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Capacity Factor

“Capacity factor” is how much electricity a generating unit actually produces in a given year, divided by how much it would produce if it ran full-time at its full rated capacity. Capacity factors differ by technology, location, and year.

Typical global-average capacity factors in recent years are:

  • Cogeneration: ~83%
  • Nuclear ~80% (cumulative ~77%)
  • All micropower ~66%
  • Geothermal + small hydro + biomass/waste combustion ~60%
  • All renewables other than big hydro dams ~40%
  • Windpower 26%
  • Photovoltaics ~17%

Recent U.S. averages are:

  • Nuclear 91–92% (79% cumulative)
  • Wind 35–37%, with many over 40% and the best over 50%
  • Photovoltaics ~30% with 1-axis tracking, typically the cheapest solution
 
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