Solar Panel Prices Continue ‘Seemingly Inexorable Decline’

The cost of crystalline silicon (c-Si) photovoltaic (PV) panels in the US continues to fall despite the imposition of anti-dumping and illegal subsidy tariffs on imports from China.

By Andrew Burger, via Cleantechnica

US imports of crystalline silicon solar cells and channels from China fell to their lowest level in at least two years even amid the peak, year-end selling season based on federal government data, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) yesterday announced in a press release.

US imports of c-Si cells and modules from China totaled $50.5 million in November, down from $75 million in October, and less than one-fifth the $278 million from October 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s “US Imports of Merchandise” database, CASM reported. Silicon PV cell and module imports from China are expected to be about one-third lower in 2012 than they were in 2011. Imports from China totalled about $1.7 billion through November this year, down from $2.4 billion in the year-ago period.

Solar PV system costs continued their seemingly inexorable decline all along the value chain in 2012, according to industry data….

Though imports from China have dropped substantially, the sharp rise in prices foreseen by some have yet to materialize.

The unsubsidized cost of renewable power produced from solar and wind energy will be no more expensive than that from oil, natural gas, and coal by the end of the decadeEnergy Secretary Steven Chu predicted during a speech at a Pew Charitable Trusts event late March before the Commerce Deptartment and ITC had made their final determinations on Chinese import duties. Chu pegged installed solar PV grid parity at around $1 per watt.

This would mean reducing the cost of solar modules, or panels, to around $0.50/W, with corresponding reductions in remaining balance-of-system (BOS) costs of solar PV system installations. A GTM research report from late July forecast that this will happen a lot sooner, by 2016.

Prices for solar PV modules and panels have been falling fast from 2008 right on through 2012, according to industry data. The marginal weekly spot price of silicon solar modules (panels) was $0.654 per Watt, with a low price of $0.54 and a high of $1.00 per Watt as of January 16, 2013, according to PV Insights data.

The median installed price of residential and commercial PV systems in California dropped between 3% and 7% during the first six months of 2012, following year-over-year reductions of between 11% and 14% in 2011, according to the most recent Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Tracking the Sun” report.

Overall, installed costs for home solar PV panels for all of 2012 ranged between $1750 and $2500 per kilowatt (kW), or $1.75–$2.50 per watt, according to Renewable Green Energy Power data.

By Andrew Burger, excerpted from Cleantechnica with permission

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6 Responses to Solar Panel Prices Continue ‘Seemingly Inexorable Decline’

  1. hebintn says:

    It would be much more meaningful to many of us if these data could use coal as a benchmark. How much do I pay for energy now (from coal in TN) versus how much would I pay for the same amount if I have solar at home or bought it from the local utility.

    How do these Si prices compare to CIGS.

  2. Paul Klinkman says:

    A large set of alternative energy costs shall relentlessly come down.

    –Thermal storage costs for nighttime heat and electricity generation shall come down year after year.

    –Solar tracker costs shall come down year after year.

    –PV costs shall come down year after year.

    –Solar heat collector costs shall come down year after year.

    –Small biofuel backup heat/electric generators will become more efficient year after year. Biofuel costs are limited by our earth’s limited amount of arable land, although as the years go by, biofuel production is likely to spread into arid climates where only seawater is available.

    –Wind turbine costs shall come down year after year.

    –Electric vehicle performance shall rise year after year. Not that we shouldn’t be thinking about relentlessly improving transit performance year after year.

    –Small-scale geoengineering device performance will rise year after year.

    Solar heat technologies involve decentralized energy capture with no government-backed monopoly standing between a property owner and her/his power. This means no centralized power plant, no carbon dioxide pollution and no 1000 mile killer-watt lines. Fossil fuel systems can’t be scaled down to home level. Fossil extraction costs alone can be relatively driven down, but at the same time the easiest fossil fuels are all extracted and the cost of taking the CO2 out of the atmosphere is still prohibitive. We’ll have to work on driving down sequestration costs.

    If we had a sane government, it wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines rooting for Exxon to make all the tech breakthroughs. Exxon has plenty of reason to fail. Think of GM’s role in sabotaging the electric car in the 1990s, then GM going bankrupt in 2008.

    We must separate the task of product invention and product development from the gigantic corporation fights, and so climate hawks will unleash thousands of independent inventors and win a big battle. Keep every last meritorious inventor financially locked up in some unrelated McJob for her/his lifetime and we will lose big-time and be forgotten on history’s shame-heap.

  3. Paul Klinkman says:

    Photovoltaic power prices don’t match up evenly with coal.

    First, PV power isn’t available at night. You need backup power. Pumped hydro is one backup solution, but most people just use coal power at night. There’s always a percentage of electric power to be generated for a certain home. You can push that percentage if you really don’t like coal, so the optimum percentage varies from homeowner to homeowner.

    Second, larger PV installations are more efficient. If your state government were sane, you could generate solar power for your whole neighborhood and get economies of scale, but your state senator is busy cleaning his fingernails right now and can’t be disturbed.

    Third, most fossil fuels carry a local jobs penalty. When you buy solar, your neighbors get installation jobs. A few states price this in. When you buy some foreign dictator’s oil you often tend to hire an army to keep him in power, so I guess you’re creating those kinds of jobs, but those kinds of jobs are terribly expensive in many ways.

    Fourth, the CO2 from coal tends to kill the trees on your property through climate change. Trees don’t cool your roof after they have been cut down. This is a group cost shared by everyone in the world and by many future generations, whereas upfront solar costs are borne by individuals.

  4. Daniel Coffey says:

    I think more attention should be paid to the real barriers to solar PV deployment: small amounts too slowly deployed, high cost of associated equipment such as necessary inverters, and the opposition to large-scale deployment typical of many environmental groups filing lawsuits and demanding extended studies.

    However, assuming that US solar is not doing very well, the Chinese are having a field day, buying bankrupt solar manufacturers and deploying what is projected to be about 100,000 MW of solar PV by 2020.

    Improve the environment, file a lawsuit.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    While the price of fossil hydrocarbons goes up, as easily obtained reserves are exhausted and the Frackenstein monster turns on his handlers and the EROEI turns nasty, and, of course, the cost of nuclear keeps skyrocketing (even neglecting to account for the occasional Chernobyl or Fukushima ‘externality’).

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Why not just let the Chinese get on with it and concentrate on something else? Something constructive. I thought one of the acknowledged causes of US sclerosis was the surfeit of lawyers and the waste of resources incurred as the world’s most litigious country.