Increasing Role for Renewable Photovoltaic Power Generation

by | Jul 22, 2011 | Industrial Energy & Onsite Utilities, Industry

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Editor

Photovoltaic power generation technology has been available for decades. Emerson’s Thomas Snowdon shares how advancements in this technology in recent years will soon make it, without subsidies, cost competitive with fossil fuel-based power generation.

Recent news points the observer to the idea that photovoltaic (PV) power generation is where the action is in renewable energy. The cost of PV panels has been falling rapidly and most observers anticipate that it will continue to do so. In an article published on Renewable Energy World.com, Stephen Lacey makes a compelling case for believing that a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from PV plants could reach grid parity levels – between eight and thirteen cents per kilowatt-hour in the next four to five years. That’s right folks, PV competitive with gas and coal without government support, or at least no more support than the government provides to coal, oil and gas concerns.

And it looks like the market is big enough to make this kind of prediction come true. SolarBuzz reported in an article on July 6 that their United States Deal Tracker is now showing over 17 GW of non-residential PV in the US, 601 projects, in the development pipeline, for completion by the end of 2015. At an average of one dollar per installed watt, that makes it a $4.25 billion a year market, attracting a lot of competition that is sure to accelerate the pace of reductions.

This leads me to wonder whether concentrated solar power (CSP) can remain a viable alternative over the next few years. I can see opportunities in CSP that could leverage economies of scale to reduce the LCOE of CSP plants, but I don’t know if there’s enough potential there to keep up with the precipitous fall of PV costs.

Some of the big names in CSP have begun to wonder and act, as well. I’ll be listening with interest to the upcoming webinar on Thursday, 28th July at 16:00 European Central Summer Time / 10:00am EDT) hosted by CSP Today, to hear what some of the movers and shakers in the industry have to say on the topic.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.