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Friday, March 22, 2013


It was exactly a week ago that I posted on the growth of solar photovoltaics.  Today, Paula Mints of SPV Market Research/Strategies Unlimited, reported with further details about the continuing drop in the price of PV modules:

  2011     $1.37/peak watt
  2012     $0.79/PW
  2013     $0.65/PW  (today)

A 50% decline in less than two years.  Remarkable!  Better yet, the slide is continuing, as the cost of PV modules should further decrease to $0.46/PW by the end of the year.  This would mean a price reduction of more than a factor of 10 in 20 years.  Note, though, that rise in prices beginning a decade ago.  This was caused by feed-in tariffs legislated to promote solar energy.  Demand jumped, and inventories dropped.  While it will be more difficult to again orchestrate, you can bet that manufacturers are developing a plan to repeat this economic windfall.

Wonder how solar cell efficiencies are doing?  With much hesitation, I provide the following:

You can click on that graphic to read it.  While efficiencies have zoomed beyond 40%, no one sells these systems because they're too complicated and exotic.  Anything you install these days falls below 20% (12%-18%).

How are some companies doing?

Note that not many companies are making much money.  Yet another firm, Abound Solar of Colorado, which received a $400 loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, went bankrupt last year.  Even China's Suntech Power just filed for bankruptcy.  

Further, these are manufacturers.  Those companies buying these modules and installing them face a totally different challenge.  Labor costs continue to increase, crazy companies enter the scene to both distort and corrupt the marketplace, governments pull back incentives and more.  

Thus, a range of factors comes into play when converting module to installed cost.  Then there is that matter of economic reality.  No matter what the installation cost might be, or extent of government incentives, if you live where the insolation is low, or cloud cover high, it would not be worth your while to go this route.  Residential prices are in the $5-$7/watt range (depends on where and when), whereas utility costs for systems larger than 10,000 kW are around $3/watt.  Thus, the PV module cost is only 10% of the total installed cost for homes.  Cells could drop to zero, and you still can't compete with fossil fuels / nuclear today!   But as that cartoon shows, are companies looking up or down?

But, ah, once in place, you are set for your lifetime (should be good for 20, if not 30 years, with limited degradation), whereas you can be sure that electricity from conventional power plants will only increase.  Consider life cycle cost in your final analysis.  While this photo is just one of my sunsets, no doubt solar PV is at sunrise.


1 comment:

Jackson Buddy said...

Really very informative Topic about Photovoltaic.

keep sharing