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The goal in Power Grid is to provide power for your city so it can grow. Secondarily, it is to raise money so you can grow your power grid. These are the power plant types available in the game. You can only build one per type; growth is achieved by upgrading the level of each plant. Upgrading increases the output, operational cost, satisfaction, and resource use if applicable of the power plant. Different power plants feature different initial costs to upgrade, different economic costs in terms of how cheaply or expensively they supply power, and different degrees to which they provide satisfaction, which acts as a brake on your city growth rate if not sufficient. Hydro, Marine, and Bio power plants all are capable of providing a steady power supply regardless of anything else. Coal, Combined Cycle, and Combined Heat and Power types will all drop in output and economy if the coal mine (former) and gas drill (latter two) are not upgraded in accord with them. All four wind and solar types drop in output when the weather does not provide 100% of their needs- you will find that the weather rarely does. 

This unnecessary break has to be here or the charts get messed upEdit

          

CoalEdit

The coal power plant is the third most expensive to upgrade, but supplies a top-quartile power output and has the best economy of all powerplants, inclusive of upgrades for its mine. Its economy is .235 unimproved, and .14 with a full tech tree. 

The plant takes an hour to turn on and off, so it is not suitable for a fine grid control plant.

Unlike in the real world, where coal plants are highly pollutive and usually a source of controversy, the coal plant and its mine in this game are a major source of happiness second only to gas, at least until level 18 or so, when other plants start to eclipse it for satisfaction per cost.

For convenience and ease of comparison, I have folded the cost of the mine and plant upgrades and operational costs together in the following table - if the two are at the same level, coal supply is always 100%. It is possible to lag behind in the mine upgrades to save on up-front costs; this results in the gradual erosion of the coal plant's output and economy.  

Level $-cost Research t-cost Happyness Money coal / hr gas / hr Energy Money / Energy

1

450

0

2:00

8

400

2,105

-

95

0.24

2

1100

0

2:36

10

460

u

-

106

0.23

3

1440

0

3:24

12

530

u

-

123

0.23

4

1885

0

4:27

14

610

u

-

145

0.24

5

2480

0

5:47

16

700

u

-

167

0.24

6

3255

0

7:35

18

805

u

-

190

0.24

7

4270

0

9:55

20

925

u

-

218

0.24

8

5605

0

12:57

22

1065

u

-

252

0.24

9

7370

0

16:54

24

1225

u

-

290

0.24

10

9690

0

22:05

26

1400

u

-

335

0.24

11

12750

0

28:50

28

1600

u

-

385

0.24

12

16700

0

37:39

30

1850

u

-

435

0.24

13

21955

0

49:10

32

2150

u

-

504

0.23

14

28845

0

1:04:13

34

2500

u

-

579

0.23

15

37960

0

1:23:52

36

2850

u

-

663

0.23

16

49925

0

1:49:31

38

3250

u

-

762

0.23

17

65675

0

2:23:01

40

3750

u

-

880

0.23

18

u

0

u

42

4300

u

-

915

0.21

19

75800

0

4:03:54

44

4950

u

-

1162

0.23

20

149900

0

5:18:18

46

5700

u

-

1343

0.24

21

197100

0

6:55:39

48

6500

u

-

1538

0.24

22

259500

0

9:03:09

50

7500

u

-

1771

0.24

23

342000

0

11:49:18

52

8650

u

-

2033

0.24

24

450500

0

15:25:37

54

10000

u

-

2340

0.23

25

594800

0

20:09:33

56

11500

u

-

2672

0.23
 

Combined Cycle GasEdit

The combined cycle gas plant provides the most power output for the initial money spent in the early game. (Note that it also costs science, but science is not usually as much of a limiting resource in the game as money.) It is beaten by its colleague CHP and by nuclear when these plants become available, but it remains very good by the standard of output for cost. Where it loses out is economy- it is twice as costly as coal to operate.

Fortunately, it is well-suited for use when necessary instead of as a base load power plant, due to its quick on/off time of 30 seconds. However, in the late game, you will most likely need all power plants turned on and both of the gas plants will disappoint you when it comes to profitability.

Due to the complexity of two power plants rather than one using the gas drill's product, I have not merged the costs in this chart. For your information, if gas drill, CC, and CHP are all on the same level, gas usage will be 100%. If you want to merge the costs for comparison's sake, a general rule of thumb is that CC accounts for about 2/3 of the costs of the drill, and CHP accounts for about 1/3. 

