April 14, 2023


How did solar power get cheap? Part I (BRIAN POTTER, APR 12, 2023, Construction Physics)

Solar photovoltaics (PV) have become one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Lazard's estimate of unsubsidized levelized cost of energy (LCOE), the average cost of electricity generated over a plant's lifetime, has utility scale solar PV cheaper than anything except completely depreciated natural gas plants and wind in the very windiest locations. Data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) likewise shows that new solar PV plants in the US generate electricity cheaper than anything else except wind power in the best locations.

Solar PV's low cost is the result of it steadily falling in price over many decades. In 1957 solar PV electricity cost roughly $300,000 per megawatt-hour in 2019 dollars. By 2019, in the sunniest locations that had fallen to roughly $20 per megawatt-hour, 15,000 times less. And it's still getting cheaper. In 2021, the DOE set a goal to reduce the cost of solar PV by another 50% by 2030. 

Because of its low cost, while solar PV is still a small fraction of overall electricity generation (around 6% in the US), it's an increasingly large fraction of new electricity generation capacity. Of the 151 gigawatts of planned electricity generating plants tracked by the EIA, 49% of them are solar PV projects.

Similar trends are happening worldwide. Globally, installed solar PV capacity is increasing by roughly 20% to 30% per year. Worldwide solar PV generation went from 34 terawatt-hours in 2010 (around 0.2% of total electricity use) to over 1000 terawatt-hours in 2021, close to 5% of world capacity.

Starting to think the Right may lose its war against the Sun. 
Posted by at April 14, 2023 6:58 AM