Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Interactive map estimates power plant type that would be cheapest to build in each county

A study by the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin includes an interactive map that shows what types of power plants are cheapest to build in every U.S. county, Brad Plumer reports for Vox. It explains why "natural gas and renewables are likely to provide much of America’s new electric capacity going forward. It also shows why, despite (Donald) Trump’s promises, it will be extremely difficult to build new U.S. coal plants anytime soon." (Energy Institute map: Cheapest power plants to build today in every county, when “availability zones” are factored in (based on where the researchers expect you could physically build a plant)).
Researchers say "they calculated the levelized cost of electricity for power plants in each county—taking into account construction costs, financing, operating costs, capacity factors, fuel, transmission," among other factors, Plumer writes. They also included a calculator that allows users to compare two different power plants side by side, as well as factoring in health and pollution damage from different types of power plants.

Plumer notes a few caveats. "The map and calculator do not incorporate the effects of state regulations in places like California, and they do not include the effect of federal tax credits for wind and solar—the latter currently reduce the cost of renewables by about 30 percent. If you knock down the price of wind and solar accordingly in the interactive map, both become the cheapest option in a few more areas. (The team is working on building in some of those factors as the calculator evolves.)" (Read more)

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