Level $-cost Research t-cost Happyness Money coal / hr gas / hr Energy Money / Energy

1

725

0

0:30

7

400

-

800

210

0.53

2

145

8

0:39

8

455

-

824

240

0.53

3

195

9

0:51

9

520

-

848

275

0.53

4

255

12

1:06

10

595

-

873

310

0.52

5

340

15

1:27

11

675

-

899

355

0.53

6

455

19

1:54

12

770

-

925

405

0.53

7

600

24

2:28

13

880

-

953

460

0.52

8

800

30

3:14

14

1000

-

981

525

0.53

9

7250

0

4:13

15

1150

-

1156

600

0.52

10

1450

78

5:31

16

1300

-

1190

680

0.52

11

1930

98

7:12

17

1500

-

1225

780

0.52

12

2565

122

9:25

18

1700

-

1261

890

0.52

13

3410

153

12:18

19

1900

-

1298

1010

0.53

14

4530

192

16:03

20

2200

-

1337

1155

0.53

15

6000

240

20:58

21

2500

-

1376

1315

0.53

16

8000

300

27:22

22

2850

-

1417

1500

0.53

17

u

u

u

23

u

-

-

u

Expression error: Unrecognised word "u".

18

14500

786

26:41

24

3700

-

1719

1950

0.53

19

u

u

u

25

u

-

-

u

Expression error: Unrecognised word "u".

20

u

u

u

26

u

-

-

u

Expression error: Unrecognised word "u".

21

34000

1536

1:48:53

28

5500

-

1876

2885

0.52

22

45300

1920

2:15:47

30

6250

-

1931

3290

0.53

23

60200

2400

2:5719

32

7150

-

1988

3750

0.52

24

80000

3000

u

34

u

-

u

u

Expression error: Unrecognised word "u".

25

725000

0

5:02:23

37

9250

-

2413

4875

0.53
  {{PowerPlant|level=5|price=700|science=0|time=4:21|happy=8|production=345|operation=130}

Combined Heat and Power GasEdit

The combined heat and power plant provides a very high output for a cheap price, it is second in both output and output/cost only to nuclear. (Note that it also costs science, but science is not usually as much of a limiting resource in the game as money.) But its economy is even worse than CC's, although the plant is still abundantly profitable due to its high output. 

This plant can be switched on and off in 30 seconds. 

Due to the complexity of two power plants rather than one using the gas drill's product, I have not merged the costs in this chart. For your information, if gas drill, CC, and CHP are all on the same level, gas usage will be 100%. If you want to merge the costs for comparison's sake, a general rule of thumb is that CC accounts for about 2/3 of the costs of the drill, and CHP accounts for about 1/3.

Hydroelectric DamEdit

The hydropower plant is a respectable choice in the early game; its construction costs and economy are middling. It becomes a star once the hydro tech tree is complete- operational costs drop to the point that its economy is a very close second only to coal. Its main drawback is that its output is only half that of the "heavy hitters", coal and gas. 

This plant can be switched on and off in 30 seconds, but due to its cheap operational costs and steady supply, you are likely to use it as a junior partner for your base load.  

Marine TurbinesEdit

This tidal power plant is a niche performer. Build and upgrade it if you have cash to blow and need an abundant supply of reliable, cost-effective power. It outputs twice as much power as hydro, though it costs four times as much to upgrade and is .05$/hr more costly- still cheap but slightly less so.

This plant can be switched on and off in 30 seconds, but due to its cheap operational costs and steady supply, you are likely to use it as a junior partner for your base load.  

PhotovoltaicEdit

Photovoltaic solar is a marginal to poor power plant before it is improved by a full tech tree. Once it is, the cheap upgrade costs of this power plant make it entirely worthwhile to upgrade to high levels for any of three purposes: to grab extra smiles for cheap, to race for level 25 or 30 power plants and the bonus money that comes with them, or to add some power to your storage tank on the (few) occasions that the game's unforgiving weather allows this plant to produce significant quantities. 

