Solarnomics: By 2016, solar pv energy to offer best value for money

Date: 01/10/2014
Imagine by investing around Rs. 50,000 to 60,000 on a solar PV panel, you can get a continuous power of 2KW (kilo watts) peak during the optimal sunlight condition during daytime. For a typical home in India without a airconditioner, 2KW of electric power generation for about 6-8 hours serves much of the electric power needs, provided the excess solar energy generated during day time is stored in a battery for night use. This will result in the generation of approximately 360 kilowatt-hour units of power per month, that is equivalent to around 1400 Rupees (at Rupees 4 per unit) of worth of electric power. If you add another Rs.25,000 -35,000 (depending on the battery size) for solar power inverter and battery for storage, the total cost of equipment and solar panel for a 2KW rooftop solar power generator is around Rupees 75,000- 85,000. Except for the battery replacement once in every 3 years at a cost of around 10,000 to 15,000 there is no any other major maintainance costs involved. The solar panels can last for 25-30 years at its best capacity and the inverter can work that long provided it is of good quality.

Why we are providing this calculation! simply to tell you that the cost for peak watt of solar PV panel is falling to US$0.4 per watt by 2016. Even now the international cost of solar PV panel is in the range of 0.7-0.8US$ per watt.

This is based on the announcement by US-based leading solar PV company Sun Edison, which has announced its latest achievement in reducing the cost of production of poly silicon used in solar PV cell manufacturing. Sun Edison said its most advanced polysilicon technology is on target to produce solar material at the lowest cost in the world, a solar panel producing 400 watt peak electric power costs $0.40 per watt peak by 2016. Sun Edison having its manufacturing facility now at Ulsan, Korea in partnership with Samsung Fine Chemicals (SFC). The Korean plant can produce 13,500 MT and will be operating at full capacity in the first quarter of 2015.

Sun Edison is using a technology called "high pressure fluidized bed reactor" (HP-FBR), produces high purity polysilicon 10 times more efficiently and with 90% less energy used than non FBR technologies. The HP-FBR technology requires less land, less capital and fewer natural resources. This technology helps to produce solar panels at a raw material cost of less than $0.05 per watt peak by 2016.

While this is the improvement at material cost, there are plenty of research going in cutting the cost of solar pv manufacturing at every stage.

imec, and RENA presented a cost saving isopropyl-alcohol (IPA)-free process for the texturing of Cz-Si wafers for high-efficiency silicon solar cell manufacturing.

“When applying this novel monoTEX F-based texturing in our Si PV pilot line to process large area (156x156 mm2) PERC-type solar cells, we achieved excellent conversion efficiencies well above 21%, ,” stated Dr. Joachim John, R&D project manager at imec.

Japanese researcher Professor Koichi Yamaguchi trying-out self-assembly of semiconductor nano crystals which may yield higher conversion efficiency and lesser cost of manufacturing compared to photolithography.

Overall the solar PV panel cost has come down by 80% from 2008 to now and is heading towards cheaper than the present non-solar electric cost by 2016. There won't be any waste area left on earth, particularly deserts going to be well utilized (including rooftops) as long as sun is shining there. By 2050, most researchers estimate the solar PV to become largest source of energy. All this matters to a new economics of energy. So we are heading towards Solarnomics powered world.

Author: Srinivasa Reddy N
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