Gas, Renewables, Solar, Wind

EIA: Solar construction costs fall, but still more expensive than gas and wind

Solar, wind and natural gas generation accounted for nearly all of the capacity added to the U.S. grid in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The costs of the former are going down, while the latter two got slightly more expensive, the EIA says in a new report. Falling costs for crystalline silicon axis-based tracking panels drove average solar photovoltaic construction to $2,135 per kW in 2017, part of a 37 percent decline in costs since 2013.

Solar photovoltaic generation accounted for 37 percent of all investment in new U.S. generation capacity, spending close to $12 billion to add 5 GW, according to the EIA. And, although it fell, solar PV still generally costs more to install than wind and natural gas generation on the dollar-per-kilowatt basis.

U.S.-based power generators added 10.5 GW of gas-fired capacity, but it cost less- at $896 per kW for the average combined-cycle installation-than the solar additions and nearly half of wind capacity costs, the EIA data shows. Wind developers added 5.8 GW, a sizeable drop from the previous year but with a stable average cost of $1,647 per kW.

The U.S. generation resource mix is topped by natural gas at close to 35 percent, while the lack of new capacity for coal and plant retirements have dropped that to near 30 percent, according to reports. Nuclear accounts for close to 20 percent, while hydro, solar and wind make up most of the rest of the mix.

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