In order to meet the ambitious goals of achieving net zero electricity consumption by 2035, the costs of solar energy and energy storage must become more affordable. But that there is has declined significantly since its sustainable early 1970s. The price of residential solar energy, for example, was $ 2.65 / W in the first quarter of 2021, compared to $ 7.53 / W in 2010; solar energy was $ 0.89 / W compared to $ 5.66 / W a decade ago.
These declines are largely caused by higher module efficiency and lower module cost. It is predicted that the cost of various modular technologies – including crystalline silicon, cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium diselenide – will decrease in the coming years with more efficient production.
However, several experts expected this price reduction to change rapidly. Most saw the price of solar energy as a slow, methodical decline. How did so many fail to see a decade ahead of reducing the cost of solar and battery storage installations in the utilities, commercial and housing sectors?
Metaanalysis, “Empirically based technological forecasts and energy transition,”Is a study with more than 2,900 predictions about how long and how fast the cost of installing solar energy will fall from 2010 to 2020. The average forecast was 2.6% per year. No expert in this field imagined that solar energy would fall by more than 6%.
And then what happened? Solar energy costs have fallen by 15% per year.
Other technologies have experienced similar declines in costs. The authors state that “perhaps the most significant feature is the dramatic exponential increase in the use of solar photovoltaics, wind, batteries and electrolyzers over the last decades as they have shifted from niche applications to mass markets.” By 2019, renewable energy accounted for 72% of all new new capacity worldwide.
If these curves are maintained in the future – and could increase if supported by better policy – then even now we underestimate the possible path of progress.
But why was the transition to American solar energy so slow?
New technology may take decades to pay off, which is a brake on companies. As a result, governments often take on the task of early research and development.
Solar received initial attention when Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. In 1977, he founded the Department of Energy, with a special focus on energy independence. However, there were no funds for large federal purchases of solar panels, instead millions of dollars were allocated for research and development of solar technology. At the time, Carter said it was “still too early to concentrate on the commercialization of photovoltaic devices.” Solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House a year later.
Ronald Reagan, the next US president, hacked budgets for renewable energy research by 85%.
Countries like Germany and Japan then left the U.S. far behind in research and development of solar energy and government subsidies. There was no return for Europe and Asia.
Cost of solar energy: Moving towards accessibility
As the burning of fossil fuels accounts for 87% of the world’s CO2 emissions, the world that uses fossil fuels is not sustainable and endangers future generations and the biosphere around us.
The cost of solar PV has decreased by more than 3 orders of magnitude since its first commercial use in 1958. It took 6 decades for solar energy to become more affordable. Just 10 years ago, it was much cheaper to build a new fossil fuel power plant than to build a new solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind farm. Wind was 22% and solar 223% more expensive than coal.
For more than 4 decades, each doubling of global cumulative solar capacity has been associated with the same relative decline in prices. However, after several decades, the costs of solar photovoltaics (PV), wind and batteries have fallen (approximately) exponentially at a rate of close to 10% per year.
The energy supply from solar photovoltaic devices has increased by an average of 44% per year for the last 30 years.
The progress made possible by this price reduction includes the entire process of manufacturing solar modules:
- larger, more efficient factories produce modules
- Research and development efforts have expanded
- technological advances increase panel efficiency
- engineering advances improve the production processes of silicon ingots and tiles
- exploitation and processing of raw materials is growing in volume and becoming cheaper
- operational experience is accumulated
- modules are more durable and live longer
- market competition ensures that profits are low
- capital costs to decline production
Solar, solar everywhere – Coming soon
The more comfortable lenders feel about the security of their investments, the more money will be available to turn them into reality. Predictability is the most important advantage of this research. Enter the U.S. solar industry, which grew 43% in 2020. Solar production grew 23% globally in 2021. Solar continued its strong momentum in 2022, showing 36% from the previous year to February compared to the first two months 2021..
Now, in June 2022, progressive U.S. lawmakers welcome President Joe Biden’s executive order calling for a Defense Manufacturing Act to speed up domestic production of solar panels. Biden also urges Congress to pass a law that will facilitate the nation’s transition to the fossil fuel era by supporting domestic solar companies as well as other U.S. clean energy industries. The Defense Manufacturing Act (DPA) is the primary source of presidential authority to accelerate and expand the delivery of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base for national security purposes.
Biden’s plan includes calling on emergency services to introduce a two-year ban on new tariffs on panels imported from four Southeast Asian countries, resulting in the stabilization of possible retroactive duties that have nearly halted new US solar projects. As soon as the announcements surfaced, Sunrun’s shares jumped 5.9% while Enphase Energy rose more than 5.4%. SolarEdge Technology and SunPower won nearly 3%. Array Technologies recorded about 18 percent CNBC.
How it transmits Common Dreamsthe constant pressure of the citizens resulted in pressure on Biden to act and put “the full power of federal procurement to work by encouraging additional domestic solar production capacity by directing the development of major supply contracts”.
Final reflections on the price of solar energy
Research and development has not stopped with reducing the cost of solar energy. A team of researchers, including the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at UNSW Sydney and the ARC Center of Excellence in Exciton Science, has made a breakthrough in infrared technology that could lead to the development of night-time solar panels. Yes, the thermo-radiative diode that converts infrared heat into electricity produced energy that is incredibly small compared to the output of solar panels, about 0.001%. But researchers point out that the results show hope for the development of solar panels that can produce energy at night. For now, the team is seeking further research and the establishment of industry partnerships.
Meanwhile, solar energy is becoming commonplace in homes and businesses and along highways. Solar Over Louisville is a noteworthy campaign that encourages households to embrace solar energy. The regional Solar Grant program aims to help lower-income residents pay for the installation of solar panels, ensuring fairer access to cleaner energy. The grant program is so popular that applications are already closed by 2023, which indicates the great interest of local communities in the transition to sustainable energy.
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