Chinese Companies Projected To Make Solar Panels for 42 Cents Per Watt In 2015


Future cost drops from Chinese crystalline silicon solar producers will not be as steep as recent years, but they will still be significant.

Stephen Lacey, via GreenTechMedia

The cost of producing a conventional crystalline silicon (c-si) solar panel continues to drop. Between 2009 and 2012, leading “best-in-class” Chinese c-Si solar manufacturers reduced module costs by more than 50 percent. And in the next three years, those players — companies like Jinko, Yingli, Trina and Renesola — are on a path to lower costs by another 30 percent.

Check out [the above] chart outlining projected costs, which comes from GTM Research’s Global Intelligence PV Tracker.

“Clearly, the magnitude of cost reductions will be less than in previous years. But we still do see potential for significant cost reductions. Going from 53 cents to 42 cents is noteworthy,” says Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM Research.

With plenty of innovation still occurring in crystalline silicon PV manufacturing — including new sawing techniques, thinner wafers, conductive adhesives, and frameless modules — companies are able to squeeze more pennies off the cost of each panel. However, as the chart above shows, innovating “outside the module” to reduce the installed cost of solar will be increasingly important as companies find it harder to realize cost reductions in manufacturing.

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41 Responses to Chinese Companies Projected To Make Solar Panels for 42 Cents Per Watt In 2015

  1. John McCormick says:

    It might flatten out at $.40/w but that is not the point. Investing our assets into equity shares of some of the companies that are going to corner the future energy market is a righteous move we hawks can make. I think of the way old Henry Ford decided it was the moment to mass produce cars everyone could afford. That was then.

    The new world will be renewables and batteries along with a great deal of retrofit to efficiency.

    This is the world of finance we can control. A green stock market already exists but it has not attracted investors (low profits but improving) the way oil has.

    Smart investors are going to watch these industries very closely because there are winners out there just as IBM and Google were winners for those who early on bought affordable shares in their entry to the marketplace.

  2. rollin says:

    So the US citizen will now be paying $6 per watt installed instead of $6.10 per watt installed (current average). Just the panels are selling here for $3 per watt. Somebody is making a lot of money on these systems and helping to destroy the planet by keeping the market small.

  3. John McCormick says:

    OK, Rollin, I’d like a few more facts but willing to listen to you again.

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    This is almost all American innovation.

    This is almost all the Chinese government’s desire to monopolize the world market in PV panel mass production, driving all other world companies out of the market. They created a $30 billion dollar interest-free slush fund that their designated industrialist friends will use or else.

  5. John McCormick says:

    Rollin, this is a future I want. Coal, oil and gas company shareholders can liquidate before those stock prices tank. Investing their capital in strong and well managed wind, solar, geothermal design, production, installation and operation companies strengthens the renewables industry software and hardware capabilities.

    President Obama can use his executive order power to instruct the DoE and DoD to work with TVA managment to establish a TVA-like renewable power generator. Located on military lands and sites optimal for wind and solar, we taxpayers will own our own utility company.

  6. John McCormick says:

    Paul, that said, give us a positive outcome this news might have for all of us. We have to feed our ‘out of the box’ instincts.

  7. SecularAnimist says:

    The reality is that the technology to manufacture ultra-cheap, high-efficiency, durable, recyclable, mass-produced PV exists. And that manufacturing technology itself can be rather easily and inexpensively implemented anywhere.

    Which means that not only does access to plentiful solar electricity become ubiquitous, but the ability to MAKE solar panels also becomes ubiquitous.

    Somebody needs to flood the world with cheap, high-quality PV, ASAP — if China wants to do it, more power to them. I hope the USA will compete because that will help drive down costs. And as the manufacturing technology itself becomes cheaper and more standardized, developing nations can get in on the act too.

  8. Paul Klinkman says:

    Other countries, possibly starting with the U.S., will recognize that world monopolization of any industry is fundamentally bad for everybody else.

    Cissy on “The Brady Bunch” figured out that when you do it to somebody else, that’s when it’s fun! Cissy never connected her own actions to what others were doing to her. However, the few adults in the room will recognize that reciprocity rules.

    So, the USA and Europe will tell China, no, you can’t manipulate your entire government to give free land and free subway stops to your PV manufacturers. Subways cost money. Neither can you make all pollution controls and worker health protection optional, to the point of the factories putting up nets so that their workers can’t jump off the factory roofs and commit suicide, and to the point where whole cities riot against factories and the People’s Army has to suppress the people. It’s not just the free money so that firms can get big and run in the red for years. It’s not only having entire cities planned for the economical production of just one item. China as a monolith has no right to run independent American and European companies out of business one by one.

