15 Aug

US Army going more solar

Those leftist hippies:

“Field patrols will soon have almost weightless solar blankets as well. These will be able to capture a once unthinkable 35pc of the sun’s light as energy with thin membranes, a spin-off from technology used in satellites.
This new kit is a military imperative. Taliban ambushes of supply convoys are a major killer. The Pentagon says the cost of refueling forward bases is $400 a gallon.”

(Via Solar power to trump shale, helped by US military – Telegraph.)

h/t to Philip Brewer for the link.

13 Aug

Solar install prices still getting lower


“the decline appears to be continuing apace this year, according to the researchers: ‘Within the first six months of 2013, PV system prices in California fell by an additional 10 to 15 percent, and the report suggests that PV system price reductions in 2013 are on pace to match or exceed those seen in recent years.’

Utility-scale systems are also becoming cheaper. ‘Utility-scale systems installed in 2012 registered even lower prices, with prices for systems larger than 10,000 kW generally ranging from $2.50/W to $4.00/W,’ the researchers said.”

(Via Solar Cost Plunge Shows No Signs Of Abating | EarthTechling.)

They’re still double the cost of European solar installs.

Module prices appeared to be stabilizing in 2013, but the report also commented that experience from other countries suggests the price declines can and will continue. The median installed price of small residential PV systems last year (without tax) was $2.6 in Germany (fully half the price in the U.S.), $3.1 in Australia, and $3.1 per watt in Italy.

Many of these additional gains will come about as a result of reductions in soft costs, as permitting becomes streamlined, and companies develop more efficient customer acquisition and financing tools.

Meanwhile, Deutsche bank’s most recent report – released this month – suggests that within 18 months, 75% of the world’s market will be sustainable for solar (no subsidies needed) as costs continue to fall. The Bank estimates levelized costs of solar at 10-20 cents per kilowatt-hour, and noted that power purchase agreements in the U.S. were being signed in the range of 9 cents. So while we have seen a rapid increase in the amount of solar installed to date, it appears as if this is just the beginning.

(Via Lawrence Berkeley National Labs: Solar Costs Continue To Fall – Forbes.)

Clean Technica’s very interesting read about solar prices here, in some places in Europe solar install costs are getting as low as $1.20/watt without subsidies:

“Using 20-year, 5% financing, the EIA’s 1c/kWh projection for fixed O&M (no subsidies), and the US solar insolation map above, we get these numbers:

$1.20/W =

7.3¢ per kWh in Zone 5 (4.2 solar hours, 17.5% capacity — Northeast/Midwest)
5.8¢ per kWh in Zone 2 (5.5 solar hours, 23% capacity — Southwest)
$1.50/W =

8.3¢ per kWh in Zone 5
7¢ per kWh in Zone 2
$2.00/W =

11.4¢ per kWh in Zone 5
9.9¢ per kWh in Zone 2

To put that into better perspective, the average price of electricity in the US was 11.8¢ per kWh in May, according to the EIA. (And, assuming 3% inflation, the 20-year average cost of electricity would be 16¢ per kWh.)”

(Via Solar Panels Prices In Europe, Australia, US, India.)

07 Aug

Deutsche Bank says solar at ‘major inflection point’

Saw this on twitter via Ramez Naam a while back:

“Deutsche Bank analysts have painted a bullish outlook for the global solar market, noting that solar PV is about to enter a ‘third growth phase’ where it can be deployed without subsidies, and can resist a backlash from utilities.

The report by analysts led by US-based Vishal Shah estimates that three-quarters of the world’s market will be ‘sustainable’ for solar within 18 months, meaning they can operate with little or no subsidy. (see graph at end of story). In two years, the market for solar will have flipped from one largely ‘unsustainable’ – needing big subsidies – to one mostly sustainable.

That’s because with module prices stabilising at around $US60c-70c/watt, and installation costs of around $US1-$US1.20 a watt, the levellised cost of solar electricity is between US10c-20c/kWh.

‘We believe the underlying economics of the sector have improved significantly and we may be just at the beginning of the grid parity era,’ the Deutsche Bank analysts write. ‘Low natural gas prices may make large utility scale solar deployments in the US less attractive for now, but we remain bullish about rapid development of utility scale solar in several international markets over the next 3-5 years.’”

(Via Deutsche Bank: Solar, distributed energy at ‘major inflection point’ : Renew Economy.)

