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As Solar Panel Prices Plunge, U.S. Developers Look to Diversify

With the economics of solar power changing, firms say they can now afford to diversify their technology mix and thus enter untapped American markets

Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

May 26, 2011
Rice Solar Energy Project

Of the 25,000 megawatts of U.S. utility-scale solar power in development, more than two-thirds are PV solar projects while around 8,000 megawatts are from CSP systems, according to SEIA.

Stein said that the Elmsford, N.Y.-based firm hopes to grow the New Mexico facility's workforce from 300 employees to 1,500 as both solar markets expand in the next few years.

SEIA says that about 100,000 people are working in the U.S. solar industry today, a figure that  Resch said could more than double in the next two years.

Changing Economics

Just west of Schott's manufacturing space, (APS), the state's largest electric utility, is mixing up the way it distributes PV solar.

"There are a number of things we can do far more economically [today] than we thought we would be able to do just a few years ago," Pat Dinkel, APS vice president of power marketing and resource planning, said on this week's call.

Under the utility's ongoing $500-million , APS plans to take ownership of 100 megawatts of utility-scale PV power plants developed by a third party.

Rather than snatch up a single large-scale solar farm, however, APS will take on six projects ranging from 15 to 20 megawatts apiece across the state. The utility to date has five contracts totaling 83 megawatts for PV plants in Gila Bend, Hyder, Chino Valley and the Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

APS is also offering 200 customers in Flagstaff the chance to join a community pilot project. Participants will host distributed PV systems on their rooftops or properties and receive a long-term fixed power rate in exchange as APS studies how a saturated PV solar space might work.

An area school will host a 0.5 megawatt concentrated PV system connected to battery storage and smart grid technologies to run as a working lab for APS.

"We've certainly been able to deploy solar technologies much more effectively and reach different parts of the market because prices have come down and because of the way that PV is scalable," Dinkel said.

The utility is also contracted to receive all the output from the 250-megawatt Solana solar trough CSP plant developed by Spain's . The project in Gila Bend is backed by a $1.45 billion loan guarantee awarded by the DOE last year.

"We are seeing diversification [of solar technologies], and it is allowing us to be much more effective in deploying different solutions for our customers," he said.

Interesting Development

These are some interesting developments in the solar power world. I'm not sure I understand why the cost has dropped so significantly though. Does this mean that solar panaling could eventually become affordable for everyone who buys a house to have them installed?




GE predicts cheap solar

Bloomberg reports:

"GE Sees Solar Cheaper Than Oil in 5 Years"




According to the price survey

According to the price survey from PVinsights, , solar component prices drop sharply in the past few months. The cheaper solar PV component price should help PV system installation in the coming years.

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