AndersB

Solar PV Panels now sold at $2 per watt

24 posts in this topic

http://www.greentech...-to-spot-price/

Contract Silicon Price Falls 50%, Close to Spot Price

Many solar cell and panel makers have renegotiated or canceled contracts, leading to prices that make it possible for panel makers to sell their products at below $2 per watt, said New Energy Finance.

Prices for silicon and the resulting wafers have fallen so fast that major solar panel makers could afford to sell their products at below $2 per watt and still "make a small profit," according to New Energy Finance on Tuesday.

The price for long-term silicon contracts has fallen about 50 percent this year from a year ago and come close to the spot market price of $67 per kilogram, or about $0.50 per watt, said the London-based research firm.

Blame the increase of silicon supply at a time when demand has dived significantly. The credit crunch has made it difficult for developers to borrow money for installing large solar energy projects in Europe and the United States, two key markets. The silicon is turned into ingots and made into wafers. Solar cells use the wafers to make their products, which are then assembled into panels that can be seen on rooftops today.

...

<snip>

...

First Solar, based in Tempe, Ariz., has regularly publicized its production costs to show that it could make panels cheaper than anyone else. First Solar's production cost during the first quarter of this year was $0.93 per watt, the company said.

But the company is facing tougher competition these days, and some analysts are expecting the company to lose its market share to silicon panel makers.

Project developers are still largely crippled by the credit crunch. Investors said they are seeing signs of improvements, though more visible changes aren't likely to take place until 2010 (see Reality Check: How Much Impact Can the Feds Have on Solar?).

Hmmm.... let's see how 1KW of panels would stack up. Let's also assume that the overhead cost of installation, controllers and inverters, etc will add 100% to the cost of the panel.

If the industry reaches the goal of US$1 per watt, then 1KW of PV power would cost approximately AU$3,000 to install.

Let's say that you can get an average of 60% of peak output over 5 hours per day for 250 days per year in Queensland:

1 kW x 5 hours x 0.6 x 250 = 750kWh per year.

Retail cost per kWh is approximately $0.2112 inclusive of GST.

http://www.originene...ity-tariffs-QLD

So total energy saving per year is:

750 x 0.2112 = $158.40

Time to break-even is $3,000 / $158.40 = 18.9 years

Well, it's still not economical, but we are getting there. If the cost can drop to around AU$0.50 per watt it would be economical to install these even without government subsidy.

There are of course lots of other assumptions in the above calculations, such as that one would use the full PV panel output and not having to feed into the grid, which would offer a rebate much less than the retail tariff per kWh.

Perhaps the numbers stack up much better for 3kW setups where support equipment and installation would constitute less of an overhead cost per kW of capacity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its not just the panels though, the cost of the meter and inverters are quite high, last time I looked into this (for a 3KW system not a 1KW) the meter/inverter setup alone was $8000 and then the cost of the panels and installation was on top of that.

The time to payback is so high I wouldn't have put it on my old house anyway, at the time I was only planning to stay there 4 more years. The house has the perfect unshaded north-facing orientation (its about twice as high as the house on the north side of it) but there's no way in hell I'd get my money back on the panels when I moved, It'd be like buying $20k of equipment and giving it to the next owner for free.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its not just the panels though, the cost of the meter and inverters are quite high, last time I looked into this (for a 3KW system not a 1KW) the meter/inverter setup alone was $8000 and then the cost of the panels and installation was on top of that.

The time to payback is so high I wouldn't have put it on my old house anyway, at the time I was only planning to stay there 4 more years. The house has the perfect unshaded north-facing orientation (its about twice as high as the house on the north side of it) but there's no way in hell I'd get my money back on the panels when I moved, It'd be like buying $20k of equipment and giving it to the next owner for free.

Dumb question, but how viable is it to power your entire house with these panels and basically put more back into the grid (after your use) than the grid supplies to you?

I ask the question not from a cost benefit over time perspective as much as viability to becoming 100% self sufficient.

I've always liked the idea of having a panel infrastructure when you can essentially not even need to use mains electricity for your household needs, with a good sized battery to collect the power for use over night.

Theoretically, this could lead to being able to use some of your more power hungry household appliances (ducted aircon springs immediately to mind) for 'free'.

Naturally the initial install cost would be far from free and may even be more expensive, but it would be interesting to find out the figures required and to have the knowledge you can tell the electric company to stick it...