    So, we, the aggrieved nations of the world, are slapping big enough tariffs on your PV panels so that our own companies have a chance. Then in the same spirit, we’re reworking our own capitalist system so that, within our own country, new companies always have a chance to start up, and monopolistic tactics inside our country simply won’t work. Furthermore, we’re training our kids in school, millions of them, how to be bosses and compete, so that the market will be tougher. Then we’re financing them so they can get started in competition after they graduate, or at least we’re setting up internships.

    How’s that?

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Good thinking Secular. Govts everywhere should be subsidizing it and all systems should have ‘smart’ devices to switch from decentralized to centralized renewable sources as required, ME

  10. Dave Bradley says:

    Slave Labor or its cousin psuedo-slave Labor can make some things appear to be cheap. And so can free capital to Special Friends of the Chinese Govt. Once again, those who produce the products (actual human beings) cannot afford the products, or afford the electricity made from these products. BTW, the prodigious amounts of electricity used to make PV panels in China is almost all coal based.

    Most Chinese companies are going broke selling PVs at these prices, as are the companies trying to produce products in a market often flooded with below the cost of production products. So what good does that do? Actually, China is now being forced to sell these domestically, and install them in China. That means the Chinese govt has to massively subsidize these efforts because the electricity made from these is so much more costly than electricity made using pollution routes, or wind turbines or hydroelectricity, which is fine – better that they spend the stash of cash the Chinese govt has accumulated…

    As for outside of China, selling goods below the cost of production is something that can only exist if someone (like taxpayers) pays the difference. Otherwise, its a failed model. It would be more sensible to sell these at a price that makes at least a modest profit. And if sales stay low, there are certainly other forms of renewable electricity production that are a LOT lower cost and thus more economically AND ecologically viable. After all, it takes at least 6 years of production from PV in good locations to pay back the energy embedded in making PVs. Even a poorly located commercial scale wind turbines will pay its energy back in a year, and a well located one has a 6 month energy payback….

    Besides, the major cost associated with PV is in the installation part. Cheap PV panels don’t really help much with respect to the overall installed cost of these systems. And don’t think psuedo-slave labor wages for installers is the answer, either….And if the manufacture of these cannot be done in the US where at least modest wages have to be paid, maybe we should just not bother with them. Much of the reasons for installing renewable systems is their manufacture and the jobs/economic growth associated with making them/jobs in the supply chain of businesses who supply the components for the final product. Who’s supposed to buy these units, anyway – certainly not unemployed, impoverished people or state/local governments emaciated due to the fact that so many of their citizens are broke or out of work or both.

  11. John McCormick says:

    Paul, what are you talking about? I thought you might stretch your mind a bit and offer sometlhing positive. Instead, a rant on fair trade.

    Paul, tht sound you hear is the starboard bow crushing into the ice berg. Stay tuned for any improvements.

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Paul, have you ever considered that it might be all about firms making money in America but that is not the way China and other countries see things? – they have sets of goals that encompass human, social and environmental, not just business and economics. Have you ever considered that for every boss you produce, you produce thousand of people who are deprived of their right to make decisions? Have you every considered that it is rank competition and its ghastly consequences that is partly responsible for this mess and that we need less, not more of it? ME

  13. Omega Centauri says:

    According the GreenTech media, some of the other surrounding Asian countries manufacturing costs are converging on the Chinese prices. This is not mainly about predatory merchantilism, its mainly about pushing down the industrial learning curve. Interestingly the most important front of this cost reduction was the severalfold reduction in the price of polysilicon, which was mainlt produced by American companies.

  14. Omega Centauri says:

    What we should really be doing, is preparing to take as many of these dirtcheap panels as we possibly can, and figure out how to deploy then en-mass. The real challenge has moved from, the creation of affordable panels, to how to do mass deployment, and how to integrate much amounts of PV into our grid based systems. There tons of important and interesting -and I think profitable work to be done. We just got to get on with doing it.

  15. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The grid is in poor shape in need of upgrade, invest in a smart grid now.

  16. fj says:

    The whole system benefits of the rapid transition to solar are huge and deserving of huge government subsidies potentially saving trillions of dollars.

