Published on December 8th, 2011 | by Joshua S Hill15
Solar Power Less Expensive than Analysts Purport
(Editor’s note: this is NOT even taking health, energy security, and environmental costs into account — not what this study is about — and it STILL finds that solar has reached grid parity in many places!)
The real cost of implementing solar power is being deliberately hidden from the public according to a study conducted at Queen’s University in Canada.
“Many analysts project a higher cost for solar photovoltaic energy because they don’t consider recent technological advancements and price reductions,” says Joshua Pearce, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “Older models for determining solar photovoltaic energy costs are too conservative.”
In addition, Dr. Pearce is certain that solar photovoltaic systems are near a ‘tipping point’ at which point they will be able to produce energy for approximately the same price as traditional sources of energy, and are at that point in places.
“It is clear PV has already obtained grid parity in specific locations,” according to the study, “and as installed costs continue to decline, grid electricity prices continue to escalate, and industry experience increases, PV will become an increasingly economically advantageous source of electricity over expanding geographical regions.”
When analysts attempt to determine the cost of solar photovoltaic systems, they include the costs of installation and maintenance, finance charges, the system’s life expectancy, and the amount of electricity it is able to generate.
However, Dr. Pearce notes that studies currently out there are simply ignoring the 70 percent reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2009.
Another key point Pearce and his team brought up is that the lifetime of a solar installation is far longer than 20 years (what has been used in previous LCOE analyses). Pearce says, ““we should be doing our economic analysis at least on a 30-year lifetime.”
Additionally, Dr. Pearce says that research now shows that the productivity of top-of-the-line solar panels only drops between 0.1 and 0.2 percent annually, rather than the much higher 1 percent drop used in many cost analyses.
Ignoring system and installation costs — which Dr. Pearce notes can vary widely — equipment costs are determined on dollars per watt of electricity generated. One study released in 2010 estimated that the equipment cost of solar photovoltaic systems was $7.61, while in 2003 another study set the amount at $4.16.
According to Dr. Pearce, the real cost is now under $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market.