If I had the finance, I'd love to own a farm with my own panel array, backed up by a wind turbine to be 100% self sufficient :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Costs about $50,000 or more to get totally off the grid. The government will pay half that but ONLY if you are too far from the grid to make it viable to connect you. The batteries themselves are very expensive and you need a lot of them. If you want to zero your electricity bills but not have a battery bank its upwards of $20,000 *or* put massive effort into saving power so your ins equal your outs. Less than that if you get cheaparse panels from overseas via eBay and your mate installs them, of course. You can also get hybrid systems with battery banks for power failures but are still connected to the grid, I'd love one of those.

FYI grid feedback solar panels switch themselves off if you have a power failure, which is logical if you think about it but surprising when you first hear it.

My parents get an electricity bill of about $5 per quarter and they are serious electricity misers and have a ridiculous amount of panels in several rows on their garage roof. They've had the setup for years.

Wind is more economical (the wind blows all day, sun doesn't shine at night) but is only viable if you have room for a 20+ metre tower and guy lines, or you live somewhere with a lot of empty space (no trees, buildings) and constant wind. And having just moved from a house with a 100m long backyard with no baffles at the perfect orientation for a wind turbine, *and* quite constant wind from one direction, believe me you don't actually want to move somewhere that is perfect for a wind turbine. Leave wind to the big guys - one of the largest wind farms in Australia is visible from my old house. I'm using a photo of it as my avatar.

As to finance? You could set my old house up pretty easily to be totally self sufficient in every way bar phone for about $110-150,000 (including the house), but I can't see anyone doing it. You'd also have to go collect your own wood, I tried to grow a woodlot in the backyard for a firewood supply but its too windy to grow seedlings easily.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its not just the panels though, the cost of the meter and inverters are quite high, last time I looked into this (for a 3KW system not a 1KW) the meter/inverter setup alone was $8000 and then the cost of the panels and installation was on top of that.

There is something screwy with those costs! How can a commodity type electronics gear cost almost as much as a small car?!?

One can only hope that as the technology becomes more of a mass market product, it will drastically drop in price.

If we can see prices for off-grid technology halve every 3 years or so, we are not that far away from it being economical anyway.

It seems the grey nomad brigade are also heavy users of off grid mobile setups for their caravans and such.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is something screwy with those costs! How can a commodity type electronics gear cost almost as much as a small car?!?

Its probably the electricity suppliers setting the prices since *they* are the ones who install the meter. Any schmuck (with an electrician license) can install the panels, but not the meter. Regular meters are pretty expensive too. Heck, its $3500 to install a *water* meter ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My brother has been running a remote Solar Installation in northern NSW for almost 20 year, so I have been interested in alternative energy for a while. Here are a couple of observations on this thread.

Anders - I think your estimate of the output of the panels is a little conservative. With good panels in NNSW/Qld you should get about 5-6 hours per day averaged over the year. So 1KW of panels should average 5-6 KWH per day. Even on overcast days the panels produce up to 50% output, and in summer the active time can be over 12 hours.

Even allowing for average 5 hours per day, this is 5 x 365 x 1KWH - 1,825KWH per year for a 1KW arrray.

The expected life of quality Solar Panels is 20 years. My brothers 50W BP Solar panels are 20 years old and still alive (although I can't give an exact figure on any derating with age, but its minor). The current cost of electricity is about .21 per KWH, but it wasn't long ago that it was .14 ! What do you think it will be in 20 years?

When calculating the time to break even you would need to project the future cost of electricity. If you borrowed the money to install a solar system, then provided the initial savings matched the repayments, then as the cost of electricity goes up your annual savings would exceed the fixed loan repayments.

There are two distinct models for solar power - remote power (no access to the grid) and Grid connected (sell electricity to the power authority).

The Remote setup needs a large expensive battery bank, backup generator, maintainance and good system management. It costs a lot, but that's just the price of divorcing the power company.

The grid connected solar system is completely different. You aren't making electricity to use, but to sell. There is no battery - just a fancy inverter that feeds power back into the grid and a meter to monitor it. The rate they buy your electricity is higher than the rate they sell to you. I believe that in the ACT you can sign up for a 20 year contract to sell to them at .50 per KWH. That must reflect to some extent an estimation of the future cost of electricity.

Solar energy feeding into the grid is a good idea because it helps even out the load variations imposed on the big traditional generators. Coal fired power stations would be a lot more efficient if they had a constant load - but in fact the day load is a lot higher than off peak at night. Solar power offsets the higher daytime load.

There are a lot of companies now developing grid connected inverters, so the price should fall. If Solar Panels really do come down to 1-2 $/W, then I would think that widespread solar installations could be economically viable.

