An expected sharp decline in the cost of solar (PV) panels is likely to make solar energy costs competitive with fossil-fuel-based-energy in the next decade, according to researchers in the U.S. and Europe, GreenBiz.com reports.
Solar could be a practical alternative for residential electricity in half of the homes in Europe and in parts of the U.S., say researchers at the European Union Energy Institute and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)
"There is a strong chance that PV energy will be cost-competitive [unsubsidized] with residential retail electricity rates in Western Europe and possibly parts of the U.S. by, or before, 2020," said Sam Newman, a researcher with the RMI. "Recent trends indicate PV energy costs are likely to dip below retail rates in certain U.S. states and southern European markets by 2015 or earlier."
Several factors are contributing to lower solar energy costs:
Lifetime expectancy of PV panels is increasing. The assumed lifetime was 20 years, but recent studies show panels lasting significantly longer.
Researchers expect big changes in the way the panels are manufactured. As the industry matures, manufacturers will continue to optimize their processes.
The installation process will be streamlined, as that segment of the market matures and becomes less fragmented.
Policies that create a predictable demand for PV technologies would also help bolster the industry, fostering growth and economies of scale, says RMI.
"This is happening very quickly," said Newman. "Major gains in PV reliability and reductions in manufacturing and installation costs are all contributing to lower costs."