Solar panel costs are not as important now, it is balance of system costs. Although having higher efficiency panels reduces the size of the solar installation which reduces balance of system costs.
Home solar is dominated by Solar City and Vivint which together are half of the US residential market SolarCity climbed from 28% to a record 36% share of the U.S. residential installer market from the first to the second quarter of 2014, according to new data from GTM Research. Over the same period, Vivint Solar nearly doubled its market share to 15%
Solar City scaling from unsubsidized 18 cents per kwh to 9 cents per kwh
In sunny states like California, solar power from Solar City is at an unsubsidized 18 cents per kwh. However, is subsidized which brings it down to 12-15 cents per kwh for many locations. This is cheaper than the lowest tier of PG and E electricity at 15.5 cents. There are four pricing tiers and they increase and usage increases and go up to about 25 cents per kwh. In 15 years, Solar Cities scaling and technology plans could bring the unsubsidized price of home solar electricity down to about 9 cents per kwh. This would be lower than the average price of US electricity at 12 cents per kwh. Elon Musk also plans to provide batteries for power storage so that the solar power does not burn off as heat at the feeder stations on the one way power grid.
by Solar City, CEO Lyndon Rive and chairman Elon Musk announced that within five to 10 years every set of solar panels that Solar City installs will come with a battery pack to help deal with the intermittency of solar power—one of the key factors limiting its use. Musk says his company Tesla Motors will supply at least some of those batteries.
Solar City is negotiating with New York State and potential partners to fund a solar panel plant about as big as the largest one in Asia. Rive says he plans to follow this with factories 10 times as large. At such a scale, assuming solar cell efficiencies can be steadily improved, the cost for installed solar panel systems would be cut by about half, from $2.30 per watt to $1.20
At full capacity, the battery factory that Tesla plans for Nevada would eclipse all of the current lithium-ion battery production in the world. Musk believes his factory will help lower the cost of batteries to less than $100 per kilowatt hour of storage—down from what analysts estimate is about $300 now.
Solar City is making a new kind of silicon solar cell with higher efficiency to enable lower balance of system costs.
By combining Silevo’s high-efficiency panels, which can convert about 21 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, compared with about 18 percent for standard panels, with cost savings that come from producing solar modules on a massive scale, SolarCity hopes to push down the price of solar energy systems to the point where they don’t need government subsidies to compete with conventional sources of electricity.
SolarCity hopes to have the RiverBend factory built and in production as soon as the first quarter of 2016.
The plant will be able to make solar panels to generate more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity each year, the factory would be the biggest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere and one of the biggest in the world.
SOURCES- Solar City, Technology Review, PV Magazine, Greentech Media
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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