Clean Power

Published on February 1st, 2014 | by Giles Parkinson


PV Solar’s Path To 2 Cents Per KWh

February 1st, 2014 by  

Originally published on RenewEconomy.

Today’s Graph of the Day is a follow-up to our article on Thursday on Trina Solar, and its forecasts for the coming  years for the solar PV industry.

One aspect we touched on was the levellised cost of electricity. Trina’s goal is to bring the cost of solar PV down to around 6c/kWh, which it thinks can happen within 5 years. At that price it will be competitive with gas in most countries, coal in some countries, and new build fossil fuels just about everywhere.

But how does it get below that – to say, perhaps, the 2c/kWh mark imagined by solar research leaders such as Eicke Weber, of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy.

That’s what makes this graph so interesting. It seems to suggest that solar PV will have a natural base at some point. The biggest gains can be made in the efficiency levels. But the other key measure is the cost of manufacturing. Trina’s initial goal is to lift efficiency to an average 20 per cent and reduce the cost of manufacturing by nearly one third.

To get it much below that would require the sort of manufacturing cost reductions that might only be envisaged by the sort of multi-gigawatt plants envisaged by Weber for the EU, or even the 3GW manufacturing complex announced recently by Hanergy – although that is for thin film solar PV.

trina forecasts

The other graph points out that even with the savings in modules, it actually only represents less than one quarter of the costs that make up the LCOE of the technology. This graph below illustrates the point – inverters, labour, cables and racking and interconnection costs make up the rest.

trina components


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About the Author

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.

  • George Nitschke

    Just don’t tell the rate payer the true cost of balancing the PV … keep that pea moving between the shells.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You think ratepayers would get upset were they to find that it costs about $0.0005/kWh to integrate solar into the grid?


      Imagine how upset they would be were they to find out that it costs even more to integrate coal and nuclear.

      Imaging how upset they would be were they to find out the external cost of coal and nuclear electricity. Were they to find out that they are paying around $0.20/kWh for their coal-electricity they’d likely have the big one.

  • tibi stibi

    what i find interesting is that in the shops the solar panels don’t seem to get higher efficiencies. i see the same panels i bought 4 years ago in the shop today. although for a bit less money…

    • doug card

      Mostly due to oversupply. Too many panels, too soon. The more efficient modules are ready to manufacture, but the current factories can already supply all we need for cheap. In another year or two the new factories will come on line with the higher efficiencies.

      • Doug Cutler

        Any idea what these efficiency gains will look like?

      • Sean

        flog them to the third world to replace kero lamps, throw in a phone charger and it would be a huge hit.

        • A Real Libertarian

          “flog them to the third world to replace kero lamps, throw in a phone charger and it would be a huge hit.”

          It’s already happening.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Already happening. Bangladesh must be over a million micro-solar installations. They passed 500k a couple years back and were installing 1,000 per day.

  • Will E

    about the use of your generated solar power. Use it for your EV car, and make your house all electric. use what you produce. saves a lot . saves me 6000 Euros a year every year, once installed.
    how many dollars is that? over lets say 20 years.

  • JamesWimberley

    Gins in conversion efficiency are crucial for lowering costs below 5c/kwh, because much of the BOS – as Trina’s chart points out – is proportional to area not power. I’m grateful to CleanTechnica for following the many blue-sky ideas that will one day give us affordable solar cells at 40% efficiency.
    On mounting: the module majors have been forced in the 2012-2013 downturn to go downstream into turnkey utility projects. Hopefully this has given them experience and ideas for reducing mounting and cabling costs.

  • Omega Centauri

    While cables, routers, installation costs are proportional to area, I suspect there is still a lot of cost to be wrung out here.
    Of course for LCOE, the cost of money (financing) is crucial.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If you’re coming to market with one of the cheapest sources of electricity and selling at market rates it would seem that you would get a very attractive rate.

      • Omega Centauri

        I think thats often not the case today. Getting to the sort of interest rates consistent with a low risk revenue stream would make a big difference.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Not today. But not too far off, in my opinion.

          We’re seeing solar being sold in the US SW for 5 cents per kWh. Make that about 6.5 cents without subsidies. We shouldn’t be far off from 5 cents, unsubsidized.

          • Omega Centauri

            How many PPA’s have come in at $.05. I remember one, but the plant had been sold to a second owner -who I suspect bought it for well under the cost the develop it. If that is the case, then it is a case of the utility driving a bargain which bamrupts the developers, rather than PV being cheap enough to support that price.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Looks like there were five in 2013.


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