02 Aug

Consumer solar is in the computer hobby kit stage: a metaphor

This is interesting. The other week I was talking to someone, describing solar as not a power technology, but a silicon valley technology. This was why it was important to think of adoption rates in computer uptake speeds. I pointed out that solar installation was done by experts, or really dedicated hobbyists and tinkerers. There was no ‘snag one at Wal-mart’ solution, or being installed on campuses (like early computers were). They’re still in the computer-kit stage.

This Bosch continues my metaphor, a set it up power supply, it’s like an Apple 1:

“Bosch has decided to step up to the plate and construct an integrated solar power supply system called the BPT-S 5 Hybrid. Almost everything is integrated into it. The company integrated an inverter, Saft lithium-ion batteries, and an energy management system (charge controller) into a single unit which is certified and safety tested  for domestic installations.”

(Via CleanTechnica | Clean Tech News & Views: Solar Energy News. Wind Energy News. EV News. & More..)

13 Jul

Solar To Hit Grid Parity by 2020?

It’s just one analyst, but that will be an interesting tipping point:

“Solar PV modules are increasingly becoming commoditized as costs steadily decline and research paves the way for further cost reductions. Module costs have fallen from around $4 per watt in 2006 to below $1 per watt in some regions by 2012, driving solar power toward grid parity in mature retail energy markets.

‘By the end of 2020, solar PV is expected to be cost-competitive with retail electricity prices, without subsidies, in a significant portion of the world,’ said Dexter Gauntlett of Navigant Research.”

(Via Solar PV To Hit Grid Parity, $134 Billion Annual Revenue By 2020.)

21 May

Realization about solar tech is beginning to spread to mainstream investors

Citi seems to think the solar age is coming:

“The biggest surprise in recent years has been the speed at which the price of solar panels has reduced, resulting in cost parity being achieved in certain areas much more quickly than was ever expected; the key point about the future is that these fast ‘learning rates’ are likely to continue, meaning that the technology just keeps getting cheaper.”

(Via Citi: The Solar Age Is Dawning – Business Insider.)

14 Apr

Some futurist optimism from Ramez Naam

Ramez has an essay (with charts) up a the Business Insider:

“The remarkable thing about this decline in this cost of solar power is that it’s been going on since the invention of solar cells in the 1950s – roughly 60 years now. If solar keeps dropping in price (even at its slower, long term pace) for another 10 years, we’ll have solar power as cheap as fossil fuels – but with available energy thousands of times greater. If the trend continues for another 20 years, or even 30 years, we’ll have solar power a half or a quarter the price of current fossil fuels – a resource that would boost economic growth worldwide. That’s a big if, but it does look as if we’ll at least achieve parity with fossil fuel prices in the next decade.”

(Via The World Is Not Headed For Disaster – Business Insider.)

12 Apr

Crowdsourcing econ research into rural African solar uptake

Interesting. I suspect the answer is a combination of a) tradition (they know kerosene works and the solar lights are new and we humans don’t like change) and b) upfront cost is always hard for people (you pay less for a cellphone if you buy it upfront, but we still have better results with carriers subsidizing them). I’m wondering if an African entrepreneurial system with rural Africans offering lights for the weekly payment of kerosene will get more switch overs?

Either way, help fund the research, and one can follow along and maybe even help find a better answer, and one that will help solar proliferate:

“The typical household in rural Africa is ‘off the grid.’ With no electricity, such households spend a significant fraction of their income on kerosene for lamps. Yet for about $20, they can buy a solar light, which provides a superior source of light and charges their cell phones. (Yes, cell phone use is common, even in rural households with no electricity; they simply walk to the nearest town and pay to charge their phones.)  Given that the light pays for itself in about 6 weeks and lasts for about 3 years, purchasing one seems like a no-brainer. Yet few households have done so.  These intrepid economists are trying to figure out why”

(Via Freakonomics » Crowdsourcing Economics.)

10 Apr

A town to run on nothing but solar power, by conservative mandate

Republican Lancaster, CA mayor orders a solar power mandate (not exactly a market-oriented solution):

“‘We want to be the first city that produces more electricity from solar energy than we consume on a daily basis,’ he said. This means Lancaster’s rooftops, alfalfa fields and parking lots must be covered with solar panels to generate a total of 126 megawatts of solar power above the 39 megawatts already being generated and the 50 megawatts under construction.

To that end, Lancaster just did what former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to do in 2006: require that almost all new homes either come equipped with solar panels or be in subdivisions that produce one kilowatt of solar energy per house.”

(Via Lancaster, Calif., Mayor Focuses on Solar Power – NYTimes.com.)