First cost of SunMine is 5.3 M$ for 1.05 MW or about $5 per Watt.
Nowadays typical cost of a solar project is below $2 per Watt installed (see a-Toonie-a-Watt)
Why the difference?
- SunMine is a pilot project and a first in Western Canada. Pilot projects always cost more. The project required six years of preparation, such as preliminary studies, site monitoring, public consultation, environmental assessment, geotechnical studies, permitting, rezoning, financing and funding applications, interconnection studies and energy purchase contracting. These are one-time, fixed costs that have impacted significantly the total development cost.
- Albeit the largest in Western Canada, 1.05 MW capacity is relatively small. There are 23 PV solar farm greater than 100 MW in the world and more in development. Small PV systems cost more, equipment is purchased in smaller quantities, fixed costs such as engineering and the pre-development costs described above represent a higher fraction of total costs.
- There is a significant learning curve for personnel working on the project as it is the first time a ground-mounted, grid-connected solar plant in built in the region.
Incrementing SunMine after the first Megawatt is installed will be much cheaper. The site has plenty of space for expansion, the sub-stations can accommodate 7 MW without any modification and the external transmission lines can carry at least 200 MW, after the sub-stations are upgraded. A solar plant is modular, increasing the size won’t require much additional engineering.
It is very likely that under these circumstances, the expansion of SunMine could cost less than $2/Wp.