Both solar power plants are affected by the following harsh reality: random variation between these 15 states of output. 0, 0, 0, 12%, 12%, 25% 25% 25%, 37%, 37% 50%, 50%, 50%, 75%, 100%. This averages out to 31%. After a full tech tree, these figures become 0,0,0, 15,15, 32,32,32, 47,47, 64,64,64, 95, 127 for an average of 42%

This plant can be switched on and off in 30 seconds. Because of this, an attentive player with way too much time on his or her hands can dramatically boost the economy of this power plant to a value as low as .36 sticker value by "throttling", or turning the power plant off when sun conditions are not favorable. A disadvantage of throttling is that the plant cannot be upgraded while turned off. Throttling off at zero results in a significant improvement in economy (though it still may not be enough to make the plant profitable unless tech upgrades apply) with no loss in output, provided you don't forget to throttle back on. Throttling off at 37 or 50 and below can allow you to successfully turn a profit, but the average output drops some due to not collecting the smaller amounts of power. 

Concentrated SolarEdit

This desert-dwelling solar plant has no redeeming qualities that I can yet identify. It is crushingly expensive to upgrade and operate, the smiles it provides, while abundant, are no better than coal's and don't make up for it, the weather is cruel for this plant's output and economy, which are not impressive even with 100% sunshine (it badly loses money if not "throttled" with the sun). 

The on/off time for CSolar is 20 minutes, a mediocre statistic that adds insult to injury because it makes it harder, though not impossible, to turn this power plant on and off with the sun so it does not economically ruin you.

Onshore WindEdit

Onshore wind is marginally useful power plant before it is improved by a full tech tree. Once it is, it is cheap enough (it is comparable in cost to hydro; photo and bio are cheaper) that upgrading it is worthwhile. Though the weather only allows for about 33% of sticker output at first (the game weather varies randomly between 6 states, 0, 0, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%), upgrading boosts this to 66% (6 states are 40%, 40%, 40%, 63%, 90%, and 127%), an output pattern that is more abundant, more economical, and somewhat more dependable than before to the point of usefulness. 

This plant can be switched on and off in 30 seconds. This makes it suitable for throttling to boost its economy. 

An irritating quirk of the hydrogen station improvement unlocked by tech level 9 is that it is mutually exclusive with throttling. The hydrogen station basically makes it so that the three lowest output states are not 0,0, and 25 but 25, 25, and 25 (40,40,40 with other tech improvements). At 40%, the On Wind plant has an economy of 1$/Z, a rate that is pretty substandard but does NOT lose money unless your grid is substantially overproducing. Therefore, if you still decide to throttle on and off to boost your onshore wind plant's economy, you are in effect wasting the hydrogen upgrade, which in effect amounts to buying the privilege of not having to throttle if you don't want to. 

Offshore WindEdit

This oceanic power plant has no redeeming qualities that I can yet identify. It is crushingly expensive to upgrade and operate, the smiles it provides, while abundant, are no better than coal's and don't make up for it, the weather is cruel for this plant's output and economy, which are not impressive even with 100% wind (it badly loses money if not "throttled" with the wind). 

This plant can be switched on and off in 30 seconds. This makes it suitable for throttling to boost its economy. But it is only profitable 1/3 of the time, at 75% and 100% wind (it ekes out a profit at 50% with a full tech tree, as output is boosted to 63%)

Adding insult to injury, this plant does not benefit at all from tech 9. Instead of the 66% avg output enjoyed by the onshore wind plant, this plant languishes at 0,0, 32, 64, 95, 127 for an average of 53%, at which it still loses money if not throttled. 

BiomassEdit

The biomass plant should be upgraded at the same speed or faster than your other plants for one simple reason: it is dirt cheap (or perhaps I should say leaf cheap). Its economy is comparable to hydro, and is perfectly respectable. Its output is very low, but its per-unit cost is still only outdone by nuclear, and it's perfectly worthwhile spending, especially considering that the same money gets you :)s and progress towards the level 25 and 30 bonuses. With a complete tech tree, this power plant truly shines as its output receives a generous 59% boost, and becomes a grid contributor comparable to hydro with an economy that is only .04$/Z more costly per hour and with a little over half the initial costs. 

With a 1 hour on/off time, there is no point in turning this power plant off. Due to its cheap operational costs and steady supply, you are likely to use it as a junior partner for your base load. 

NuclearEdit

Any serious player of Power Grid must buy the nuclear plant, despite the complexities and annoyances of its use. Its 29,000Z output is unsurpassed by any other power plant until at least level 30 (I haven't gotten there yet so I don't know exactly when it happens), and you get all this power for a tiny fraction of the startup costs of all other power plants upgraded to the level that they produce the same amount of power. Its economy is also great, second only to coal, and its profitability is through the roof. 

