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Biopower

The ATB includes both dedicated biopower cost options and a biomass cofired with coal option. The cost and performance characteristics of these plants are adapted from EIA data rather than derived from original analysis.

Capital Expenditures (CAPEX): Historical Trends, Current Estimates, and Future Projections

Biopower plant CAPEX is taken from the AEO2019 Reference Scenario (EIA, 2019a) with the adjustments discussed in the CAPEX definition section.

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Current estimates and future projections calculated from AEO2019 (EIA, 2019a) and modified.
R&D Only Financial Assumptions (constant background rates, no tax changes)

CAPEX Definition

Capital expenditures (CAPEX) are expenditures required to achieve commercial operation in a given year.

Overnight capital costs are modified from AEO2019 (EIA, 2019a). The EIA projections were adjusted by removing the material price index. The material price index accounts for projected changes in the price index for metals and metals products, and it is independent of the learning-based cost reductions applied in the EIA projections.

Fuel costs are taken from the Billion Ton Update study (DOE et al., 2011).

Overnight Capital Cost ($/kW) Construction Financing Factor (ConFinFactor) CAPEX ($/kW)
Dedicated: Dedicated biopower plant $3,827 1.042 $3,990
CofireOld: Pulverized coal with sulfur dioxide (SO2) scrubbers and biomass co-firing $4,013 1.042 $4,184
CofireNew: Advanced supercritical coal with SO2 and NOx controls and biomass co-firing $4,013 1.042 $4,184

CAPEX can be determined for a plant in a specific geographic location as follows:

CAPEX = ConFinFactor × (OCC × CapRegMult + GCC)
See the Financial Definitions tab in the ATB data spreadsheet.

Regional cost variations and geographically specific grid connection costs are not included in the ATB (CapRegMult = 1; GCC = 0). In the ATB, the input value is overnight capital cost (OCC) and details to calculate interest during construction (ConFinFactor).

In the ATB, CAPEX represents each type of biopower plant with a unique value. Regional cost effects associated with labor rates, material costs, and other regional effects as defined by (EIA, 2016) expand the range of CAPEX. Unique land-based spur line costs based on distance and transmission line costs are not estimated. The following figure illustrates the ATB representative plant relative to the range of CAPEX including regional costs across the contiguous United States. The ATB representative plants are associated with a regional multiplier of 1.0.

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R&D Only Financial Assumptions (constant background rates, no tax changes)

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Costs

Biopower power plant fixed and variable O&M costs are taken from table 8.2 of the AEO2019, and they are assumed to be constant over time.

Capacity Factor: Expected Annual Average Energy Production Over Lifetime

The capacity factor represents the assumed annual energy production divided by the total possible annual energy production, assuming the plant operates at rated capacity for every hour of the year. For biopower plants, the capacity factors are typically lower than their availability factors. Biopower plant availability factors have a wide range depending on system design, fuel type and availability, and maintenance schedules.

Biopower plants are typically baseload plants with steady capacity factors. For the ATB, the biopower capacity factor is taken as the average capacity factor for biomass plants for 2017, as reported by EIA.

Biopower capacity factors are influenced by technology and feedstock supply, expected downtime, and energy losses.

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Current estimates and future projections are taken as the 2017 capacity factor from EIA (2019b).

Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) Projections

Levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is a summary metric that combines the primary technology cost and performance parameters: CAPEX, O&M, and capacity factor. It is included in the ATB for illustrative purposes. The ATB focuses on defining the primary cost and performance parameters for use in electric sector modeling or other analysis where more sophisticated comparisons among technologies are made. The LCOE accounts for the energy component of electric system planning and operation. The LCOE uses an annual average capacity factor when spreading costs over the anticipated energy generation. This annual capacity factor ignores specific operating behavior such as ramping, start-up, and shutdown that could be relevant for more detailed evaluations of generator cost and value. Electricity generation technologies have different capabilities to provide such services. For example, wind and PV are primarily energy service providers, while the other electricity generation technologies provide capacity and flexibility services in addition to energy. These capacity and flexibility services are difficult to value and depend strongly on the system in which a new generation plant is introduced. These services are represented in electric sector models such as the ReEDS model and corresponding analysis results such as the Standard Scenarios.

