Skip to comments.Solar power costs dropping, nearing competition
Posted on 06/22/2007 6:06:55 AM PDT by Uncledave
Solar power costs dropping, nearing competition Thu Jun 21, 2007 3:35PM EDT
By Rebekah Kebede
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Solar energy is fast closing the price gap with conventional U.S. power sources and is likely to drop to near even in cost in many regions in the next few years, industry sources said this week.
Price declines for the clean energy have been driven by the ramp up in production of solar cells and panels and advances in technology that have increased the cells' efficiency.
Under current laws that expire in 2008, installation of solar power systems are subsidized by a 30 percent investment tax credit that helps narrow the gap between the cost of 20 to 40 cents per kwh and typical U.S. retail electricity costs of about 10.5 cents per kwh.
Congress is debating a possible extension and expansion of current solar subsidies as part of a broader energy legislation package.
But much of solar's viability hinges on whether the systems can feed power directly into the grid systems used by utilities, Michael Ahern, CEO of solar module manufacturer First Solar Inc., told Reuters Wednesday at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum.
Currently, utilities can buy power from low-cost coal-fired plants for around 4 cents per kilowatt, and sell the power to households and business at about 12 cents per kwh, although prices can be much higher during peak usage hours, said Ahearn.
However, in a supply-constrained market such as California, Ahearn said, power prices ranged from 12 to 23 cents per kwh, making solar nearly competitive.
First Solar hopes to offer retail energy buyers competitive power prices of 8 to 11 cents per kwh as early as 2010, Ahearn said.
"If we can hit 8 to 10 cents, I think we're going to open some markets," he said.
With power prices climbing and the cost of solar power falling, the outlook for solar energy is bright, said Alf Bjorseth, CEO of Swedish company Scatec.
In some markets, solar energy is already a cost effective source of power, Bjorseth said, and that trend is set to expand, especially in larger markets.
New technologies such as thin film solar modules and the use of nanotechnology will further boost solar energy affordability, according to company executives at the conference.
Tempering that optimism, however, were several challenges to the industry, including a shortage of the silicon that is used to make solar modules, which has hampered industry growth, said Bjorseth.
The regulatory environment may also prove to be an obstacle to solar power, according to Ahearn.
Investing in new solar installations also remained risky because no clear regulatory framework existed to compare how renewables would fare economically over the long-term against more conventional sources, even with federal subsidies, Ahearn said.
(Additional reporting by Matt Daily)
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NICE! Get off the middle eastern muzzie oil teat...
“NICE! Get off the middle eastern muzzie oil teat...”
It may help do that, but only indirectly.
Most of the power generation is done by something other than oil. Oil is used primarily for gasoline, and also plastics and other manufactured products.
Unless we can harness the existing coal we are using to power our cars this won’t reduce the dependence on foreign oil.
But solar is still a great idea for the long run and hopefully will prove economically viable.
First Solar hopes to offer retail energy buyers competitive power prices of 8 to 11 cents per kwh as early as 2010
They seem to be expecting pretty enormous cost savings in the next couple of years. I hope they make it, but I wont hold my breath.
How “clean” is solar energy? I’m talking about producing the solar cells and then replacing old ones and disposing of them? How long do they last? [I know my solar-powered calculators won’t die. Those cells work for years and years.]
That would be the icing on the cake. The cake part is being able to keep the household running at some capacity in the event of a major power outage. We really want to do solar on our rural house (yet to be built) but we’ve been pondering it for our current home in NVA.
Ask how the “store” the energy.
Problem is, even in high solar radiation areas, it’s not a very “power dense” source. Also, it’s a SUPPLEMENT, not a replacement.
The costs associated with generation of solar go way beyond just the PV cells. Want to hook into your home? Better have an inverter, an isolation switch so you don’t backfeed onto the grid in case of outage, etc, etc...and you’re looking at about 25-40K for that kind of system.
Unless you’re paying over a grand a month for electricity, it’s hardly worth it.
NICE! Get off the middle eastern muzzie oil teat..
As the recent problems and discoveries have proven, the muzzie oil teat, is a far less offensive problem, than being on the Chinese food teat. Additionally, the directions taken or not taken by the US government, indicate we won’t soon be off either teat any time soon.
The blatantly stupid burning of our food supply in the vain hope that there are viable alternatives at this time, for the use of crude oil and its various cracked products, is beyond belief. The world wide rise in food prices because of this idiocy, should have been expected.
Oil is the product, drilling is the means, refining yields the products that every engine needs. Get on with reality and suspend the stupidity. The more we drill the better life will be, and might even cause the price of oil to come down, because the more there is the lower the price, per economic rules.
I live in the Rio Grande Valley Texas and have been trying to get Solar for my house for years. I call or email the places i have found and they never return my call. Don’t want my money i guess. Must have something to to with TEXAS law.
“Ask how the store the energy.”
Hehe. I can’t speak for everyone but my buddy has a small circuit he runs from solar. I think he uses EIGHT car batteries for storage, for that small circuit.
Man here in DFW put solar cells on roof, actually generates enough to make the meter run backwards. Light bill declined to $40 per month. However, the HOA is trying to force him to remove them as an “eyesore”, even though they’re not visible.
Seems that until we can get rid of these idiots in HOAs, govt, there will be far too many problems to make solar power viable.
When you have a problem with a public utility, you call and they fix it at no charge.
When your megabuck solar panel acts up, you call a high priced technical company to come clean the bug or bird doo, repair the frozen pipe, clean off the tree sap, or whatever.
I had a friend that tried wind generated electricity. It was
the most expensive and unreliable electricity in his life.
