How big data simplifies sustainability cost scenarios

Assessing current and future costs

The second application, aptly called the Transparent Cost Database (TCDB), is being developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Its focus is on collecting and analyzing cost and performance data for clean energy generation projects such as rooftop solar or utility-scale wind farms; for renewable fuel technologies such as biofuels production plants; and for electric vehicles. The ultimate goal is to provide information to the public about not only about what these things will cost now, but what they will likely cost in the future based on input from different stakeholders such as utility companies and consumers.

TCDB provides "a first-cut estimate of current and projected costs and performance characteristics for vehicles, biofuels and electricity generation," said NREL analyst Austin Brown.

All the data in TCDB will be downloadable from OpenEI, the DOE's Open Energy Information platform which is still under development. Currently, the database contains estimates from more than 100 reports.