The following three figures illustrate LCOE, which includes the combined impact of CAPEX, O&M, and capacity factor projections for biomass across the range of resources present in the contiguous United States. For the purposes of the ATB, the costs associated with technology and project risk in the U.S. market are represented in the financing costs but not in the upfront capital costs (e.g., developer fees and contingencies). An individual technology may receive more favorable financing terms outside the United States, due to less technology and project risk, caused by more project development experience (e.g., offshore wind in Europe) or more government or market guarantees. The R&D Only LCOE sensitivity cases present the range of LCOE based on financial conditions that are held constant over time unless R&D affects them, and they reflect different levels of technology risk. This case excludes effects of tax reform, tax credits, and changing interest rates over time. The R&D + Market LCOE case adds to these financial assumptions: (1) the changes over time consistent with projections in the Annual Energy Outlook and (2) the effects of tax reform and tax credits. Data for all the resource categories can be found in the ATB data spreadsheet; for simplicity, not all resource categories are shown in the figures.

R&D Only | R&D + Market

R&D Only
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R&D + Market
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R&D Only Financial Assumptions (constant background rates, no tax changes)
R&D Only + Market Financial Assumptions (dynamic background rates, taxes)

The LCOE of biopower plants is directly impacted by the differences in CAPEX (installed capacity costs) as well as by heat rate differences. For a given year, the LCOE assumes that the fuel prices from that year continue throughout the lifetime of the plant.

Regional variations will ultimately impact biomass feedstock costs, but these are not included in the ATB.

The projections do not include any cost of carbon.

Fuel costs are taken from the Billion Ton Update study (DOE et al., 2011).

To estimate LCOE, assumptions about the cost of capital to finance electricity generation projects are required, and the LCOE calculations are sensitive to these financial assumptions. Two project finance structures are used within the ATB:

  • R&D Only Financial Assumptions: This sensitivity case allows technology-specific changes to debt interest rates, return on equity rates, and debt fraction to reflect effects of R&D on technological risk perception, but it holds background rates constant at 2017 values from AEO2019 (EIA, 2019a) and excludes effects of tax reform and tax credits. A constant cost recovery period-or period over which the initial capital investment is recovered-of 30 years is assumed for all technologies.
  • R&D Only + Market Financial Assumptions: This sensitivity case retains the technology-specific changes to debt interest, return on equity rates, and debt fraction from the R&D Only case and adds in the variation over time consistent with AEO2019 (EIA, 2019a) as well as effects of tax reform and tax credits. As in the R&D Only case, a constant cost recovery period-or period over which the initial capital investment is recovered-of 30 years is assumed for all technologies. For a detailed discussion of these assumptions, see Project Finance Impact on LCOE.

The equations and variables used to estimate LCOE are defined on the Equations and Variables page. For illustration of the impact of changing financial structures such as WACC, see Project Finance Impact on LCOE. For LCOE estimates for the Constant, Mid, and Low technology cost scenarios for all technologies, see 2019 ATB Cost and Performance Summary.

References

References are specific to this page, see all references page for all references.

DOE. (2011). U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry (No. ORNL/TM-2011/224). https://doi.org/10.2172/1023318

EIA. (2016b). Capital Cost Estimates for Utility Scale Electricity Generating Plants. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration website: https://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/powerplants/capitalcost/pdf/capcost_assumption.pdf

EIA. (2019a). Annual Energy Outlook 2019 with Projections to 2050. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration website: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/AEO2019.pdf

EIA. (2019b, January). Table 6.7.B Capacity Factors for Utility Scale Generators Not Primarily Using Fossil Fuels. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_6_07_b