wind only hit around 30% or 40% capacity. That means 60% or 70% of the time that 3.7M/mW or $1.9M/mW is sitting idle. Don’t forget to allocated that idle time to the cost per kW.

Also keep in mind both sources require backup from natural gas in case the wind doesn’t blow at a particular moment or it is rainy for the day. That means that every megawatt of solar or wind you plan to use during the sunny/windy hours requires having a megawatt gas generator on standby.

2 thoughts on “2013 construction costs for different energy sources”

  1. The “Greens” will say, “OK but once you get solar or wind constructed it’s FREE, no expensive natural gas to buy”. What they won’t say is, 30% to 40% isn’t attainable except in very limited sites: CA, NM, AZ for solar…solar in New England is foolish. Wind is proving to be too expensive to maintain after 20 years and is typically abandoned in-place…30% on-line for wind? More like 25% and usually not available when needed. It’s worthless, because as you say it requires 100% backup. Nothing but liberal democrat corruption and voter ignorance.

    1. Hi Dennis:

      You hit on several of the major weaknesses of wind and solar power. Low capacity. Unknown economic life. Need for backup capacity. Only useful in certain areas.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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