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Lueken C., Cohen G.E., Apt J.

Environmental Science and Technology

pp 9761



We compare the power output from a year of electricity generation data from one solar thermal plant, two solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays, and twenty Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) wind farms. The analysis shows that solar PV electricity generation is approximately one hundred times more variable at frequencies on the order of 10–3 Hz than solar thermal electricity generation, and the variability of wind generation lies between that of solar PV and solar thermal. We calculate the cost of variability of the different solar power sources and wind by using the costs of ancillary services and the energy required to compensate for its variability and intermittency, and the cost of variability per unit of displaced CO2 emissions. We show the costs of variability are highly dependent on both technology type and capacity factor. California emissions data were used to calculate the cost of variability per unit of displaced CO2 emissions. Variability cost is greatest for solar PV generation at $8–11 per MWh. The cost of variability for solar thermal generation is $5 per MWh, while that of wind generation in ERCOT was found to be on average $4 per MWh. Variability adds ∼$15/tonne CO2 to the cost of abatement for solar thermal power, $25 for wind, and $33–$40 for PV.