Cost of solar power overestimated, performance understated

One of the few remaining arguments about PV based solar power is its cost. It may have been a valid point just a few years ago, but many of today’s studies reiterating that claim may be well out of touch.

According to Professor Joshua Pearce from Canada’s Queen’s University Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, many analysts who prepare reports on solar photovoltaics that state the clean energy source is expensive may be basing their calculations on old data.

With solar panel technology evolving so rapidly, “old” can mean just a couple of years.

Dr. Pearce says there has been a 70 percent reduction in the price of solar panels in the last few years; a point that the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) also made a couple of weeks ago. This price reduction is not being considered in some studies, nor is the improved performance of solar modules over the long term.

Dr. Pearce used the example of a study in 2010 that estimated the cost of PV solar power at $7.61 per watt - over 7 times the current cost of modules today in some markets when modules are bought in large quantities direct from the manufacturer.

A more recent and local example of analyses basing the cost or performance of solar on perhaps incorrect data came from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in their paper entitled “Keeping The Home Fires Burning: Australia’s Energy Security”.

The study claimed 200m2 of solar panels per Australian would be required to meet all their energy needs - “about four times the average amount of roof area per person in Australia today”. A solar expert has refuted this, stating only 14m2 per person would be required - a huge difference.

Dr. Pearce believes that give the cost reductions, solar photovoltaic systems are closing in on the tipping point where they can generate electricity for the same price other traditional sources of energy. This tipping point is also known as grid parity.

The Professor received his Ph.D. in Materials (Engineering option) from the Pennsylvania State University and has also worked as a Physics professor at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, USA. The Queen’s study was co-authored by grad students Kadra Branker and Michael Pathak.

Thanks for reading to the end of this story!

We would be grateful if you would consider joining as a member of The EB Circle. This helps to keep our stories and resources free for all, and it also supports independent journalism dedicated to sustainable development. For a small donation of S$60 a year, your help would make such a big difference.

Find out more and join The EB Circle

blog comments powered by Disqus

Most popular

View all news

Industry Spotlight

View all

Feature Series

View all
Asia Pacific’s Hub For Collaboration On Sustainable Development
An Eco-Business initiative
The SDG Co