October 15, 2007
Grid-connected solar power is on track to become cost-competitive with electricity generated by conventional sources by 2015 in parts of Europe and by 2020 in many regions of the world, a report released last week by Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association concludes. Solar Generation IV–2007, the fourth iteration of a report prepared jointly since 2001 by the global environmental organization and the European solar industry trade group–concludes that by 2020, costs for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems could drop by more than 50 percent from 2006 levels in most parts of the world if current trends continue.
At the same time, prices for power generated by conventional resources in Europe and elsewhere are likely to continue their 15-year upward trend, making solar power cost-competitive with traditional generation in southernmost Europe as early as the end of the decade, and throughout Europe by 2020, the report said.
“The solar photovoltaic industry will invest from now until 2010 [$19.1 billion] globally in extending PV factories,” Winfried Hoffman, president of the trade group, said in a September 4 written statement. “Mass production will enable us to reduce prices and we expect to be competitive, in some regions, with end consumer prices by 2015. “In the future there is no doubt that PV will become a first-choice technology for electricity consumers to provide price-stable and reliable electricity for private households and other users.”
Interestingly, the report acknowledged that the two organizations’ predictions in past reports of likely installed solar capacity worldwide have consistently fallen short of what the industry has produced, giving the groups hope that solar power will continue to grow at an eye-popping pace.
Global installed solar capacity in 2006 reached more than 6,600 megawatts (MW), more than four times the 1,200 MW of capacity in 2000. Installation of PV cells and modules around the world has been growing at an annual rate of more than 35 percent since 1998. This rapid growth has boosted the annual value of the global solar industry to more than $19 billion. Large-scale grid-connected PV arrays exceeding 1 MW in capacity represent 10 percent of the European PV market, and represent the “motor” of the current boom in PV, with most development occurring in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the report said.
While in 1994 only 20 percent of PV capacity was connected to the grid, by 2006, the amount of total global capacity occupied by grid-connected PV had grown to nearly 85 percent, it said. In 2006, Germany led the world in total installed capacity with 2,530 MW of installed capacity, followed by Japan, 1,708 MW; the United States, 620 MW; and Spain, 120 MW.
Germany also was the world leader in capacity installed in 2006, with 750 MW. Japan was a distant second, with 290 MW, while the United States was an even more distant third with 141 MW installed. Japan is the world’s leader in PV manufacturing capacity, with 36.4 percent. Germany is second with 20 percent, while China ranks third with 15.1 percent–more than twice the U.S. manufacturing capacity of 6.8 percent.
Under the most conservative of three scenarios the report modeled for the growth of solar through 2030, PV could supply 5.35 percent of global demand, avoid more than 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and provide power to more than 2 billion people–three-quarters of which live in areas lacking modern electricity transmission networks.
“The current surge in photovoltaic solar electricity is only a taste of what’s to come,” Greenpeace campaigner Sven Teske said in a written statement. “Solar generators will soon challenge utilities, as they produce electricity at competitive prices just where it is needed–at home.”
The Energy Daily, Vol. 35, No. 173