The LCOE Calculator uses a simple fixed-charge rate (FCR) method to calculate a project's levelized cost of energy (LCOE), using only the following inputs:

  • Capital cost, $ (TCC)
  • Fixed annual operating cost, $ (FOC)
  • Variable operating cost, $/kWh (VOC)
  • Fixed charge rate (FCR)
  • Annual electricity production, kWh (AEP)

The LCOE Calculator uses the following equation to calculate the LCOE:

LCOE = ( FCR * TCC + FOC ) / AEP + VOC

The fixed charge rate is the revenue per amount of investment required to cover the investment cost. For details, see pp. 22-24 of Short W et al, 1995. Manual for the Economic Evaluation of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technologies. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. NREL/TP-462-5173. (PDF 6.6 MB)

This method is an alternative to the cash flow method used by SAM's other financial models. It is appropriate for very preliminary stages of project feasibility analysis before you have many details about the project's costs and financial structure. It also useful for large-scale studies of market trends, such as those used for the NREL Annual Technology Baseline study.

When comparing LCOEs generated by the two methods, note the following:

  • Compare the LCOE Calculator FCR method's real LCOE to the Single Owner cash flow method's real levelized cost. Note that when the NPV is zero, the real and nominal LCOE should be the same. If the NPV is negative, the LCOE for the two methods will not be the same.
  • IRR and IRR year in Single Owner results should be the same as IRR target and IRR target year inputs. In some cases the year IRR is achieved may be less than the target IRR year, in which case the LCOE for the two methods will not be the same.

For more details about comparing the Single Owner and LCOE Calculator methods for calculating the LCOE, see LCOE in SAM using FCR and Single Owner Financial Models (PDF 182 KB). For an LK script that calculates LCOE Calculator inputs from inputs for the Single Owner financial model, assuming you have followed the steps in the PDF, see in the LK Scripts for SAM collection.