The cost of building some renewable energy generators is down, according to a data analysis released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Among newly constructed utility-scale electric generators in 2016, annual capacity-weighted average construction costs for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and onshore wind turbines fell.
New construction for wind and solar power were among the year’s most popular generation additions, with natural gas rounding out the top three. These three technologies accounted for approximately 93 percent of added capacity. Total electric generating capacity increased 50 percent over 2015.
Solar PV construction has steadily declined since 2013 when costs were $3,705 per kilowatt (kW) for construction. In 2016, the construction cost was $2,436 per kW as 500 PV generating units added 8 gigawatts (GW) to the energy mix. The EIA could not predict how 2018 tariffs on imported panels might affect future solar PV costs.
Wind capacity additions were the most popular in 2016. Utilities added 84 wind turbine projects with a total of 8.8 GW. Construction costs were down slightly from 2015, at $1,630 per kW. The data show capacity-weighted costs were lower for larger wind plants due to shared infrastructure costs.
Unlike PV solar and wind generation, construction costs for natural gas generators increased slightly in 2016. In 2016, 100 natural gas-fired generators, totaling 9.8 GW, were added to the electric grid.
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