In order to meet the ambitious goals of achieving a net zero energy sector by 2035, the costs of solar energy and energy storage must be more affordable. But that has it has fallen sharply since its viable foundation in the 1970s. For example, the price of residential solar energy was $ 2.65 / W in the first quarter of 2021, down from $ 7.53 / W in 2010; solar energy on a utility scale was $ 0.89 / W compared to $ 5.66 / W ten years ago.
These decreases were largely due to higher module efficiency and lower module costs. The cost of various modular technologies – including crystalline silicon, cadmium telluride and copper-indium gallium diselenide – is expected to decrease with more efficient production in the coming years.
However, few experts expected these rapidly changing price reductions. Most saw the cost of solar energy as a slow, methodical decline. How is it that so many people have not seen a reduction in the cost of solar and battery storage in the utilities, commercial and residential sectors ten years in advance?
Meta-analysis, “Empirically based technological forecasts and energy transformation,Is a study of more than 2,900 forecasts of 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 the field expected solar energy to fall by more than 6%.
And what happened then? Solar energy costs have fallen by 15% per year.
Other technologies have seen similar cost declines. The authors state that “perhaps the most notable feature is the dramatic exponential increase in the deployment of solar photovoltaic power plants, wind farms, batteries and electrolysers in recent decades as they move from marginal applications to mass markets.” By 2019, renewables accounted for 72% of all new capacity additions worldwide.
If these curves continue in the future – and if they were supported by better policies, they could easily be sharpened – then we are still underestimating the possible path of progress.
But why was the transition to the American solar system so slow?
The new technology may take decades to return, which is a braking factor for companies. As a result, governments often take on the task of early research and development.
Solar received first attention when Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. In 1977, he founded the Ministry of Energy with a special focus on energy independence. Yet there was no funding for large federal purchases of solar panels; instead, millions of dollars were allocated to solar technology research and development. At the time, Carter said it was “too early to focus on the commercialization of photovoltaics.” A year later, solar panels were mounted on the roof of the White House.
Ronald Reagan, the next US president, cuts renewable energy research budgets by 85%.
Countries like Germany and Japan then left the United States in solar energy research and development and government subsidies. There was no going back to Europe and Asia.
Solar Energy Costs: The Road to Availability
With the burning of fossil fuels accounting for 87% of the world’s CO2 emissions, the world on fossil fuels is unsustainable and threatens future generations and the biosphere around us.
The cost of solar photovoltaics 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. Until 10 years ago, it was much cheaper to build a new power plant that burns fossil fuels 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, any doubling of global cumulative solar capacity has been associated with the same relative price decline. However, after several decades, the costs of solar photovoltaics (PV), wind and batteries (roughly) have fallen exponentially at a rate close to 10% per year.
The supply of energy from solar photovoltaics has increased by an average of 44% per year over the last 30 years.
The advances that have made this price reduction possible include the entire production process of solar modules:
- modules are produced by larger, more efficient factories
- Research and development efforts have expanded
- technological progress increases the efficiency of panels
- technical progress improves the production processes of silicon ingots and wafers
- mining and processing of raw materials will be expanded and cheaper
- operational experience is accumulating
- the modules are more durable and have a longer service life
- Market competition ensures that profits are low
- capital costs of a decline in production
Solar, solar everywhere – soon
The more comfortable creditors feel about the security of their investments, the more money will be available to make them happen. Predictability is the most important benefit of this research. Enter the US solar industry, which grew by 43% in 2020. Solar energy production increased by 23% worldwide in 2021. In 2022, solar energy continued its strong growth and by February showed 36% year-on-year growth compared to the first two months of 2021.
Now, in June 2022, progressive U.S. lawmakers are welcoming an executive order by President Joe Biden referring to the Defense Manufacturing Act to speed up domestic production of solar panels. Biden also calls on Congress to pass legislation to facilitate the nation’s transition to the post-fossil fuel era by supporting domestic solar companies and other clean energy industries in the United States. The Defense Manufacturing Act (DPA) is the primary source of presidential authority to accelerate and expand the supply of materials and services from the US industrial base for national security purposes.
Biden’s plan includes using the emergency office to impose a two-year ban on new tariffs on panels imported from 4 Southeast Asian countries, resulting in the stabilization of possible reverse duties, which has almost halted new US solar projects. As soon as the announcement came, Sunrun shares jumped 5.9%, while Enphase Energy rose more than 5.4%. SolarEdge and SunPower technologies gained almost 3%. Array Technologies jumped 18%, he noted CNBC.
As he stated Common dreamsPersistent pressure at the local level has put pressure on Biden to act, citing “the full power of federal procurement to support additional domestic solar generation capacity by managing the development of major supply contracts.”
Concluding remarks on solar energy costs
Research and development has not stopped with declining solar energy costs. A team of researchers, including from 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 solar panels that operate at night. Yes, a thermal radiation diode that converts infrared heat into electricity has produced energy that is incredibly small compared to the power of a solar panel, about 0.001%. However, scientists suggest that the results show hope for the development of solar panels that can produce energy at night. The team is currently working on further research and industry partnerships.
Meanwhile, solar energy is becoming commonplace in homes and businesses and along highways. Solar Over Louisville is a remarkable campaign to get households to adopt solar energy. The aim of the Solar Grant program in the region is to help lower-income people pay for the installation of solar panels and thus ensure fairer access to cleaner energy. The grant program was so popular that applications were closed by 2023, indicating great interest from local communities in the transition to sustainable energy.
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