A Review of Solar Photovoltaic Levelized Cost of Electricity
Joshua M. Pearce
Michigan Technological University; Queen's University
Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 15, pp. 4470-4482, 2011
As the solar photovoltaic (PV) matures, the economic feasibility of PV projects are increasingly being evaluated using the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) generation in order to be compared to other electricity generation technologies. Unfortunately, there is lack of clarity of reporting assumptions, justifications and degree of completeness in LCOE calculations, which produces widely varying and contradictory results. This paper reviews the methodology of properly calculating the LCOE for solar PV, correcting the misconceptions made in the assumptions found throughout the literature. Then a template is provided for better reporting of LCOE results for PV needed to influence policy mandates or make invest decisions. A numerical example is provided with variable ranges to test sensitivity, allowing for conclusions to be drawn on the most important variables. Grid parity is considered when the LCOE of solar PV is comparable with grid electrical prices of conventional technologies and is the industry target for cost-effectiveness. Given the state of the art in the technology and favorable financing terms it is clear that PV has already obtained grid parity in specific locations and as installed costs continue to decline, grid electricity prices continue to escalate, and industry experience increases, PV will become an increasingly economically advantageous source of electricity over expanding geographical regions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: photovoltaic, levelized cost, LCOE, grid parity, solar economic
JEL Classification: N70, Q40, Q42, Q43, Q48Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 18, 2012
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