Thursday, 6 December 2012

Cost of solar panels in the US drops by 80% in five years

Yes, that means it was five times more expensive five years ago. And apparently there is 14 times more installed solar generating power since 2007. That sounds much more impressive as 1400%. Interesting how percentages and rates seem different. 

I learnt this from Proud Green Home who were announcing a report "Tracking the Sun" from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. Berkeley labs have apparently won 13 nobel prizes, so I'm reluctant to doubt their science, and there should be no need to worry that this wishy-washy propaganda from the solar lobby. They do have an infographic though.

Apparently, "The report also finds that the installed price of residential PV systems on new homes has generally been significantly lower than the price of similarly sized systems installed as retrofits to existing homes, that building integrated PV systems have generally been higher priced than rack-mounted systems, and that systems installed on tax-exempt customer sites have generally been priced higher than those installed at residential and for-profit commercial customer sites." So, in terms of cost, we got two out of three right.  

I still think whole-roof solar panels are a better bet, aesthetically, when the south facing roof of an average house is going to produce around 10 kW. 

But this is not America, and I'm not sure how this translates to Japan. Costs have certainly been trending downwards, but a number of factors probably mean that the reductions are more modest. For a start, Japan has been doing solar for longer, so many of the US gains are probably comparing the frontier times of solar cowboys with developed businesses. Also, Japan has a lot more protection in its markets, so to a large extent costs depend on what the local solar giants are charging. Having said this, our panels came from China, so the Japanese companies do not have a stanglehold. But we did not get Turkish hybrid PVT panels because installation grants were not available and we wouldn't have been able to sell them into the grid, because the company in Turkey had not paid the millions of yen demanded for a license to sell in Japan.

One thing that is difficult to find in the report, although is perhaps somewhere in the small print, is the percentage of total solar generation that this represents. In the absence of a number, I suspect is it a very small drop in a large ocean, which is dirty and getting gradually warmer with fossil fuel emmisions, and glowing slightly from nuclear radiation. At least the solar drop is relatively clean and growing.