  17. Paul Klinkman says:

    I believe that we don’t train students to be in charge, either as citizen leaders in politics or as small business owners.

    I can name the excesses of capitalism. A system where the big fish eat the little fish isn’t conducive to the creation of a just, prosperous and free society. It says something both about current Chinese capitalism-friendly communism and American billionaire capitalism that they work hand in glove so efficiently, to produce Wal-Marts full of short-lived plastic goods.

    Yes, China’s government sees things differently than we do in the USA. China’s Party wants something for show, something to feed national pride that they can show the peasants. They want fast bullet trains and tall skyscrapers. They wanted the best moon colony in the 2020s until they saw the price tag. Energy and ecology are big, so they want ecological showpieces even as a tenth of Beijing’s population dies of asthma. In this case they want to dominate the alternative energy field, at least the showy part. So they buy the latest American technology wholesale and crank up production as if they were going to supply the entire earth with solar panels.

    What the American Republicans (and not a few Democrats) want is merely to keep feeding government money, and whatever else is salable, to some semi-anonymous friends who can buy their re-election. The biggest friends are fossil fuel companies, who merely want free pollution of the atmosphere. Tobacco companies and mass murder weaponry companies are a bit farther back in the pack. I’m sure that the Chinese Communist Party has similar wealthy cronies of their own. China’s only problem is their official dogma, which preaches mass paroxysms of killing all rich people. This really bothers the cronies, so the Party walks the line between praising the dogma and actually doing it. In America our dogma is Christianity, all about defending the orphan and the widow, about Lazarus at the rich man’s gate, about no man can worship both God and mammon (money). Again, this stuff all gets praised to high heaven every single day in front of microphones but then it gets shelved quickly.

    Merrelyn, I encourage you to separate China’s official goals from what the country actually does. I agree that China has great human, social and environmental goals, but I suspect that they mean about as much to the Chinese Communist Party as certain Christian goals mean to our Congress.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    China is not being forced by price to use them domestically, it is part of the plan to get to renewables as quickly as possible. China is acknowledged as being one of the world’s leaders in rapid deployment, ME

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The fear and hatred being directed at China (almost every day there are one or two more frankly frightening pieces of extremely aggressive agit-prop in the few MSM news-rags I peruse)is growing to a really fevered crescendo. Just precisely not what the world needs as it faces a truly global and existential crisis for all humanity.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The USA finds hundreds of billions, per annum, to subsidise the production of the means to destroy life on this planet, through its gigantic ‘military-industrial complex’, so, in my opinion, they have no legs to stand on when criticising China for subsidising the life saving technology of renewable energy.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Chinese wages have been growing, in the sort of factories that make these PV panels, by about 10% per annum, for over a decade. Just as the USA has demanded, China is redirecting its economy away from investment and trade and towards domestic consumption. The Chinese have, however, built up a tremendous infrastructure through this massive investment that will serve them in good stead. The West is bitter that their economic model, of increasing inequality, stagnant wages, hideous austerity measures, crumbling infrastructure, failing education systems and the increasing dominance of the economy by the rentiers and wealth extractors of the financial kleptocracy, has proved such a total failure. The myth of eternal Western superiority in all things has evaporated. Far wiser would it be to learn from the Chinese the secrets of their success, and adapt and apply them to Western conditions, than to rant and rage, and, increasingly, threaten the Chinese with retribution for their success.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Absolutely! If the Chinese really are so stupid and perfidious as to sell their panels below cost, then just accept that free gift, and do beneficial things with it, like decarbonising a.s.a.p.

  23. Omega Centauri says:

    After the trade action, I don’t think Americans are now buying Chinese panels below cost. But contrary to the fears of many including me, the prices of panels have continued to drop. But we have to recognize that panels have gone from high tech to commodities produced by high tech really fast. To be successful in the modern world means that you don’t try to compete with commodities, but go for the higher value added parts of the industry. We saw that with microelectronics, where memory chips became a commodity, and production went to Asia, but high value added processors are still designed in the US (mostly). For solar its going to be deploy deploy deploy, and solving the myriad of technical problems that go along with massive deployment where the action is. Time to look forward rather than backwards. Panel manufacturing was so yesterday.

  24. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. Chinese can do it. The Marketing Philosophy of Chinese Manufacturers is VOLUME SALES AND LESS PROFIT.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  25. rollin says:

    There is $5.58 above manufacturing cost to be made on every watt sold in the US. Looks like the end user is getting screwed while some people along the way make big bucks. This high cost at the end user suppresses the market.

