Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DOE Maps Path to Huge Cost Savings for Solar - IEEE Spectrum

DOE Maps Path to Huge Cost Savings for Solar - IEEE Spectrum:
The price of a solar photovoltaic module has dropped dramatically over the last few years. But to get solar installations down toward ideal price points, the cost of making the panels isn't the only thing that needs to come down: so-called "soft costs" represent half or more of most solar installations. These costs include permitting, labor, inspection, interconnection (if you're going grid-connected, at least), and others, and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) thinks we can cut those down to size as well.
In a new report, NREL maps out a way to bring soft costs down from $3.32/watt in 2010 for a 5-kilowatt residential system to $0.65/watt in 2020. For small commercial systems below 250 kW, the report suggests a drop from $2.64/watt in 2010 to $0.44/watt in 2020. These soft cost reductions would allow the U.S. to reach the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative goals of $1.50/watt and $1.25/watt for residential and commercial installations, respectively.
Here is some background information of price/watt from Wikipedia:
INSTALLATION COSTS: Coal power plants are generally one of the least expensive sources of electricity by this measure, at a construction cost around $2.10 a watt.[1] Large hydroelectricsystems can be even less expensive by this measure; the Three Gorges Dam is reported to have cost ¥180 billion (US$26 billion), about $1 a watt, but actual costs are widely believed to be much higher.[2] Solar panels are currently selling for as low as US$0.70c a watt (7-April-2012) in industrial quantities; the balance of system costs (inverters, racks, wiring, marketing) made the median price in 2011 of large (>100 kW) systems $2.60/watt in Germany and $4.87/watt in the US.[3] The price difference between German and US photovoltaic systems was analyzed in 2013 by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.[4] Large wind turbines cost about $2 a watt.[5] Natural gas-fired peaking power plants are around $6 a watt.[6] 
If/when the cost savings are realized, we may see serious changes in the way how people get their power.

Further reading:
Companies Unplug From the Electric Grid, Delivering a Jolt to Utilities

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