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Trash Incineration is the Most Expensive Way to Make Energy

The variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs are as follows:

Variable O&M costs include fuel and other consumable materials and supplies; raw water; waste and wastewater disposal expenses; purchased power (incurred inversely to operating hours), demand charges and related utilities; chemicals, catalysts and gases; ammonia for selective catalytic reduction (SCR), as applicable; and lubricants.

Source: "Updated Capital Cost Estimates for Utility Scale Electricity Generating Plants," Energy Information Administration, April 2013, p.6, Table 1. Full report here:

To summarize the EIA table in the charts above, we did the following:

  • Biomass: used the bubbling fluidized bed type, since combined cycle requires gasification and biomass gasification is highly unusual (most are conventional boilers or fluidized bed)
  • Coal: this is an average of single and dual advanced pulverized coal (the traditional sorts of coal plants that can no longer be built in the U.S.)
  • Geothermal: took the average of the two types
  • Hydroelectric: included only conventional and not pumped hydroelectric (neither of which tends to be proposed)
  • Natural Gas: this is an average of conventional and advanced combined cycle (the typical plants built, since combustion turbines and fuel cells are not commonly proposed)
  • Solar photovoltaic: this is an average of large and small