Wait a year before buying solar panels – that’s the advice from industry experts who think the price of solar PV will fall, grants will rise, and the cost of grid power will rise too, delivering a triple whammy in favor of solar power.
But not just yet.
Although the cost of solar panels has fallen as low as $2.48 a watt according to the latest issue of Homepower magazine, its likely to go to $1.50 next year. A company called Skyline Solar hopes to achieve grid parity before the end of 2010 — way ahead of the rest of the industry.
According to research by Clean Edge, solar power and conventional electricity sources will reach a “crossover” point before 2015.
In other words, electricity from the sun will be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels.
Today’s peak solar price of 15-32 cents/kWh is expected to decline to 8-12 cents/kWh by the year 2015. The current national average is 9.8 cents/kWh. Achieving this “grid parity”—a price at which renewable and conventional sources are comparable—has been a primary goal of solar since its inception.
Interested in purchasing a HGS system for your home or company? You won’t have to wait long. The HGS system has already been subjected to a year of real-world testing at the company’s Mountain View headquarters, and its 27-kilowatt pilot plant at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has also been a success.
Skyline’s HGS system combines multiple proven solar technologies into one unit. Tracking hardware rotates to follow the sun, a reflective rack focuses a large area of light onto a small solar array, and high gain solar panels convert sunlight to electricity using proven silicon-based PV cells.
Imagine using a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun’s rays on one point to start a fire. That’s exactly how the HGS works to boost its efficiency. According to Tim Keating, Skyline’s VP of Marketing, the HGS system “delivers ten times more energy per gram of silicon” than traditional flat panel solar systems. As a result, the entire system can produce more watts for a lower price.
Mr. Keating also explains some of the other environmental benefits of the HGS. “It can squeeze 1,000 MW of electricity out of 100 MW worth of conventional solar panels, 98% of its components are recyclable, and it is built using a modular design.” That final point is especially noteworthy—as solar panels become more efficient in the future, the panels alone can be upgraded on the HGS without replacing the entire system.
This has caught the attention of the DOE which just provided $3 million in development funding so Skyline could increase its manufacturing output as part of the Solar America initiative. And, even as the economy started going sour last fall, Skyline Solar was able to close a $24.6 million Series A Venture round.
Now, Skyline is preparing to increase its manufacturing capabilities and compete in the marketplace. According to the company’s website, “Skyline’s HGS architecture is ideally suited for systems ranging from 50-100 kilowatts up through many megawatts. There’s no fundamental limit on how large the plants can be.”
Skyline plans to release further financing information—including HGS purchase prices and costs/kWh—later this year.
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