NewEnergyNews: THE COST OF SOLAR

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  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, December 13:

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: How California Is Easing Off NatGas With New Energy
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Illinois cloud computing debate could open utility rate reform

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    THE COST OF SOLAR

    This is a superbly important expression of the view from the other side of the aisle. Solar advocates must never forget this: They are asking folks to pay their electric bill ten years in advance when they already have electricity and need that money for a lot of other things.

    Facing the grim financial reality of solar expansion is the first step in advancing solar energy. The next step is getting the right kind of national incentives and making the other electricity-generating sources pay for their messes (emissions, radioactive waste, water profligacy). Eventually, there will be price parity.

    Germany, which has about the same amount of sun as Anchorage, Alaska, leads the world in solar energy production. The US southeast has lots of sunshine and almost no profile in the industry. Why? Leadership.


    Cost of solar energy deters price-conscious consumers
    Duncan Mansfield, October 25, 2007 (AP via The Tennessean)

    WHO
    Consumers, consumer advocates, solar energy advocates

    WHAT
    At the Southeast Solar Summit, it was clear solar energy’s emission-free abundance has created great enthusiasm in government and industry while consumers remain skeptical of its affordability.

    Just as solar energy was beginning to achieve lower costs from economies of scale, a silicon shortage due to increased demand drove prices up. But they are coming back down as silicon supply responds to demand. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - The state of solar energy and the solar energy industry were discussed at a conference October 25 & 26.
    - Consumer attitudes toward solar energy are surveyed and reported annually in Energy Pulse.

    WHERE
    The summit was held at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

    WHY
    - Co-host: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
    - The government is now spending ~$200 million/year on research and incentives for solar.
    - A Department of Energy (DOE) authority expects solar to reach “price parity” at about $1.25/watt in 2015.
    - ORNL christened its 5 kilowatt solar system during the conference.

    This graph from DOE confirms what the DOE's guy says in the article: It's only a matter of time until cost comes down. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Suzanne Shelton, authority on Energy Pulse: "Consumers have got wired in their brains now that the words 'energy efficient’ or 'green' equal more expensive…So that is the mind-set we have got to help correct and do something about…"
    - Craig Cornelius, head, DOE solar energy initiative: "Historically, what we have seen is roughly an 80 percent progress ratio for the industry where for every doubling of production volume we have seen about 20 percent come out of the cost structure…"

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