  26. rollin says:

    Profitable work is right, to the tune of over 14 times the manufacturing cost to get these panels on an American home.

  27. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Paul, there are some inconsistencies between your two comments but your most recent one is best described by Mulga above as ‘frankly frightening’, particularly to those who watch the growing build up of USA forces in the Asia-Pacific. Yes, we all know about China’s human rights abuses etc but I would remind you that your own country is also no angel when it comes to applying the power of the state, ME

  28. fj says:

    We need carbon zero resilient distributed on-demand technology that we can build upon to weather the storms of climate change as we bring our emissions to zero while we figure out how to restore the natural services of that support us and grace our beautiful planet. What we are trying to do is of supreme importance and of inestimable value and the dollar values are meaningless except that money can be extremely useful facilitating the transfer and deployment of valuable and critical resources.

  29. Roger Lambert says:

    This. This. This.

    We could accomplish a 100% conversion to green energy withion a decade if we do this, and it will absolutely minimize the cost to the taxpayer compared to rooftop installations.

    Once the taxpayer has funded all the infrastructure, electricity should be priced at the cost of the fuel – which is zero.

    Do you think we could get a consensus for this investment for our future, once Americans learn that it will put over $3000.00 in their pocket for person in their household, year after year after year?

  30. Roger Lambert says:

    If the U.S. government was to embark of a National Renewable Energy Utility, as Mr. McCormick suggested, and if we were to use PV panels to accomplish that goal, the U.S. government would need to fund the construction of – off the top of my head here – 100 new PV manufacturing plants.

    My seat pant calculations show that to produce 100% of our energy needs through PV generation, it will require about 460 billion panels. That is way more panels than the current manufacturing capacity can handle.

    Think of the benefit for unemployment these new factories would represent. And it would require a new workforce of hundreds of thousands of men to install these panels over a period of 5 to 10 years, more hundreds of thousands to retrofit our homes and businesses to electric power, more to construct a new smart grid, hundreds of thousands more to install an inductive-charging network under our highways. It would be the biggest jobs project since the WPA.

  31. SecularAnimist says:

    Omega Centauri wrote: “some of the other surrounding Asian countries manufacturing costs are converging on the Chinese prices … its mainly about pushing down the industrial learning curve”

    Exactly. As I wrote earlier, what will (and must) eventually happen is that PV manufacturing processes will become standardized, inexpensive, scalable, and easy to start up anywhere in the world.

    In my view, that’s what both the USA and China should both be working towards — not competing to sell PV panels to the world, but cooperating to proliferate the capacity to make PV throughout the world.

  32. Roger Lambert says:

    Yes! According to Joe Romm, the price by 2100 of adaptation to AGW, if we stay on our current trajectory, will be $1240 trillion dollars(!).

    My guestimate to completely convert the U.S. to renewable electricity is less than $10 trillion dollars. That is 5 years worth of our (true) defense budget. And not much more than we will spend on paying for fossil fuels for the amount of time it will take to construct these installations.

    Considering the enormous boost to our economy represented by just the new required construction/rehabilitation jobs force these projects will require, a new National Renewable Energy Utility would be the biggest bargain in the history of the U.S.

  33. rollin,
    Check your “facts” about module costs in the US. Prices retail at less than $0.90/watt for pallet quantities:
    You can buy 1 (standard 1.8 m x 1 m) panel for $0.94/watt plus shipping:
    Whole retail grid-tie kits are available for do-it-yourselfers for about $1.88/watt plus shipping from a US location (including all mounting hardware, modules, inverters, cabling and installation manual):

    My 11.04 kW system has produced more than 32 MWH (saving about $2,560) at a western Arkansas location in 2 years. Including 15 months of powering 2 electric cars (Volts) for 33,000 miles on electricity, we have purchased a total of less than 8 MWH ($640) during the 2 years for our large house. So, we paid less than an average of $27/month to power the (3900 sq ft) house and 2 cars (plus a combined total of 248.3 gallons of gasoline) to go a total of 42,740 miles.

    We know it can be done because we have done it, using commonly available products in the southern US- western Arkansas near Fort Smith.

  34. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Exactly fj. Only those with a head full of lettuce would value money above the source of that revenue, ME

  35. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Don’t know what the WPA was but it seems that proposal would solve some of the US’s current problems in one hit, ME

  36. John McCormick says:

    Roger, talk this up. I will. Ideas such as this are leaves falling from trees unless people repeat them.