With that said, once you go nuclear, there are several irritating... eventualities you must be prepared for. The main one is maintenance costs. They are cheap and easy at first, but over the course of a long time (a couple months), they pile up due to shortening service intervals and heightening costs. In the long run, the plant's economy and profitability therefore decrease, unlike others which hold steady. If you forget to authorize a scheduled maintenance, the plant shuts down and your population nose-dives brutally. 

One way to deal with the maintenance issues (and get the Park 3 reward building) is to demolish and rebuild your nuke. But this is challenging. The first steps cause devastating drops in your power supply that you must either be prepared for or swallow in the form of a serious population hit. The last steps incur punishing monetary costs. The 6 step process takes 3 days at the quickest. Even so, once maintenance costs become too punishing, it is worth your while to demolish and rebuild the plant. 

The final annoyance is negative satisfaction, -150 for the power plant. While still negligible compared to the :) effects of adequate and inadequate power supply, this is still enough to cut into your population growth rate if you don't have enough of a variety of power plants upgraded to high levels in your city. Adding insult to injury, the final three steam techs cancel themselves out. The added +:) for the coal plant and mine more or less equal the added -:) for the nuclear plant, such that it is impossible to improve the satisfaction statistic of the nuclear plant without demolishing it. 

It is likely that long-term stabilization at above level 35 in Power Grid is both possible and easier without the nuke. But between levels 15 or so and 35 or so, it is indispensable for fast growth and the profits that feed it. 

Pumped StorageEdit

While the PS plant is classified as an administrative building, it can be thought of as a power plant. This is an helpful plant with good statistics IF you have done a good job balancing your power supply and demand situation such that you overproduce off peak and underproduce on peak. (If BOTH these things are not true, PS is still useful as an insurance policy against temporary power shortfalls, but it can not be thought of as a profitable power plant). Another helpful synergy is green power plants with the pumped storage plant: it acts as a battery so that their erratic output can be put to sensible use by your grid. But using the PS effectively is extremely difficult. The rate at which it takes in excess power ("battery charge") is much slower than the rate at which it puts out, and it must be upgraded to a very high level to capture most of the difference between your grid at peak time and your grid at off peak. Even so, a skilled player can use this plant to even out the game's ups and downs in an economical manner. 

Smart Grid CenterEdit

While the SGC is classified as an administrative building, it can be thought of as a power plant. It should always be built as early as possible. In effect it provides a 7% boost to your power supply (by cutting waste from 25% to 20%). But after that, upgrades of the SGC should lag far behind those of other power plants. These upgrades are expensive, and each only saves you .5% of your total grid output in waste, so they should only be purchased when your waste is so high that getting a small fraction of it back (this can be thought of the same way as "generating" the power with a power plant) is worth the high cost of upgrading it. Upgrade SGC a little faster if you're a heavy energy trader: the "tax" of waste is applied to both sold energy and bought energy, and becomes quite crushing if you engage in high-volume "loop" trading. 

As your power output from other plants increases, the SGC will soon become the best deal in town and should be one of your leading upgrades. For an illustration, a level 20 SGC in a city producing 180000Z/hr "generates" through prevented losses 26100Z/hr, and does so at a cost of only 115$/hr, for an economy of .004! This demolishes the next closest competitor, coal, and every other power plant. The only things to keep in mind is that SGC is expensive to capitalize, meaning that it will take some long term planning to reap the sweet rewards of its economy, and that it is only worth something if other power plants are producing plenty of power. 

Level $-cost Research t-cost Happyness Money coal / hr gas / hr Energy Money / Energy

1

225

0

1:30

4

200

-

-

75

0.38

2

300

0

1:57

5

230

-

-

85

0.37

3

400

0

2:33

6

265

-

-

100

0.38

4

530

0

3:20

7

305

-

-

115

0.38

6

425

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

7

565

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

8

750

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

9

1000

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

10

1325

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

11

10200

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

12

2040

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

13

2700

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

14

3100

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

15

4800

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

16

6375

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

17

8475

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

18

11250

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

19

86700

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

20

-

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

21

455

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

22

455

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

23

455

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

24

455

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

25

455

19

unknown

-

-

-

-

-

-

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