According to new research conducted by the independent EU Energy Institute, the cost of installing and owning solar panels will fall even faster than expected. While solar panels were originally predicted to last 20 years, recent tests have shown that 90-percent of existing solar panels will last for 30 years, according to Roger Harrabin, environmental analyst for BBC News. This extended lifetime guarantee will drastically cut the lifetime cost of solar panels.The drop in cost is due in part to the manufacturing volume created by incentive programs for solar panels in Germany, Italy, and Spain. The recession caused an increase in output and a decrease in orders, accounting for a 30-percent price drop just last year.
Solar electricity has also become less expensive thanks to an end to the shortage once inflicted upon the production of polysilicon, a key component of solar panels. Polysilicon production has increased thanks to the recent opening of factories which make the material and housing plants in China which churn out the panels themselves.
Dr. Heinz Ossenbrink, an employee of the EU Energy Institute was quoted in the BBC News article, Solar Panel Costs ‘Set To Fall’ “We have been surprised in the past five years at the drop in prices. It’s due to good incentive programs first in Germany, then Spain and Italy. That created a kind of boom that was helping industry to reduce cost and get into profitability. When an industry is in profit, it drives on its own.”90-percent of solar panels on the market from ten years ago are capable of performing well even after 30 years of life. Dr. Ossenbrink claims that panels with a 40-year life expectancy will be on the market soon.
A goal for most solar manufacturers is grid purity, the point when it costs someone the same amount of money to generate power on their homes as it would to buy from the grid. The EU Energy Institute is expecting Italy to reach grid purity by next year, and half of Europe to do so by 2020. The UK and other northern countries will experience more of a delay, and may not reach grid purity until 2030.
India is one country with a highly ambitious goal for solar generation. In November, the Indian government greenlighted its first national solar power program. The program will aim to produce 20 gigawatts of solar energy generation capacity by 2020. A $19 billion budget to cover manufacturing, building, research, and development costs will make the goal possible.
More and more Indian companies are entering the solar market. The giant optical media storage maker Moser Baer invested in the production of crystalline and amorphous silicon solar panels. In August, the company won a contract to build a 1-megawatt solar farm using its amorphous silicon solar panels. In September, KSK Surya Photovoltaic Venture said it would spend $500 million to buy land and build a factory to make amorphous silicon solar panels.
According to an article by Greentech Media, India is likely to become a booming market for solar thermal power developers. Executives from German and American companies such as Solar Millenium and BrightSource Energy have found India to be an ideal location to erect fields of mirrors to concentrate the sunlight to heat fields and produce steam, which is then piped to a generator for electricity production. Acme Group has also made plans to construct solar farms in India.
By Kristen Kubilus. Kristen can be reached at Kekubilus@hotmail.com.