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Math Model Developed for Non-Economic Power Costs

PowerLines at sunset (Brookhaven National Lab)

(Brookhaven National Lab)

A doctoral student in Spain developed a mathematical model for calculating electrical power generation costs, including environmental and societal variables usually difficult to measure. Macarena Larrea at the University of the Basque Country in Usurbil, Spain devised the Electra II mathematical model, as she calls it, in her dissertation for a doctoral degree in engineering.

Larrea’s model takes into account external factors such as environmental impact, political effects, competitiveness, and security of supply for future generations. Putting a price tag on these variables is difficult, since it often requires making subjective judgments. The model instead attaches a degree of importance to the external factors, a more solid and reliable approach.

Using Larrea’s model, taking all all factors into account, nuclear energy emerges as the leading technology for generating electrical power. Among renewable sources, small-scale hydro power and wind farms scored highest overall. Fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, have the lowest initial costs, but carry long-term environmental penalties. Renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydro have the least environmental impacts, but often require substantial financial incentives from governments.

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