When in Romania back in 2004, I saw many large apartment buildings that had been heated with massive solar collectors that were mounted on the roofs during the commie era.
All of them are now just rusting scrap iron, not worth the cost of removing.
I’d never buy a property in an HOA development.
OK—how do they store the energy? [I forgot about that part.]
If memory serves me correctly I believe Israel (or maybe it’s China) mandates that new construction install solar water heaters. (I’m not for mandates, but I do think solar water heaters should be given a lot more attention.) I know both countries have put a lot of effort into making those units more efficient. I think it’s one easy (and can be inexpensive) way that we in America could be saving a lot of energy (especially in the sunny regions) since hot water heaters are one of our main residential uses of electricity.
Inverter and automatic transfer switch and grid-tie interface setup is well under $10K, sometimes $4K if you have a smaller solar setup.
I think we should put solar panels on top of each of 12 new nuclear power plants when we build them!!!
Furthermore the production of a solar cell is energy intense. Power demanded is often not there during peak usage times and many of those people with this power have plans where they pump the power into the grid but then pull the power when they need it. But guess what’s producing the power when they need it? Coal, gas, or nuclear. Solar works real good, as long as you can fall back on tradition power generation or have a big battery bank behind you're house.
Do you know what a hail storm will do to your $15,000 worth of solar panels on a roof? Minor detail I guess.
Yes they do - there are new solar panels that are roofing shingles. You re-roof your house with those instead of ordinary shingles. They don't look much different that other roofing materials. They produce 123W per square meter - the roof on a 45' X 60' house will produce enough electricity to supply an average family. Zero maintenance and free electricity to boot. They are lightweight and wind & water proof. They are also guaranteed for 20 years.
Ovonics has come out with a thin flexible solar panel that can be rolled up like a roll of Saran wrap - again no maintenance.
And what kind of wattage are you getting out of that?
Two words: College Tuition.
Throw in average cloud cover, angle to the Sun, panel deterioration, effects of man and nature (that, a tree or building pops up cutting off a portion of sunlight), storage costs, inverter, etc., and it becomes very impractical for most people.
Heck, even Art Bell said it wasn't worth it for him to "sell" power to the utility, and he lives in the desert.
So, unfortunately, I think it's going to remain the province of eco-weenies, tinkerers, people with few other alternatives, and of course, government bribes or mandates for quite a while.
Here's a link on the subject: http://www.oksolar.com/roof. It's interesing how wire hangs underneath that gets connected together under the roof.
I'd go for that. We could name them either
Mean & Green Nuclear Units 1 thru 12 or
Green Glow Units 1 thru 12 !!
As for myself, I could replace all my usage except for my air conditioners. I would keep them on the grid. I have a large roof area and seperate garage area.
Solar power relies too heavily on the weather, IMHO. A few cloudy days, or one good thunderstorm, will pretty well sink an array.
Does that mean that we don't use it? Or that it should never be used as an addition? Nope. I especially think that it's good for water heating (the water serves as a convenient long-term heat sink, and is nice, but not absolutely necessary). But I think that these pie-in-the-sky articles hurt more than they help, becuase it gives people that don't know the first thing about electricity or power generation the ammo to say "See I told you so...". Like the fool on FR that told me the US could convert 100% to wind power because "Denmark did it."
That's just my 2c.
Couple that with the fact that where we are the number cloudy days is something like 70-80%, then I think it would be a double loser. I don't know about the rest of you, but I want electricity to be there on demand. Something that has a 10-20% availability isn't going to cut it.
Thanks. I sure would appreciate the info on who did it for you so I could check it out.
The Wright brothers didn't start out with a 747, Henry Ford didn't start out with a Lotus and Thomas Edison didin't start out with a Dolby Surround Sound system.
There are always the first steps. If people weren't willing to take those first steps - we'd still be living in caves and gnawing on raw meat.
Solar hot water is a very good application and pays back.
We could displace quite a bit of diesel fuel from it.
“The outlook for solar energy is bright”? Every time I look out the window I see that solar energy is bright.
OTOH, I’m not running an A/C 24/7.
OTOOH, I could triple the number of panels on the same inverter.
OTOOOH, every “excess” Watt I generate is a “gift” to PG&E...
I don’t know why more isn’t done with passive solar. My understanding is that the Mall of America is heated entirely by passive solar technology. Basically, the glass roof functions like a greenhouse.
$5 a watt until we hear otherwise.
Mainly the cost to the customer is being reduced through gov't subsidy if you can get it. The cost of solar cells does not appear to be moving, hasn't moved in 1/4 century.
Solar will reach cost effectiveness for most people within the next 10 to 20 years or less based on current trends.
If I lived out west in a desert state its a no brainer... here, in the temperate rain forest, its a more dubious proposition.
You heard now - I just copied this off a "solar power cost" query on ask.com:
"Raw silicon crystaline cells are produced near the $3 per watt level now".
Thanks for the ping, bump for later reading
I just want my own nukular reactor and the hell with everybody else.
Like I said, $5 a watt remains. Production costs are not retail costs.
Availability and reliability seem to be the Achilles' Heel of any kind of system that depends on the vagaries of natural phenomena. Just the other night it was bloody hot and humid with not a hint of a whiff of breeze in the air. But I was very happy to get a good night's sleep thanks to the faithful old A/C and the reliable old grid. A windmill would likely have zero output under the same conditions.
Probably the opposite. As the article states, one of the biggest costs was in getting sufficient production capacity. The government subsidies would have helped to create that capacity without generating correspondingly high prices for the buyer.