Falling solar prices

Yers, I know, I know, I\’ve been saying this for a long time now. But dealing with climate change is going to be a lot less painful than many seem to think. And it\’s also a lot less urgent.

For the technological cycle is taking care of it all for us.

Sure, we need to move from carbon based to non carbon based forms of energy generation. Sure, incentives were needed to get people off their arses to create the technologies that allow this to happen.

But to a large extent we\’ve already managed this. The great lumbering beast that is the capitalist/free market engine of invention and innovation is getting there.

No, not as a result of foolishness like the feed in tariffs which came in two weeks ago. Rather as the effect of research and development decisions that were made 10 and 15 years ago. Leading to numbers like these:

The thing that is most notable about this is how fast the non-silicon costs have been falling – the sequence by quarter is 90c, 86c, 81c, 76c.  This is roughly 4c per watt per quarter.  It is of course impossible to know how far this will continue to fall – diminishing returns to technology and manufacturing reports will eventually occur.  But for the moment we can take 76c and falling fairly fast (roughly 4c per quarter) as the non-silicon costs for various manufacturers.

Between 4% and 6% reduction in costs per quarter for the manufacturing of solar PV cells. That\’s the sort of cost improvement which rapidly transforms a technology from expensive lunacy to shit, gimmie some of that.

I agree, solar PV is only part of it all. We\’ve still not got a battery or storage system (although in my own day job I can see things roaring ahead there as well. I little bit of research I subsidised back in 2004 has now gone mainstream with the raw materials demand indicating production of millions of units in about 2 years (no, no patent or IP on it.). Such a ramp up in consumption of this material that we\’ve got to go and build a new factory to supply it…..or at least someone does.). We\’ve still not got a grid optimised for distributed generation and so on. But all of the pieces are there and visible, all of the technologies required are available, we know they work. All we\’ve got to do now is get them down in price.

And that is something that this mixture of capitalism and free markets is extraordinarily good at. Indeed, it\’s the finest system to do so we\’ve as yet uncovered. And I\’ve been confident all along that it will be falling prices of non carbon generation which will provide the solution. We\’ll get to a point, a point which I\’m increasingly convinced is not that far away, where new installations will be preferentially non carbon simply because they\’re cheaper. At which point the whole problem goes away. The standard turnover of the capital stock will, over the 30-50 year lifespan of that capital stock, move us from carbon based to non carbon based forms of generation.

In short, we\’re done. Finis.

8 thoughts on “Falling solar prices”

  1. But that wouldn’t involve the State having control of every little part of our lives though, would it? Can’t have the proles being free now can we? Never know what they might do.

  2. And also, it seems fairly painless, and as if it will allow people to continue their hedonistic, wasteful, Gaia-raping lives. So that will NEVER do…

  3. Actually, at least here in the UK, this is extremely bad news. As the costs fall it’ll mean the payback period for making a profit from the feed in tariffs will fall, thus encouraging more people to do this. At the seriously nutty level the tariffs have been set at that will mean electricity bills being pushed even higher.

    With the level of sunlight we get here in the UK I think solar is only of marginal use.

  4. And once a better alternative to fossil fuels is in place- expect the academics to discover that global warming was never a problem. Also expect them to think of a new one.
    And in the meantime we’ll have wasted shed-loads of money- thus loosing vast amounts of value.

  5. But dealing with climate change is going to be a lot less painful than many seem to think

    Since ‘dealing with climate change’ is impossible, it was never a problem anyway. For the most part we can ignore it and get on with developing high-tech civilization on the planet, and if the climate changes too much, hot or cold, we can use our technical expertise to adapt.

    No, the problem has always been those who seek to prevent us developing our civilization by using some apocalyptic cult to scare us into returning to the seventeenth century.

    And energy policy should be geared to ensuring plentiful cheap energy for all, and let the availability of supplies dictate whatever sources are suitable for use in whatever circumstances.

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