There are a couple of things to watch out for. The solar panels coming out of china may not really have a 20 year lifespan - which cancels the low cost/watt. The other thing is that the economics of selling electricity back to the grid depends a lot on the government having sensible policy and that they know what they are doing.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My brother has been running a remote Solar Installation in northern NSW for almost 20 year, so I have been interested in alternative energy for a while. Here are a couple of observations on this thread.

...

Thanks for the observations Dark Matter. As you say if you can get 0.5per kWhour then they are a terrific investment. On the grid disconnection do most go for a diesel generator as backup or rely on the batteries? I suppose it depends on location, too?

Good point about the load balance. On those really hot days in victoria, seems every year over the Australian Open where they get brown outs etc, more solar panels would certainly help, unfortunately I don't imagine coastal victoria is the ideal place for a solar panel investment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Diesel or Petrol generator is used as well as the batteries. Basically you need to be able pump some charge into the batteries if they get down or for short high loads.

Suppose that you want to run some powertools or the washing machine a few times a week. Just run the generator for an hour or so to stop the batteries from going down. A generator and a little bit of fuel used wisely is a much better investment than spending $5-10K on batteries to cover short term load requirements.

For a Remote Power System it helps to understand the basic physics of how the system works. Energy budgeting. In fact, if you install CFLs, get rid of wasteful appliances, install solar water systems and get a combustion stove/heater, then the amount of electricity you need is surprisingly low.

Anyone who wants to go solar and burn 20 KWH a day will pay through the nose - unless there is a major breakthrough in batteries and panels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the good info, Dark Matter. Good stuff.

Yes I was conservative with the figures, but hey - I'm an engineer! :)

The idea of using projected energy cost is a good idea - particularly if you anticipate having the installation for 20 years.

It seems we are only 2-3 years away until the technology will be economical with 5-7 year return on investment. I am interested in following how it develops.

Yesterday I visited the home show exhibition in Brisbane. There were probably about 5 PV solar companies there. A 3KW installation was quoted to be around $15K. If that price could get down to around $5K then I would jump in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...The idea of using projected energy cost is a good idea - particularly if you anticipate having the installation for 20 years...

That is my problem. Panels have 20 yr warranty and most numbers seem to put you at roughly break even after 20 years. Not so great.

How tough are these things? I live in a densely wooded area and can expect 2 main things:

Build up of leaves

Falling branches

I assume neither are spectacularly good for them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

Build up of leaves

Falling branches

I assume neither are spectacularly good for them.

tor where you are has a pretty dense population of cockatoos, black as well as regulars.

They love sinking their "fangs" into just about anything short of clay roof tiles that you might put on your roof. I imagine that also would not help.

Then again I have only heard of them eating soft plastics like that in pool heating systems, rubber around car windows etc. Is their any wiring for cockatoos to get into around a solar panel or is it all housed?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

tor where you are has a pretty dense population of cockatoos, black as well as regulars.

They love sinking their "fangs" into just about anything short of clay roof tiles that you might put on your roof. I imagine that also would not help.

Then again I have only heard of them eating soft plastics like that in pool heating systems, rubber around car windows etc. Is their any wiring for cockatoos to get into around a solar panel or is it all housed?

Yeah house is made of cedar, they have already had a go at that, the cockatoos are in fact the only birds we don't feed or encourage to hand around.

Haven't seen any black cockatoos though, that would be cool.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah house is made of cedar, they have already had a go at that, the cockatoos are in fact the only birds we don't feed or encourage to hand around.

Haven't seen any black cockatoos though, that would be cool.

click the link to see what they look like and some info on them in Hornsby.

Black Cockatoos in Hornsby Shire

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

click the link to see what they look like and some info on them in Hornsby.

Black Cockatoos in Hornsby Shire

Interesting. Definitely haven't seen them around here. Perhaps I ought to plant some of the she oaks they like... got plenty of the noisy sulphur boys. Maybe they scare them off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is my problem. Panels have 20 yr warranty and most numbers seem to put you at roughly break even after 20 years. Not so great.

How tough are these things? I live in a densely wooded area and can expect 2 main things:

Build up of leaves

Falling branches

I assume neither are spectacularly good for them.

The old BP Solar ones were really tough. My brother is in the hills west of Casino and the panels (8 x 50watt) survived the elements for 20 years. The latest ones are a bit of an unknown quantity at this stage, but there have been a lot of them installed recently under the govt subsidy program. It should be possible to see some statistics from that.

Its quite an interesting time for PV panels - some of the film technology panels look to be promising. I believe that in europe they are trialing arrays on farm lands.

