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SES: Solar cheaper than coal in 5 years

solar-panel21.jpgSolar power is expensive, but solar suppliers have been trumpeting “grid parity” for years – the point where solar power becomes cheaper than producing energy from conventional fossil fuels.

But when is this likely to happen? Greenbang’s D. Lorenz investigates…

The point will be dictated by a number of forces – government subsidies for solar power, as well as the cost of solar components.

The high price of silicon – a key element in photovoltaic panels – has kept the production of panels expensive in the past five years.

But improvements in the efficency of the technology and a recent surge in production of panels in China will reduce the cost of production and bring the price of solar power down, according to a spokesman for the Solar Energy Society in the UK.

“This phenomenon is happening now, and we are looking to compete on price in under five years, but subsidies are still vital to encourage uptake,” he said.

Others think parity is much further off than five years.

“The rate of installation of solar panels in the UK is absolutely minuscule,” said Friends of the Earth climate change campaigner Mary

“There’s no economic incentive and there won’t be for some time. That may change if fuel bills keep on rising, but we can’t wait for that to happen. Subsidies and feed-in tariffs in Germany have showed that government policy can have a huge effect on uptake.”

The UK has a problem Germany hasn’t though – its not hot enough.

Heiko von Dewitz, investment director of Intel Capital’s cleantech sector which has justed invested in solar panel manufacturer Sulfurcell said the UK was not a target for the industry at the moment.

“There’s a lot of rain in the UK and its not a market we’ll be immediately targeting,” he said.


  • Steve
    Posted May 30, 2009 at 2:23 am

    It’s been a while, but the last I calculated what it would cost to take my house off the grid, the *interest* on the cost of the system far exceeded what I was paying for grid power. When I saw that, I didn’t bother to estimate the depreciation. Even if you assume that the PV array and inverter will last forever, that big battery sure won’t.

  • Energy revolutionary
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Your article only highlights the need for policy drivers to accelerate the introduction of renewables. A report released by Greenpeace Australia Pacific recently shows that technically it’s entirely achievable to phase coal-fired poer out entirely by 2030 and shift to renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, but it is not going to happen without the right polices and mechanisms from the government. Check out:

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