2018 Research Highlight in Manufacturing: Global Value Chain and Manufacturing Analysis on Geothermal Power Plant Turbines

Research output: NRELBrochure


Currently, geothermal project developers customize the size of the power plant to fit the resource being developed. The turbine is designed and sized to optimize efficiency and resource utilization for electricity production; most often, other power plant components are then chosen to complement the turbine design. These custom turbine designs demand one-off manufacturing processes, which result in higher manufacturing setup costs, longer lead-times, and higher capital costs overall in comparison to larger-volume line manufacturing processes. In contrast, turbines produced in standard increments, manufactured in larger volumes, could result in lower costs per turbine. In this study, we developed a manufacturing cost model to identify requirements for equipment, facilities, raw materials, and labor. Then we used discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis to calculate the minimum sustainable price (MSP). We analyzed three different cases 1) 1 MWe geothermal ORC turboexpander 2) 5 MWe ORC turboexpander and 3) 20 MWe geothermal steam turbine, and calculated the cost of manufacturing the major components, such as the impellers/blades, shaft/rotor, nozzles, inlet guide lanes, disks, and casings. The results showed that MSP could highly vary between 893 $/kW and 30 $/kW based on turbine size, standardization and volume of manufacturing. The analysis also showed that the economy of scale applies both to the size of the turbine and the number manufactured in a single run. As an example, the unit price of a 5 MW standard design turbine could be 150 $/W cheaper than the custom design. Sensitivity analysis indicated that these savings come largely from reduced labor costs for design and engineering and manufacturing setup. In addition to manufacturing cost savings, there is a delivery time saving up to 10 months, which could have a positive effect to construction financing operation time. Another advantage of these standard turbines is their adaptability to different geothermal systems by operating at off-design conditions. We also modeled off-design turbine efficiencies within the commercially-favorable operating range of a standard ORC compared to custom-designed ORC equipment. Than we used these performance calculations and power output capacities in a discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis of plant operations and financing, thereby creating representative techno economic models of a total geothermal power plant. I this scope we used NREL's System Advisor model (SAM) and performed DCF analysis of standard and custom design turbines using results from IPSEpro over range of temperatures of interest. In this scope 63 different off-design cases were analyzed. This helped us to answer the question; 'Can today`s capital cost savings compensate the future revenue losses due to lower electricity generation?' The results showed that, the net capital cost savings for the modeled 5 MW case study may reach up to +$1,298,672. Also, the difference between NPV of standard design and custom design turbine could reach up to +$733,940. To sum up, when all the things mentioned above are taken into consideration, it can be said that, the standard turbines are competitive over a wide range of temperatures and flow rates and the give positive NPV differences for certain cases near their design point.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/BR-6A20-72150


  • Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center
  • custom design
  • geothermal
  • highlight
  • turbines


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