Plunging Cost Of Solar PV (Graphs)

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This article was originally published on RenewEconomy.

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The plunging cost of solar PV from the end of 2008 to the start of 2012 has been well documented. It amounted to a fall of around 70 per cent. What is less well understood is that the price of solar modules continues to fall dramatically, as our Graph of the Day clearly shows.

This Graph of the Day is taken from Monday’s presentation of the annual results of Yingli Green Energy, which has overtaken Suntech and First Solar to become the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar PV modules.

It shows two things, the non-silicon cost per watt has fallen 25 per cent over the past 12 months, and the cost of silicon has fallen even further. In the first quarter of this year, Yingli expects its non-silicon costs to fall “another few cents” per watt, and for silicon prices to stay in the low $20s/w over the year.

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 3.22.49 PM

The good news for Yingli, and for other solar manufacturers, is that while manufacturing costs continue to fall, the price of modules is stabilising and may even rise. Yingli expects its margins to emerge from negative to positive mid-to-high single digits over the year.

The reason for this is that in Europe the levelised cost of the electricity for solar PV is now below the retail price of electricity in many markets, particularly in countries like Germany, Italy and Spain, and the economics of solar PV begin to make sense without government support.

“Solar solutions built on these new models will emerge during 2013 and form the backbone of sustainable PV industry and infrastructure within Europe.”

What’s more, the Japanese and the US markets will continue to surge, as will Latin American markets (where Yingli is sponsoring the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014). Most of all, China is emerging as the biggest market, supported by a 1RB/kWh (15.6c/kWh) tariff for utility scale solar, and free grid connection for all distributed solar installations less than 6MW. (Australian solar developers must weep in frustration.)

Still, that may not be enough. One analysis from Nomura Securities suggested that Yingli will need to make margins in the 20s (per cent) to deliver sustainable profit. Maxim Group, though, said Yingli’s strong cash balance gives it “years of breathing room.”

Here’s a late addition to the story, another graph of the plunging cost of solar PV over the last two years, showing the all-in cost of modules, provided by analysts at US-based Maxim Group.

falling price of solar

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Giles Parkinson

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

Giles Parkinson has 596 posts and counting. See all posts by Giles Parkinson

9 thoughts on “Plunging Cost Of Solar PV (Graphs)

  • How come thin-film and nanocrystal PV cells and modules are nor
    mentioned in this article? Most technologists believe that only these
    two technologies can give us the promised land of solar cost being
    the same as fossil-fuel-driven energy cost. May I request that these
    new technologies are given their due prominence in your coverage?

    • Thin film prices are only small pennies less than silicon panels. Thin film is not likely to gain a large portion of the market with silicon being so competitive.

    • That is an old myth which doesn’t seem to be coming true ever.

      Thin-film couldn’t prove its cost-reducing capabilities and the advent of Chinese silicon producers has pushed down silicon panel prices below costs promised by thin-film before.

    • Yingli does silicon so the article focuses on that, but I’m pretty sure the graph at the bottom includes thin cell.

      • And I’ll mention that both silicon and thin cell are cheaper than fossil fuels.

    • i think it’s simply because 9 of the top 10 solar manufacturers are manufacturing silicon modules.

      i actually do think thin-film solar will get rolling again in time — it seems there’s a lot of potential there (have had an article planned on that for about 2 months! :P) but it’s not going to happen until Chinese silicon panels hit their ultimate low price, stabilize, and give thin-film time to compete economically.

      but we’ll see.

      • There’s a lot of Malaysian made thin-film being used for utility scale solar in India. It’s good for the price sensitive buyer who is not too concerned about taking up a little extra area per watt. Sooner or later silicon solar will mature and be overtaken by thin-film technologies. Which sort, you may ask? Beats me.

  • Just for comparison, the average price for silicon panels yesterday (Mar 6, 2013) was $0.667/watt and the average price for thin-film was $0.620/watt. Lowest prices were only 3 cents apart (55 and 52 cents per).

    And since numbers are fun, Germany’s average (non-subsidized) cost for installed solar was 1.50 euros in February. That breaks the $2/watt threshold at $1.96 per. We’re on our way to $1/watt solar….

  • Pingback: San Diego Loves Green – “Solar Freedom Now” Unveils Plan For Cutting Red Tape, Solar PV Soft Costs 50%

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