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CEIC-11-04

"The Cost of Solar Power Variability"
Colleen Horin, Gilbert E. Cohen, and Jay Apt

Abstract:
We compare the power spectra of a year of electricity generation data from the Nevada Solar One solar thermal plant, a Tucson Electric Power solar PV array, and a Texas wind farm. The analysis shows that solar photovoltaic electricity generation is 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 solar PV and solar thermal. We calculate the cost of variability of the two solar power sources by adding the costs of ancillary services and the energy required to compensate for its variability and intermittency. We compare this result with a previous estimate of the cost of wind variability and present a method for calculating the cost of variability taking into account imperfect forecasts.

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