Clean Tech Trends: Solar
Great Strides in Affordability Made, Many Opportunities Ahead
Solar had a great third quarter in 2012, it was in fact the third largest on record for the U.S. Solar industry. The U.S. market installed 1,992 MW in the first three quarters, exceeding 2011’s annual total of 1,885 MW. 2012’s total is estimated to surpass 3,000 MW. The U.S. total is now over 6.400 MW, enough to power more than 1 million American households.
The growing affordability due to falling costs has spurred the expansion. Q3 2012’s average cost of a completed PV system dropped by 33% since the beginning 2011. Solar panel prices decreased by 58% in that same time period according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
A new report Why Are Residential PV Prices in Germany So Much Lower Than in the United States? A Scoping Analysisput out by the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the lower costs of solar in Germany as compared to the U.S.
In Germany in 2011 solar panels cost residential solar system installers about the same as in the U.S. However installers in the U.S. tacked on almost three times the cost of the solar panel to complete an installation. The report examines the reasons for this, which include the large difference in the installed base in each country – Germany has about five times that of the U.S.
Another difference is the cost of acquiring new customers – German installers spend 7 cents per watt of installed capacity on marketing and custom designing systems whereas in the U.S. installers spend 10 times that amount.
Permitting, paperwork, grid connection, and inspection costs are also higher in the U.S. Germans spend about 3 cents a watt on these as compared to U.S. installers who spend 20 cents.
Labor is also more expensive in the U.S. surprisingly. U.S. installers pay more in sales tax (German installers are exempt), and they pay more overhead perhaps due to less economies of scale.
The good news is that these differences point to areas that can be improved upon in order to bring the costs down.
Initiatives such as SunShot, by the U.S. Department of Energy, is funding projects aimed at reducing the non-hardware costs of an installed solar system. One aspect of SunShot is a $12 million program is aimed at cutting the bureaucracy involved. There is also prize money available to reward companies that can decrease non-hardware installation costs to below $1 per watt. Additionally it funds design programs aimed at developing simplified and less expensive installation.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced an expansion of the State’s NY-Sun Initiative for solar energy. Over the next 10 years, the program will have an additional $150 million annually. The governor also plans to create a $1 billion green bank, and has appointment Richard Kauffman as New York’s chairman for energy policy and finance.
California, the leading solar state, now has installed 1,000 megawatts of rooftop photovoltaic panels under the $2.2 billion California Solar Initiative (CSI). The CSI objective is to generate 1,940 megawatts of solar electricity by the end of 2016. CSI rebates were slated to taper off until solar project capacity limits were met, however it was just recently announced that that program has been extended until the program funding is depleted.
As we stoke the fires of solar, we grow the economy. According to SEIA, there are now over 119,000 solar workers in the U.S., a 13.2% increase over 2011. These solar jobs are in every state throughout 5,600 businesses. Solar installations were valued at $8.4 billion in 2011, and significantly growing from 2010’s $6 billion valuation.
Written by Redfish Technology – Nationwide IT Recruiting (for High Tech Industries)
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