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Content displaying: CAPEX Definition

Annual Technology Baseline 2017

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Recommended Citation:
NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory). 2017. 2017 Annual Technology Baseline. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Please consult Guidelines for Using ATB Data:

Land-Based Wind Power Plants

CAPEX Definition

Capital expenditures (CAPEX) are expenditures required to achieve commercial operation in a given year.

For the ATB - and based on EIA (2016a) and the System Cost Breakdown Structure defined by Moné et al. (2015) - the wind plant envelope is defined to include:

  • Wind turbine supply
  • Balance of system (BOS)
    • Turbine installation, substructure supply, and installation
    • Site preparation, installation of underground utilities, access roads, and buildings for operations and maintenance
    • Electrical infrastructure, such as transformers, switchgear, and electrical system connecting turbines to each other and to the control center
    • Project-related indirect costs, including engineering, distributable labor and materials, construction management start up and commissioning, and contractor overhead costs, fees, and profit.
  • Financial costs
    • Owner's costs, such as development costs, preliminary feasibility and engineering studies, environmental studies and permitting, legal fees, insurance costs, and property taxes during construction
    • Onsite electrical equipment (e.g., switchyard), a nominal-distance spur line (^lt;1 mile), and necessary upgrades at a transmission substation; distance-based spur line cost (GCC) not included in the ATB
    • Interest during construction estimated based on three-year duration accumulated 10%/10%/80% at half-year intervals and an 8% interest rate (ConFinFactor).

CAPEX can be determined for a plant in a specific geographic location as follows:

CAPEX = ConFinFactor*(OCC*CapRegMult+GCC).
(See the Financial Definitions tab in the ATB data spreadsheet.)

Regional cost variations and geographically specific grid connection costs are not included in the ATB (CapRegMult = 1; GCC = 0). In the ATB, the input value is overnight capital cost (OCC) and details to calculate interest during construction (ConFinFactor).

In the ATB, CAPEX represents a typical land-based wind plant and varies with annual average wind speed. Regional cost effects associated with labor rates, material costs, and other regional effects as defined by EIA (2016a), DOE (2015) expand the range of CAPEX. Unique land-based spur line costs for each of the 130,000 areas based on distance and transmission line costs expand the range of CAPEX even further. The figure below illustrates the ATB representative plants relative to the range of CAPEX including regional costs across the contiguous United States. Note that the ATB Base Year estimate for TRG 4 is equivalent to the market data observed capacity-weighted average wind plant CAPEX in the same year. The ATB representative plants are associated with a regional multiplier of 1.0.

chart: CAPEX definition for land-based wind in the 2017 ATB

Standard Scenarios Model Results

ATB CAPEX, O&M, and capacity factor assumptions for Base Year and future projections through 2050 for High, Mid, and Low projections are used to develop the NREL Standard Scenarios using the ReEDS model. See ATB and ATB and Standard Scenarios.

CAPEX in the ATB does not represent regional variants (CapRegMult) associated with labor rates, material costs, etc., but the ReEDS model does include 134 regional multipliers (EIA 2016a).

The ReEDS model determines the land-based spur line (GCC) uniquely for each of the 130,000 areas based on distance and transmission line cost.


DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 2015. Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States. U.S. Department of Energy. DOE/GO-102015-4557. March 2015.

EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration). 2016a. Capital Cost Estimates for Utility Scale Electricity Generating Plants. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy. November 2016.

Moné, C., A. Smith, M. Hand, and B. Maples. 2015. 2013 Cost of Wind Energy Review. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.