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Introduction

Cities Skylines offers different methods to produce electricity. At the start of the game you will only have access to the Wind Turbine and Coal Power Plant. The further you progress the more you unlock! You can construct water based  Wind Turbine’s, Oil power plants, Solar Power plants and even nuclear power plants.  How does it work and which should you choose?

First let’s do a quick recap of the Power lines before I will attempt to calculate the “best” power plant!

Power lines

Power lines can be a bit confusing at first. Basically all buildings emit a blue power zone. Buildings close to each other will create a single zone. Power lines will need to be constructed to connect different zones together. Let’s take a look:

You need to construct powerlines to connect different zones together. In this case the power line is not connecting the two zones
This power line is not connected.

In this example the power line is not correctly placed for two reasons

  • The yellow sign shows it is not connected to a zone (meaning you have to place it INSIDE the other blue zone)
  • The power line is not needed because the houses already joined the same power zone as the wind turbine

Instead power lines should be constructed like this:

You need to construct powerlines to connect different zones together. In this case the power line is connecting the windmill to the zone
Power lines are connecting because each end is placed inside the different zones.

The best power plants in Cities Skylines

Overview table

Cost price budget power 100% investment per MW pollution
Wind Turbine 6000 10 80 8 750 0
Advanced Wind turbine 12000 10 200 20 600 0
Coal Power Plant 19000 14 560 40 475 50
Oil Power Plant 50000 16 1920 120 125 35
Solar Power 80000 7,5 1200 160 500 0
Nuclear Power Plant 200000 12,5 8000 640 312,5 0
Hydro Power Plant variable variable 3200 variable variable 0

Construction cost and upkeep:

Cities Skylines offers plenty of diversity in terms of construction cost and upkeep.

Graph showing the construction cost and upkeep of all energy producing buildings.

Wind Turbines are cheap to construct and have extremely little upkeep. At the same time the Oil Power plant is relatively cheap to construct but has insane upkeep. Solar and Nuclear power are so expensive that they truly endgame.

Costs per MWh

But what about efficiency? In the end efficiency is about the upkeep cost ratio. Let’s take a look

Graph showing the investment cost and cost per MW of all energy producing buildings.

If we look at cost per MW then we can draw the following conclusions

  • Solar Power is a clear winner. It only costs €7.5 per MW and can be placed anywhere on the map.
  • Wind Turbines have a low upkeep but require a serious investment.
  • Only resort to Coal Power Plant when you do not have access to better buildings.
  • Oil Power is something you should NEVER construct, it is too expensive in the long run.
  • Nuclear Power only makes sense when you  need  space or lack the cash needed for solar power.

Exceptions

Coal power plants

Coal Power plants burn actual coal in order to function. When constructed they will come with 9 weeks worth of coal.

Coal Power plants need to burn coal in order to function. When you construct a Coal Power Plant you will get 9 weeks coal.
A new Coal Power Plant will have 9 weeks worth of coal stored.

 

When their coal reserves drop they will order in coal from “off map”. Meaning that a truck full of coal will have to drive to the coal plant and deliver it’s coal. So it is very important to have a working road connection that is linked to the outside highway. An endgame alternative would be to use a Train Cargo Station to import coal. However by that time you will have access to the superior Solar Power plant.

When the coal reserves drop a truck full of coal will have to drive to the coal plant and deliver it's coal.
A Truck is delivering a fresh load of coal so the Coal Power Plant can continue to function!

Wind Turbines

Before jumping to conclusions you must realize that there are some mechanics in place. First of all Wind Turbines generate MW based on their placement. Secondly they create a lot of noise pollution. Therefore it is probably a bad idea to spam the entire map with Turbines.

The correct placement is very important when bulding a Wind Turbine!
Moving this Wind Turbine will increase the electricity produced from 3 MW to 7 MW!

But what is the point where Wind Turbines no longer make sense? I did some calculations and came to the following conclusion

  • A land based Wind Turbine can rival a Coal Power Plant in terms of upkeep at 7 MW
  • A water based Advanced Wind Turbine can rival a Coal Power Plant at 3 MW

Recommendation: Only place Wind Turbines in dark blue zones.

Hydro Power Plant

The Hydro power plant is a flexible building that can be constructed across any river within your territory. The power output ranges from 0 to 1600 MW depending on the water height difference. It has a fixed upkeep of 3200. Therefore it can be extremely expensive (when it is generating 90 MW) or very cheap. Note that you can actually get an estimate from the in-game tool tip while dragging out this building.

The power output ranges from 0 to 1600 MW depending on the water height difference. It has a fixed upkeep of 3200. So its only a viable option if you get enough MW.
This hydro dam only produces 32 MW at a cost of €3200 per week!

Incineration plant

Incineration plant also produce 12 MW of power. However they should not be relied upon as a source of power. Mainly because their €1440 weekly upkeep means each MW will cost you a whopping €120. Therefore it is 16 times more expensive than the Solar Power Plant. In addition it also pollutes the ground.

Incineration plants are very expensive and pollute the ground. They do dispose of garbage.
This Incineration plant just send out 6 garbage trucks.

Summary

At the start of the game you have to choose between Wind Turbines and Coal Power plants. Always choose Wind Turbines as long as you can plop them for 6 MW or better. They will cost you a bit more but their low upkeep keep your finances healthy. Eventually you will be forced to use Coal Power because they provide 40 MW (6 Wind Turbines).

If your map supports it then you can start replacing coal power as soon as you unlock the advanced wind turbines at 2600 citizens. Besides saving upkeep this will also lower pollution. Skip the Oil Power and wait until you unlock the Solar Power plant at 20.000 citizens. If you are going to experiment with the Hydro dam then I strongly recommend to save your game!

Version history

  • 11/3/2015 Added Hydro Power Plant and Incineration Plant
  • 12/3/2015 Updated incorrect graph

Questions?

Got questions or other remarks? Feel free to post in the comments below.

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Comments:

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  • John Alexander Svensson

    Strongly agree with saving your game before building hydroelectric. I managed to divert the entire river and flood 13 of my city.

    • Sebastiaan de Kooter

      Ouch! I hope you had a savegame :).

      • John Alexander Svensson

        Nope, I had to rebuild the entire thing. Luckily it’s easy to manage the economy in the game = )

  • Liam J. McGee

    Wouldn’t nuclear actually be better than solar because the investment per megawatt is lower? Even though initial costs are higher per megawatt?

    • Sebastiaan de Kooter

      Time passes quite quickly in Cities Skylines therefore investment cost are trivial as long as you have the money.

  • Mariosam100

    So do you not need one power line in the blue area to function it all?

    • Sebastiaan de Kooter

      No you will need from one blue zone to another blue zone. The first screenshot was already a single zone.

  • Anthenor Júnior

    “Only place Wind Turbines must be placed in a dark blue zone.” Sorry but uncompreensible.

    • Sebastiaan de Kooter

      Thanks for finding the typo, it has been corrected.