Image credit: Solarcentury
Solar as Cheap as Coal by 2013?
It can be tiring to keep up with all the inflated claims about super cheap solar being 'just around the corner'. Back in June of 2007, John reported on claims that solar costs would plunge 40% by 2010, and the world is not short of inventors who claim their inventions can slash the price of solar energy in half. Meanwhile most of us mortals still look at the price of a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation and baulk. But once again we are hearing rumors that this may change. In fact, one UK solar company claims that by 2013, solar will be cost competitive with coal. Could this be true?Here's more from The Guardian on the imminent dawning (or not) of solar 'grid parity':
Solar energy will fall in price to match the cost of conventional fossil fuel electricity far sooner than previously expected, the UK's largest solar company has claimed in a new report. Solarcentury said British homeowners will see solar achieve "grid parity" – the point where solar electricity rivals or becomes cheaper than conventional nonrenewable electricity – by 2013. Most predictions suggest that technological innovation will not bring the price down far enough until 2020 or later.
The company suggested falling production costs for solar panels and increasing conventional electricity costs have brought parity closer. Prices for solar and grid electricity in residential homes are expected to crossover at around 17p to 18p per unit of electricity (kWh) in 2013, followed by parity for commercial solar electricity in 2018.
Last December, the renewable energy analysts New Energy Finance predicted silicon costs – a key material for much solar panel technology – would fall by 31.5% in 2009 compared with 2008 levels. Energy consultants Element Energy, under commission from the government, have also forecast solar PV costs will fall by around half between now and 2020.
Solarcentury may have more interest than most in painting a rosy picture for the future of renewables - and indeed even Green Party candidate Chris Goodall warns that the company's assumptions are based on some pretty 'unrealistic price assumptions' for regular energy. In the end, much will depend on government incentives to stimulate the solar market, as well as just how fast and how hard issues like peak oil start to effect the energy supply. But here's hoping that Solarcentury are right - it's about time the real cost of fossil fuels was reflected in their price anyway.
For those wanting more detailed numbers, follow this link for the full Solarcentury report on the future of UK solar (PDF).