Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Cheapest way to produce electricity

  1. Jan 5, 2010 #1
    As we know there are different methods are used in different countries to produce power. What do you think which one near you is the most cheapest way to produce power.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2010 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Coal power is generally the cheapest for large-scale generation.
  4. Jan 5, 2010 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Complicated question.
    Depends on the market, do you need a large central plant that can run for years, or a plant that can handle quick changes in load.
    What lifetime are you considering the capital cost over - and what interest rate are you paying.
    what politics are involved in getting different kinds of plant approved in your country?
    What fuel sources do you have.

    If you have coal then coal is cheap - but the plants are big and expensive.
    If you have natural gas then that's cheap and the plants are quick and cheap to build.
    If you don't have fossil fuels and your government/people are sane then nuclear is cheap.
    Once you've built the plant, then hydroelectric is cheapest to run.
  5. Jan 6, 2010 #4
    near me using natural resources like coal and petrol for the generation of Electricity is not so good bcaz they are present in limited amount. I think wind and tidal way is very cheap and almost free running cost, what do u say?
    in coal there is a big problem where to dispose off Coal's ash
  6. Jan 6, 2010 #5
    Wind and tidal are very expensive. Initial cost of seting up the generators is expensive, then when you have them set up maintenance is expensive. Imagine major maintenance if you ran your car not on one 100 hp engine, but on 100 1hp engines. These costs may go down with time, but right now they are prohibitive.
  7. Jan 6, 2010 #6
    Cheap energy. I would invest into nuclear.

  8. Jan 6, 2010 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    For wind? Source?
  9. Jan 6, 2010 #8
    @ mheslep
    for wind the source will be wind. very interesting question.

    Maintenance cost is not so high bcaz no fuel involve & no wast disposal problem. Nuclear is also a very very cheap way to produce power as well but i hope USA will not get against. :shy:
  10. Jan 6, 2010 #9
    Are we talking about renewable energy?

    Wind is probably the cheapest, but only if you build it on a large scale. Solar, for example, is a fixed amount of energy for a unit area of radiation collection. The energy available from wind goes up with the square of the captured area and with the cube of the wind velocity. So 10mph winds have 8x the available energy as 5mph, and a rotor with a 100 foot radius has 100x the available energy as a rotor with a 10 foot radius. The fixed costs with wind would be the tower construction and the fabrication process. After that, if you can build one large enough you can harness huge amounts of energy in the right location.

    If you are interested in building your own wind turbine I have put together a tutorial on how to do it, along with links of it in operation and how to carve your own blades. It is http://www.mindchallenger.com/wind" [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Jan 6, 2010 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Historically natural gas is more expensive than coal per kWh(e). Natural gas plants are not very intrusive and cheaper than coal to build, so utilities throw up many of them but avoid running them unless they need them, e.g. peaking power.

    As of 2006, least to most expensive, in the US
    To Build, assumes no backup power ($ per kW):
    Natural Gas Combustion Turbine $670
    Natural Gas Combined Cycle $730
    Wind $1750-2400
    Coal $2080-2740
    Solar Thermal $3150-5700
    Nuclear $3500-7000, Biomass $3500
    Solar PV $8100

    To Operate and Maintain only, per unit energy generated (cents / kWh)
    Solar Thermal (1), Wind (1.7 ), Solar PV (4.1) , Hydro
    Nuclear (3-4 cents, 2015 est)
    Coal ()
    Natural Gas (2-3X coal)

    Levelized Cost: Build and Operating costs combined (cents / kWh)
    Coal 7.5
    Gas Combined Cycle 8.6
    Gas Turbine 17
    Nuclear 13 in 2016

    Edit: adding in actual O&M costs as I find them.
    http://www.psc.state.fl.us/utilities/electricgas/RenewableEnergy/Full_Report_2008_11_24.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Jan 6, 2010 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Sorry I didn't phrase it very well.
    Meant to say IF you have coal then thats cheap but IF you have natural gas fields then thats cheap.
    The economics of the stations is also a factor. coal = big expensive to build, gas = stations are quick and cheap to build. So it also depends on the timeframe and what you are paying as an interest rate.
  13. Jan 7, 2010 #12
    I find those numbers highly suspect. For example, nuclear shows a difference of 9 cents between operating cost and combined building/operating costs. This would allow the original building cost to be payed off in around 9 years. If you assume a nuclear plant only lasts 9 years then the 13 cents per kwh is valid, but life expectancy is >40years.

    Also, solar thermal and wind power have very low operating costs. Has this been definitively established? The way those numbers read, solar thermal and wind power have the potential to drastically lower electricity costs. Is there any proof that this has actually happened? Last I checked paying for green energy was much more expensive than the dirty alternative. I would love cheap and clean energy, but I have yet to actually see it.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  14. Jan 7, 2010 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Maybe, but it doesn't make financial sense to use the huge 40+ y amortization period, the interest simply dominates. Consequently, I have the impression that current nuclear plants, capital costs paid off long ago, are huge cash cows, running 94% of the time.

    I don't know what definitive means in this context, but I can't imagine what would drive solar thermal O&M costs, and the US has some ~20GW of wind installed now so I expect the experience is in place. The source above was an FP&L report, largest wind utility. Note: I can't determine whether of not the Production Tax Credits (PTC) are part of the wind costs.

    The report notes that new transmission costs are left out of the calculations, but we know that remote solar and wind will need more of that. Another cost is fossil / nuclear baseload backup for the wind and solar when their offline - not a problem yet but as the they grow it increasingly will be.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook