Monday, August 1, 2016

How much does it cost to operate and maintain a permanent power plant?

Whatever the energy source, be it fossil fuel, nuclear or renewable, expenses for operation and maintenance (O&M) form a vital part of the life cycle cost of power plants. Though O&M cost differs among various forms of power generation, it plays an important part of any power plant’s business case. Guided by the information provided by the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Investment Outlook 2014, we present an overview of the estimated average O&M costs for six of the most common power generation methods.

1. Gas Turbine (USD 20 per kW)



Gas-fired power generation is popular for having a relatively low O&M cost compared to other power generation procedures. For instance, power plants installed with simple-cycle combustion turbines have been shown to have an average annual O&M cost of just around USD 20 per kW, making such technology the most economical O&M option in the power industry. The maintenance of an effective lubrication system for gas turbines plays an integral component of O&M expenditure in gas-fired power plants.

2. Large-scale solar photovoltaic (USD 25 per kW)



Thanks to the ongoing development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, large-scale PV installations are among the most economical power generation technologies for O&M, at just about USD 25 per kW. Because solar PV is a relatively simple technology, maintaining it often only involves cleaning and removing debris from PV cells, together with monitoring of inverter units and AC subsystems.
Concentrated solar power (CSP), on the other hand, being a more sophisticated and complex technology, demands a much higher O&M cost, estimated at USD 290 per kW.

3. Subcritical coal power (USD 43 per kW)


O&M costs for coal vary depending on the type of plant. For instance, the cheapest subcritical plant has an O&M cost of approximately USD 43 per kW, even higher for supercritical and ultrasupercritical coal combustion technologies, and about USD 88 per kW in the case of integrated gasification combined cycle plants. A major component of the O&M costs of coal-fired power plants is monitoring and servicing the numerous moving parts involved in the generation process, including turbines and generating sets, coal yard conveyors and handling systems.

4. On-shore wind power (USD 46 per kW)



There is a notable disparity between O&M costs for onshore and offshore wind farms, mainly owing to access-related issues. While O&M costs for onshore wind power sites are almost at part with those of the simplest coal technologies, and are even expected to fall below those of coal by 2020, O&M expenditure for offshore wind technologies are approximately four times as much, sitting at around USD 181 per kW.

5. Large-scale hydropower (USD 53 per kW)



Large-scale hydroelectric power is considerably cheaper to operate and maintain compared to smaller-scale projects. However, the O&M costs for maintaining large installations like dams and barrages are predicted to increase in the future, matching those of small-scale hydro by 2035. At present, the O&M costs for small hydro projects stands at USD 70 per kW. According to IEA, ageing equipment in need of replacement at hydroelectric dams, on top of the complexity of running and maintaining new equipment along with dated components may be factors that contribute to the predicted increase.

6. Nuclear power (USD 198 per kW)


Nuclear power plants do not only command a hefty capital expenditure, they are a long shot from being cheap to operate and maintain. Major contributors to the steep O&M cost include the processing, enrichment and fabrication of uranium into fuel elements; waste disposal; and maintenance of a large number of pumps, valves, cables, circuit breakers and other mechanical and electrical components.

When permanent power plants become less efficient and less reliable...

Naturally, O&M costs, as illustrated in our discussion on large-scale hydropower facilities, are expected to increase as power plants age and become less efficient and less reliable. When old power plants continually shut down or become increasingly expensive to operate and maintain as they age, power utilities may be compelled to do a major refurbishment on existing power plants or build new ones as they rest the old ones.

While permanent power plants are being optimized or new ones are being constructed, power utility providers can turn to reliable and fuel-efficient temporary power solutions for supplemental electricity.


Temporary power plants can be swiftly transported from and to anywhere in the world, and can be installed in a matter of days as soon as the power equipment arrived at the site. Rental power plants do not require a huge capital expenditure and major civil works before they can be installed, and have been proven to deliver exceptional performance and outstanding fuel efficiency. Power utilities can pay for the “hired” electricity from their OPEX,

Rental power plants are scalable in that power utilities can choose to increase or decrease the power plants’ power output depending on the existing requirement. This means that in case the power requirement rises, they do not have to build another permanent power plant to satiate the demand. Once the need for additional electricity passes, power utilities can simply end the contract, and the temporary power plants will be demobilized, leaving no permanent facility idle or requiring continuous maintenance.

Temporary power plants are operated and managed by a team of certified and expert engineers, so clients can rest assured that the power plants will be running smoothly and will be providing sufficient electricity anytime it is needed.

For more information on temporary power solutions, visit www.altaaqaglobal.com

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