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Published on February 3rd, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

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Thin-Film Solar Power To Be Sold For Less Than Coal Power

February 3rd, 2013 by  


Update: Some sentences and links have been added to this post to provide better context and comparison.

Update #2: I’ve published two articles on energy subsidies in response to comments on this post regarding that matter. They are: “Energy Subsidies — Clean Energy Subsidies vs Fossil Subsidies” and “Oil Subsidies & Natural Gas Subsidies — Subsidies For The Big Boys.”

According to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between El Paso Electric Company and First Solar, electricity will be sold from First Solar’s thin-film solar panels to El Paso Electric Company for 5.8 cents per kWh (a good 4-8 cents cheaper than new coal, which is in the 10-14 cents per kWh range).

A First Solar installation of some of its CdTe panels.

The name of the power plant is Macho Springs Solar Park. It is located in New Mexico, and it has an electricity generation capacity of 50 MW.

An interesting thing about this is that the average residential retail cost of electricity in the United States is 11.4 cents per kWh, which is twice as much as the price at which this power plant will be producing electricity. Also, the typical price of thin-film solar power is 16.3 cents per kWh, which is 2.8 times more.

Clearly, even compared to the wholesale price of electricity from the cheapest energy options, this is quite competitive.

First Solar may have a very bright future. CleanTechnica director Zachary Shahan recently had the opportunity to interview the CTO of the company while attending the World Future Energy Summit, International Renewable Energy Conference, and other Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week events. He has a post coming soon on the potential for thin-film solar to take the lead again in the solar panel market, as well as more on First Solar’s development plans. Stay tuned.

If you’re inclined to bring up subsidies, it should be noted that a Harvard Medical School study found that coal costs us an additional 9-27 cents per kWh in health costs. In a perfect world (economically), that would be added onto the LCOE of coal mentioned at the top (the 10-14 cents per kWh figure). That would bring the LCOE to 19-41 cents per kWh. Additionally, coal has received subsidies for about a century that dwarf anything solar has received.

As far as the plant above, the power purchase agreement should be signed by June.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa

Source: PV Magazine
Photo Credit: boutmuet via Flickr

This is part of an experimental “Sunday quickies” series in which we quickly cover stories we didn’t have time for during the previous week.


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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



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