First Solar, Ordos, China, US

China, USHow can we be so profoundly behind in our awareness of solar PV? China signs an agreement with the world’s largest PV company (which just happens to be an American company) for the world’s largest PV system (equivalent to Hoover Dam in output) using the most advanced, lowest-cost technology, and we haven’t even heard about it? The company, the technology, the concept of big PV. All that is new. Our press and our government are in the dark. Why?

We hear about self-promoting Silicon Valley PV start-ups manipulating the press for coverage while they raise money (First Solar is from the Rustbelt). We hear about Chinese silicon PV companies using low-cost labor to take the market away from everyone, because that is a cliché of our psyche – the foreign threat.

Buying PV Without Getting Ripped Off

PV pricesThe second, and much improved, version of California’s experience with PV prices, Tracking the Sun II, has been released.

It is a huge step forward from the previous report, which seemed to treat CA as an island and ignored the much greater experience of the non-CA-dreaming world outside. This year there are special sections comparing CA with Europe. We are blessed!

However, the report is still out of date, since it ends in 2008 (with an unrevealing peek at 2009). As we know, prices for silicon modules have dropped like a stone, and very large quantities can be bought under $1.5/W.

Now what we can do from the CA report is actually estimate what we should be paying going forward without getting ripped off. The reason this is important is that most people will read the CA report without the knowledge of the staggering plunge in module prices and think we are still stuck at $8/W for residential systems (and similarly high prices for the commercial and big ground-mounted systems).

Solar PV Getting Cheaper, But Press Doesn’t Have a Clue about the Real Story

Solar PVRead this article by the AP and you would think the reason solar is cheaper is subsidies.

Well, good sources tell us that Chinese crystalline silicon modules are available at $1.4/W; and big systems can be installed with trackers at $3/W (which means $2.5/W without them). These prices put solar in the 10 c/kWh range right now in good sunlight!

The mainstream press probably doesn’t know what these numbers mean. For comparison, modules used to sell for $2-$4/W, so $1.40/W is a huge drop. And big systems went in for $4/W or more, and little ones on rooftops for the outrageously high number of $8/W quoted by the article and out-of-date reports.