  37. Paul Klinkman says:

    I was trying to be reasonably even-handed between the Chinese and American ruling coalitions. I suspect that neither group would like what I said about them.

    I recognize that it’s reasonable to be more critical of your own country’s government, assuming that your own country’s government is the one that can be changed. Lately, I sometimes question the assumption that our own government can be changed.

  38. riverat says:

    WPA – Works Progress Administration, a program by the FD Roosevelt administration to employ the unemployed in public works projects during the great depression.

  39. If this were true (it is not), then how could Solar City’s business model succeed and produce profits sufficient to result in an Initial Public Offering of stock as SCTY?

    Solar City installs solar systems on residential and commercial roofs and signs long-term contracts to sell power to the homeowner, often below the price charged by the electric company (especially under time-of-use billing). They operate in 14 states (western & northeast plus Texas and Colorado and Hawaii). In Hawaii, solar PV is much cheaper than the grid powered by imported fossil fuels. Solar and Wind power complement each other in that wind provides the cheapest bulk power (substituting directly for coal and natural gas to produce 5% of U.S. electricity from 2013 forward). Solar PV provides near-peak power, which is the most expensive for utilities to provide using peaker plants.

  40. John McCormick says:

    ME, as a partial rmedy to the social chaos of the American depression, President Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration putting unemployed Americans to work building infrastructure.

  41. John McCormick says:

    lets take a step towards a National Renewable Energy Utility. US DoE has a climate policy team and the following is its mission statement:

    The Office of Climate Change Policy and Technology (PI-50), located within the Office of Policy and International Affairs (PI), serves as the focal point within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the development, coordination, and implementation of DOE-related aspects of climate change technical programs, policies, and initiatives. The mission of the Office of Climate Change Policy and Technology is to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced technologies and best practices to mitigate climate change.

    To the extent delegated by the Secretary, the Office provides planning, analysis, and technical advisory services to other Federal agencies, and to Cabinet and sub-Cabinet-level interagency committees, working on climate change-related policy, science, technology, and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation programs. The Office provides strategic direction for, and reviews and makes recommendations on, a portfolio of Federal research and development (R&D) investments of $5.2 billion per year for activities under the U.S. Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP).

    The Office of Climate Change Policy and Technology also examines barriers to technology commercialization and deployment (C&D) and makes recommendations for improvement. The 2009 Report on Strategies for the Commercialization & Deployment of GHG Intensity-Reducing Technologies & Practices by the CCTP highlights strategies to promote the commercialization and deployment of technologies to reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gases.

    In addition, to the extent delegated, the Office provides support to, or serves as, DOE or U.S. Government (USG) representatives to proceedings on climate change policy and technology matters in interagency, intergovernmental, and international fora, most notably the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), initiated by President Obama in March 2009, which brings together 17 developed and developing economies to engage in a meaningful dialogue on clean energy technology and the need to secure a broad international agreement to combat climate change.

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided just over $25 billion in additional funding for research and development across a broad portfolio of GHG mitigation options, including: high-performance buildings; efficient manufacturing; advanced vehicles; clean biofuels; wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear power; carbon capture and sequestration; advanced energy storage; a more intelligent electric grid; and techniques for reducing emissions and/or increasing uptake of carbon dioxide in agriculture and forestry. The ARRA also provided over $400 million for establishing the Advanced Research and Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) within DOE to overcome the long-term and high-risk technological barriers to the development of clean energy technologies.

    The Office carries out policy and technology-related analyses and activities that address global climate change concerns and solutions. These include: (a) near-term policies and activities to reduce GHG emissions; (b) longer-term activities to expand and improve GHG-reducing technology options, reduce their cost, and encourage and facilitate their market adoption; (c) cooperative international engagement in defining and pursuing related policies, initiatives, and programs; and (d) liaison and representation activities vis-à-vis other agencies, States, non-Federal entities, and other governments.

    In conjunction with the Department’s senior leadership and the Chief Financial Officer, the Office leads portfolio reviews, assessments of various research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) investment options, and coordinates planning for near- and long-term portfolios. The Office conducts and presents underlying analyses, modeling of scenarios, and makes recommendations for integrated priorities across the Departmental elements in its annual budgeting processes.

    We can approach the Policy team and suggest they consider the President launch a study to create a National Renewable Energy Utility.

    My email: