February 11, 2009

Cheap solar is here!

First Solar is a very large manufacturer of thin-film PV. Their panels cost $1.08/watt to make, and sell for about $2.50/W.

These numbers are reliable: First Solar provides it's KW sales volume, and revenue $ figures in it's quarterly reports, so the $2.50 figure is pretty easy to calculate. First Solar is a publicly traded company, and those numbers are from their investor communications. If the cost data isn't real, there will be some very big shareholder lawsuits and regulatory consequences.

They're the price leader, so they're under little competitive pressure. Further, they say that costs continue to fall. A sales price of roughly 2x manufacturing cost is pretty common, so I think a sales price of $2/W in the near future is a reasonable expectation. I think that could get us to $3/W for large commercial rooftop installations.

With reasonable assumptions (25 year life, 7% interest, 20% capacity factor) we get $.15/KWH which, for S CA peak retail rates, amounts to grid parity without subsidies. A milestone.

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