Objectives Approach and Scope

Purpose and Audience: In response to growing interest in renewable power technologies and the need for consistent, objective assessments of technology performance and costs, DOE and EPRI collaborated to prepare the Renewabl e Energy Technology Characterizations (TCs) presented in this document. Together, through this document, DOE and EPRI aim to provide for the energy community and the general public an objective picture of the status an d expectations for the renewable power technologies in electric-power applications in the United States. These TC s represent a consensus between DOE and EPRI on the current status and projected development path of five renewable electricity generating technologies: biomass, geothermal, photovoltaics, solar thermal and wind. In addition , recognizing the role that storage can play in enhancing the value of some renewable power plants, a TC for storag e technologies, with a strong emphasis on batteries, is included in an appendix. The TCs can serve two distinct purposes. First, they are designed to be a reference tool for energy-policy analysts and power-system planners seeking objectiv e cost and performance data. Second, the extensive discussions of the assumptions that underlie the data provid e valuable insights for R&D program planners as they strive to prioritize future R&D efforts.

Approach: Building on the best available information and experience from many years of direct involvement in th e development and assessment of renewable energy technologies, experts from DOE, its national laboratories and support organizations prepared characterizations of the major renewable technologies. These were subjected to in-depth review by EPRI technical staff in renewables and selected outside reviewers, and then discussed at length in two technica l workshops involving the writers and the reviewers. The characterizations were then revised, reflecting discussions a t and subsequent to the workshops, resulting in this consensus document. In some cases, EPRI staff participated i n preparation of overview sections.

Document Scope: The TCs do not describe specific products or hardware configurations. They describe typical system configurations at five year increments through the year 2030, based on a projected evolution of the technologies during that timeframe. They often portray changes in expected technology configuration over time. Allowing a changin g configuration ensures that, in each timeframe discussed, the TC represents the most cost-effective configuratio n projected to be available in that timeframe. For example, the solar thermal power tower evolves from a hybrid plan t with a conventional receiver to a solar-only plant with an advanced receiver. The TCs do not attempt to pick winner s among a variety of choices. In that spirit, thin film PV systems are, for example, described only in a generic way, no t specifying any particular thin film technology in any given timeframe. This view of the technology future mirrors th e R&D portfolio approach that DOE takes, allowing the technology itself and the marketplace to determine winners and losers.

Each TC should be thought of as a description of that technology in a particular application, typically as a grid -connected system for bulk power supply. However, some TCs do briefly describe other applications that could us e substantially the same technology configuration.

These TCs differ from EPRI's Technical Assessment Guide (TAG™) in that they provide more extensive discussions of the expected technology evolution through 2030. However, the cost and performance data presented here are being used as a basis for TAG™ revisions that are currently in progress.

Similar to the TAG™, these TCs do not describe a recommended economic analysis methodology, but instead describe various approaches that could be taken to calculate levelized cost of energy or other appropriate financial figures o f merit. These approaches span a range of possible ownership scenarios in a deregulated utility environment.

Cautionary Note: The cost and performance information presented represent the best judgments of the individual s involved in the preparation and review of this document. As these technologies enter the commercial marketplace , normal competitive forces and commercial experience may have impacts that are difficult to predict at this time. Fo r example, there are indications that prices for some conventional power-plant components and associated engineerin g services are dropping as competition in power generation becomes more widespread. Based on very recent commercial experience, this trend is already reflected in the geothermal-hydrothermal flash-steam plant costs presented in thi s document. Similar cost impacts may be observed in other renewable power plants employing conventional thermal -generation components once the technologies become established sufficiently to attract multiple commercial suppliers. Readers are urged to use caution in applying numerical data from this document in commercial situations withou t consulting engineering firms actively involved in the commercial marketplace.

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