At the moment, if you are in a capital city and electricity is .21 a KWH, then solar is more like a hobby than a serious proposition. If the cost of energy goes up a lot it might be a different story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My parents have had a solar system for the best part of a decade - their bills per quarter are single digit. They used to not get bills but then they started charging GST on the power used not the difference between power used and power fed back, so they'd get a negative bill with a higher positive GST amount. I don't know if this has been resolved since.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://greeninc.blog...hin-film-solar/

$4.1 Billion in Orders for Thin-Film Solar

By Todd Woody

Nanosolar, a California start-up, says it has secured $4.1 billion in orders for its printable photovoltaic cells. Since its founding in 2002, Nanosolar has raised a lot of money – half a billion dollars to date – and made a lot of noise about upending the solar industry, but the Silicon Valley start-up has been a bit vague on specifics about why it’s the next big green thing.

On Wednesday, Nanosolar pulled back the curtain on its thin-film photovoltaic cell technology — which it claims is more efficient and less expensive than that of industry leader First Solar — and announced that it has secured $4.1 billion in orders for its solar panels.

...

Nanosolar, based in San Jose, Calif., has developed a solar cell made from copper indium gallium (di)selenide. The semiconducting materials and nanoparticles are contained within a proprietary ink that makes it possible to print flexible solar cells on rolls of cheap aluminum foil.

(For those interested in the nitty-gritty details of Nansolar’s technology and production process, the company’s white paper provides is a good place to start.)

The company said on Wednesday that the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory had verified that its cells achieved 16.4 percent efficiency – the highest recorded for a printed photovoltaic cell – and its solar panels have efficiency greater than 11 percent.

According to Nanosolar, its low-cost production and the design of its Nanosolar Utility Panel will allow developers to build more efficient and less expensive solar farms. “Our cost is less than First Solar’s, which has been the lowest in the industry,” said Mr. Roscheisen. “Fundamentally, our cells are a piece of aluminum foil with a micron thick of a copper-based semiconductor on top — all deposited using inexpensive printing processes.”

Nanosolar, however, faces an uphill battle catching up with First Solar, which on Tuesday signed an agreement with Chinese government officials to build a 2,000-megawatt photovoltaic power plant in Mongolia and has contracts to supply more than 1,100 megawatts of electricity to utilities in California.

...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the moment, if you are in a capital city and electricity is .21 a KWH, then solar is more like a hobby than a serious proposition. If the cost of energy goes up a lot it might be a different story.

Electricity prices set to rise by 62% by 2013

EnergyAustralia's prices are expected to rise by 10 per cent in 2010-11, 16 per cent in 2011-12 and 25 per cent in 2012-13. These rises represent a total rise of 58 per cent over the three years.

Link to smh.com.au article

Householdl PV solar systems, economically viable alternative???... ... ... If prices for PV solar systems stay at curent levels or become cheaper, then it won't be long baby.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Link to smh.com.au article

Householdl PV solar systems, economically viable alternative???... ... ... If prices for PV solar systems stay at curent levels or become cheaper, then it won't be long baby.

I get a sense that we aren't that far off something of a tipping point for some of these technologies. With solar and wind continually getting better and cheaper, and if some of the new battery tech turns out as promised, this will become the cheaper option long term for many, if not most people in detached houses. I think it might already be at that point for remote locations now, and as more find it making sense, it should develop a positive feedback loop with economies of scale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/video-nanosolar-hits-16.4-percent-efficiency-in-lab

Video: Nanosolar Hits 16.4 Percent Efficiency in Lab

We ran into Nanosolar co-founder Brian Sager in a parking lot. Here’s an update.

Mountain View. Nanosolar, the heavily-funded copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panel maker, is going commercial, says co-founder Brian Sager.

"We're past our R&D. The whole idea here is to buy multiple lines of manufacturing equipment and scale as the market demands," he said during an impromptu meeting after a press conference for Cobalt Biofuels. "We're really only limited by market economics."

He reiterated that Nanosolar has hit 16.4 percent efficiency in the lab, which is the highest efficiency number I can recall for a private sector CIGS company. The National Renewable Energy Lab has published results on a CIGS cell that is just below 20 percent efficiency and rumors have swirled that NREL has gone beyond 20 percent. Still, most private companies have talked about champion lab cells hitting 12 or so percent efficiencies.

Nanosolar is shipping product (how much--who knows?) in the 10 to 12 percent efficiency range; the lab results, though, indicate that the number could improve in the near future.

