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Solar power costs dropping, nearing competition
Reuters ^ | 6/22/2007 | Rebekah Kebede

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)

TOPICS: Business/Economy
KEYWORDS: energy; renewableenergy; renewenergy; solar
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To: OCCASparky

Inverter and automatic transfer switch and grid-tie interface setup is well under $10K, sometimes $4K if you have a smaller solar setup.

21 posted on 06/22/2007 6:56:23 AM PDT by ikka
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To: OB1kNOb

I think we should put solar panels on top of each of 12 new nuclear power plants when we build them!!!

22 posted on 06/22/2007 6:58:36 AM PDT by jdsteel (proud member of "Mothers And Children Against Criminal Aliens")
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To: Clara Lou
Usually with batteries:

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.

23 posted on 06/22/2007 7:00:04 AM PDT by Red6 (Come and take it.)
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To: AlexW
While new solar panels may be far advanced over the last few years, they still do not overcome the maintenance factor.

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.

24 posted on 06/22/2007 7:04:12 AM PDT by Tokra (I think I'll retire to Bedlam.)
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To: ikka

And what kind of wattage are you getting out of that?

25 posted on 06/22/2007 7:10:06 AM PDT by OCCASparky (Steely-Eyed Killer of the Deep)
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To: DBrow does make me wonder if there may be the possibility of a connection between government involvement and high prices.

Two words: College Tuition.

26 posted on 06/22/2007 7:10:41 AM PDT by randog (What the...?!)
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To: ikka
A couple of years ago, I was reading about solar power, and at the time, tge cost per watt was on the order of $4.95 if you were to buy a 125w panel.

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.

27 posted on 06/22/2007 7:18:53 AM PDT by Calvin Locke
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Comment #28 Removed by Moderator

To: Tokra
Yes they do - there are new solar panels that are roofing shingles.

Here's a link on the subject: It's interesing how wire hangs underneath that gets connected together under the roof.

29 posted on 06/22/2007 7:32:02 AM PDT by scripter ("You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." - C.S. Lewis)
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To: jdsteel
I think we should put solar panels on top of each of 12 new nuclear power plants when we build them!!!

I'd go for that. We could name them either
Mean & Green Nuclear Units 1 thru 12 or
Green Glow Units 1 thru 12 !!

30 posted on 06/22/2007 7:32:47 AM PDT by OB1kNOb (WHERE'S THE FENCE ? KILL BILL - II !! Vote Conservative. Vote Duncan Hunter - 2008)
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To: GoMeanGreen
To light Las Vegas, you would have to cover the whole state of Nevada with solar panels. Everything would be cut off from sunlight, no grass, no crops, cows sitting in shade. Building roofing shingles out of solar cells is quite another thing. They need to be replaceable and tough enough to stand hail and tree limbs falling. Making all roofing out of solar would cut the demand way down and could be a long term solution for rising demand.

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.

31 posted on 06/22/2007 7:41:32 AM PDT by chuckles
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To: Uncledave
This is nice....but.... (you knew that was coming, I guess)...

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.

32 posted on 06/22/2007 8:12:30 AM PDT by wbill
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To: Tokra
The roof is a fixed platform. Efficiency is a function of incidence angle. If you've got a north-south axis like I do, shingling the roof with solar cells would be a loser because the angle of incidence is not optimal.

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.

33 posted on 06/22/2007 8:21:52 AM PDT by chimera
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To: rstrahan

Thanks. I sure would appreciate the info on who did it for you so I could check it out.

34 posted on 06/22/2007 8:30:40 AM PDT by carjic
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To: chimera
No one claimed it was the perfect solution for absolutely everyone. For those who CAN use it - it is a great idea.

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.

35 posted on 06/22/2007 8:31:23 AM PDT by Tokra (I think I'll retire to Bedlam.)
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To: OB1kNOb

Solar hot water is a very good application and pays back.

We could displace quite a bit of diesel fuel from it.

36 posted on 06/22/2007 8:32:46 AM PDT by Uncledave
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To: Uncledave

“The outlook for solar energy is bright”? Every time I look out the window I see that solar energy is bright.

37 posted on 06/22/2007 8:34:26 AM PDT by Humvee (Beliefs are more powerful than facts - Paulus Atreides)
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To: GoMeanGreen
I have a solar array on my roof. My monthly PG&E bills run in the $10-$20 range.

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...

38 posted on 06/22/2007 8:35:46 AM PDT by null and void (Tired of living in the shadows? Move to Sunny Mexico!)
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To: Uncledave

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.

39 posted on 06/22/2007 8:37:06 AM PDT by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: Uncledave

$5 a watt until we hear otherwise.

40 posted on 06/22/2007 8:37:12 AM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the Treaty)
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