Argonne National Laboratory Develops New Approach To Solar Cost Calculations

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, in partnership with an analyst at Gartner Inc., have developed a new approach to calculate the lifetime cost for a solar-generated energy system for comparison to other energy systems.

The dollars-per-watt metric, which is typically used, represents only a measure of the initial capital cost and the solar panel vendor's performance specification, according to Argonne. This measurement does not take into account the actual energy obtained from the system or other cost factors, such as maintenance. A far more informative metric is the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

‘In typical LCOE projections for solar energy, many assumptions are swept under the rug, and we wanted to make a small step toward lifting up that rug and showing how you can truly get a handle on those assumptions to develop a more accurate picture of the potential costs,’ explains Argonne solar researcher Seth Darling, who led the development of the new approach.

‘Specifically, the Argonne approach uses a Monte Carlo simulation that statistically selects from probability distributions to account for the uncertainty associated with various cost and production parameters,’ Darling says. A Monte Carlo simulation can produce millions of possible performance outcomes that might occur in the future, [and weight them] to reflect their likelihood.

A variety of stakeholders, including investors and policymakers, are tracking the generational development and commercialization of solar technologies and require greater insight into the projected costs of a solar energy project to aid in decision making, Argonne notes.

SOURCE: Argonne National Laboratory

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