CIGS solar cells are expected to leapfrog past cadmium telluride in efficiency. In theory, both CIGS and cad tel can solar cells can achieve a maximum efficiency of 29 to 33 percent. In real world terms, however, CIGS is expected to come out on top. It will be a topsy turvy race worth watching. Despite the promise of CIGS, many manufacturers have stumbled on their way to mass production. Meanwhile, First Solar sells panels with an efficiency near 11 percent and can manufacture modules for around 87 cents a watt, a tough standard to beat.

CIGS competitor Miasole has started to sell CIGS cells at a 10.2 to 10.5 percent efficiency and likely has higher performance cells in the lab.

...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

50% Aussie company involved in exothermic storage of solar thermal heat output.

http://www.solarfusi...m.au/index.html

http://cleantech.com...ge-breakthrough

Startup claims 24/7 solar power breakthrough

January 20, 2010 - by Dallas Kachan, Cleantech Group

New chemical storage technology makes solar baseload power-capable, says small, newly formed U.S. company.

A U.S. and Australian partnership has introduced a new solar thermal storage approach it believes could be disruptive to the fledgling solar storage industry.

Unveiling it for the first time at the World Future Summit in Abu Dhabi, Solar Fusion Power Director Wayne Bliesner described the system as having ten times the density of conventional molten salt solar storage.

"Twenty-four hour solar storage becomes easy with this technology," he told the Cleantech Group. "We could do thirty to forty hours."

The company's approach uses calcium hydride, a simple, non-toxic salt.

Under Solar Fusion's plan, solar heat is collected by an array of heliostats directed to a central down mirror, eliminating the requirement for a power tower.

The heat, focused on a power head immersed in liquid calcium, chemically separates the calcium and hydrogen during the day. At night, the hydrogen, having been collected in a separate tank, is pumped back and reacts with the calcium to reform as calcium hydride.

The reaction runs at approximately 1,000 degrees, and powers a dual shell Stirling engine of Bliesner's design to create power after dark.

"We can generate electricity continuously unlike other solar technologies," said Bleisner, inventor of the technology and a former Boeing engineer.

Molten salts are currently being used to store solar thermal energy in the U.S., Spain and elsewhere (see Concentrated solar gets salty and SolarReserve pulls in cash for solar thermal). But Solar Fusion claims to be unique in using an exothermic (heat-releasing) chemical reaction, not merely physically heating and cooling the salt.

The company estimates the cost of the system to be on par with fossil fuels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.oerlikon.com/ecomaXL/index.php?site=SOLAR_EN_press_releases_detail&udtx_id=7299

Closing The Gap to Grid Parity

20 Jan 2010

Swiss Made Thin Film Silicon PV technology with convincing track record and development perspectives

* Approximately half a gigawatt production capacity ramped

* Over 1 million panels produced on Oerlikon Solar equipment

* Thin film silicon PV with long term competitive advantages

China New Energy International Forum (CNECC), Beijing Jan. 20, 2010 - Oerlikon Solar leads the thin film silicon PV equipment sector with more than 450 MW installed around the world. Over 1 million panels have already been produced by its customers. With the company's Micromorph® factories, Oerlikon Solar plans to reach production costs at grid parity in 2010 making solar energy cost equal to fossil fuel-generated energy. The company is on track to offer its customers an advanced fab design capable of producing modules for $0.70/W by the end of 2010 offering the fastest time to revenue in the thin film silicon PV industry.

"Oerlikon Solar's goal is to make solar power economically viable in energy markets around the world," said Jürg Henz, chief executive officer of Oerlikon Solar. "With Oerlikon Solar's end-to-end manufacturing lines that are engineered to help solar manufacturers reduce module cost and maximize productivity, the company provides customers the fastest path to generating revenue in the industry."

Cost reduction advantage

Oerlikon Solar's thin film silicon technology offers cost-advantages over crystalline silicon, and is making strong efficiency gains. At the same time it provides long term competitive advantages compared to most other technologies. In the past 12 months, Oerlikon Solar has continued to significantly drive down module costs by approximately 25 percent, and improving the productivity of its lines from 60 MW in 2008 to 100 MW in 2009 without additional equipment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey AndersB, RumpledElf, Firefly, Dark Matter & others,

Thanks for posting some great info here. I hope to become more active on the Environment/Green Tech threads soon as my project this year is to research & design a house & small holding in country Victoria that is as environmentally friendly and self sufficient as possible. I'm also hoping to use this experience as a career change from IT to the Environment/Green sector so have a lot to learn... It's part of the wife and my "exit strategy" from the UAE. Btw, I spent a day at the world future energy summit, was quite impressive, everyone is in on the gig now. The earth race is on! Even Porsche had their "Greenster" on display, max speed 250 kph and 400 km's fully charged, not bad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now