If someone would have told me a few years ago that the price for solar panels would drop to 36 cents by 2017, I might have had some question about the mental health of the one making the assertion. But now, look at what Green Tech Media is reporting. The price per watt of solar PV will keep falling. All of this is well and good for the emerging solar industry, but there is a hitch: the sun doesn’t shine at night. price The price per watt to produce solar panels will fall to 36 cents by the end of 2017. With this cost reduction comes a price – disappearing subsidies for solar PV. The subsidies, which cost billions in taxpayer dollars, are believed to be less and less necessary as the price of solar energy reaches grid parity. Solar PV systems require panels, yes, but also a considerable number of other parts. Inverters, wiring, solar batteries for off grid or backup systems, and a good deal of cash for professional installation account for a large percentage of the startup cost that is so daunting to prospective investors, residential and utility alike. The most prohibitive drawback that has solar producing just .195% of the nation’s energy is easy to overlook, but oh so obvious once considered: when the sun goes down over the horizon, the panels are not producing energy.In order to make solar a real answer to our energy needs, it needs to be able to produce energy around the clock, and specifically when it’s needed during peak hours. Price per watt can drop all it wants for panels. To stay competitive, solar energy will need help, and subsidies won’t be coming back to the rescue. The answer is in energy storage.
If you have seen one solar module, have you seen them all? Many in the solar industry have long argued that solar panels are a commodity, interchangeable at the whim of the developer. We have strongly disagreed, but we conceded that the market has not agreed with us. All you need to do is ask the many companies who fill the halls of bankruptcy courts around the country and abroad about the market forces that drove them out of business. This argument has been settled—until Tom Woody authored a New York Times article that solar panel quality is a growing concern within the solar industry. Maybe the world is beginning to agree with us, but in any event, you should become an educated consumer as you look at which panels to put on your roof for the next 25 years.
SolarTown is increasingly tapped to support our governmental agencies, both at the federal and local level. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the needs of government agencies, educational institutions and others as they become increasingly interested in solar energy. Government customers are increasingly looking to SolarTown for their solar energy product needs. SolarTown received its first contract from the General Services Administration (GSA) over a year ago. We are now getting more calls and look forward to serving the government. We are very pleased to report that last month, SolarTown received its second GSA contract, a Federal Supply Contract for building supplies. This new contract will allow us to offer even a larger breadth of solar energy products to the government.
SolarTown attended the GW Solar Institute’s Fifth Annual Symposium. The theme of the symposium was “Going Global,” although the panel that we attended was more of a celebration of solar’s arrival on the world stage. Since the discussion had the feel of preaching to the choir, one solar advocate in the audience suggested that the Institute should have invited a few more skeptics to generate more lively discussion. Representatives of three powerhouses in the solar industry participated in the panel discussion. They represented the survivors in an industry that has seen considerable consolidation—meaning that a lot of companies have lost their shirts betting on solar. Some have sold their solar divisions, others have filed for bankruptcy. Survivors in the industry shakeout see opportunity. The panelists did not see the recent upheaval in the solar industry as anything “unnatural.” The industry is still at its infancy, and the recent industry shakeout is part of a natural business cycle. Solar still comprises less than 1% of the energy production in the U.S., despite huge growth in the industry. The opportunity lies ahead for those companies that survive.
Solar 2013, Baltimore. Today is the last day of the 42d annual ASES National Solar Conference. The conference may not have drawn the large crowds as in previous years—the field for solar and renewable conferences is getting crowded—but those who attended were treated to a heavy dose of solar policy, feed-in tariffs and installation guidance. One common theme at the conference was to learn from the experience of Germany, which has made tremendous strides that Germany to make solar and renewable a significant part of the energy output. This has also brought the cost down and between 2006-2012, the installed cost of solar systems in Germany has declined by a whopping 66%. Germany’s goal is to generate 30% of its energy from renewable energy by 2030, and it is well on its way to meet that goal.
It is that time of year again, but you would not know it from the weather outside in Washington, D.C. It has been cold and breezy, yet the sun is shining and if you have your solar panels out, you have been producing lots of solar energy. We have just updated our site with a new selection of new home solar panels, so if you are in the market, or just want to compare various options, then please let us know. If you don’t have the big bucks to shell out for a home solar panel system, then you may want to think about other solar offerings. As soon as the sun comes out, people start thinking solar powered lights and solar fountains. Every year, the solar light options get increasingly better, more efficient, brighter and more attractive. The SolarTown learning section provides an overview of solar powered lights, what applications they can be used for, a brief description of the lights, and how long they will work when operating at a full charge. Probably the most popular lights are solar path lights, but solar lamp posts are also quite popular.
First they were in outer space, then they invaded our homes and businesses, and even our backyards. Now solar panels are getting into our most sacred possessions, right next to our automobiles. Solar panel roofs are providing shade for cars through the U.S. and at the same time these panels are producing a lot of electricity. Solar panels are particularly well-suited for certain applications, and solar carports should be right on top of the list. We could be talking about the Mars Rover, where the next Shell gas station is no closer than 30 million miles away. But here we are talking about solar carports, which are relatively new areas of huge potential for the solar industry.
You may recall that four years ago Obama trumpeted three pillars for his new administration: health care, education and energy. The administration dithered on developing a comprehensive energy policy, leaving it to Congress to bury any chance of moving forward because of partisan wrangling. Possibly Obama learned his lesson on energy and when it came time to advocate for health care reform was much bolder and showed more leadership. Unfortunately for those who wanted to see a comprehensive energy policy, the chance for an energy policy withered on the trees in the first Obama administration. Two years ago, there was a small window of opportunity to recast renewable energy in the cloak of a jobs initiative, but that effort did not get very far and most believe that there is little appetite to restart the debate—which made Obama’s speech all that more interesting when he laid out a forceful vision on addressing climate change. Climate change got top billing over foreign affairs and world peace. The Administration is going to have a lot on its plate over the next six months, the critical time to set the agenda and seal the Obama legacy. Will Obama take on Congress not only on immigration reform, gun control, maybe gay rights—and climate change? Many will argue that the train has already left the station on competitiveness in the renewable energy field and we have already lost the competitive edge. It is all that much harder to get the ketchup back into the bottle in a second term presidency. This is particularly true when you consider the there is no economic imperative to do so: read shale gas. Leading the transition to solar energy and other renewable just does not seem to be a high priority.
The solar energy industry experience a lot of highs and lows during 2012. The biggest development has been the continued growth of solar energy in the United States. As recently reported, if you compare the third quarter of 2012 with the third quarter of 2011, you would see that there was a 44% growth in the amount of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in the United States. By anyone’s measure that is a huge growth rate. In our first blog post on the solar energy year in review, we discussed the huge price reduction in solar panels, dwindling incentives, and the effect of competing energy sources particularly natural gas on the adoption of solar energy in the U.S. In this blog post, we can’t avoid talking about some of the troubling issues facing the solar energy industry. We will discuss the Department of Energy loan program and tariffs.
We know this much about the solar industry as we approach the end of the year. It was another year of fast moving changes in the industry. The good news is that in 2012, there were a whole lot of solar panels going up on homes and businesses in the U.S. And there were some setbacks for the industry. At the beginning of the year, few had even heard of Solyndra—but by the end of the year, Solyndra had become a household name. As the New Year approaches, we want to reflect back on what 2012 meant for the solar industry. In our blog, we will discuss some of the highs and lows for the solar industry this past year. In this first of two blog posts, we will reflect on the decrease in the price of solar panels, on the effect of natural gas and coal on the solar industry, and finally on the dwindling incentives available to support solar energy.