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April 06, 2011

Chinese Solar Power Companies and Bloomberg New Energy Finance Tout competitive Solar Power Costs

Solar panel installations may surge in the next two years as the cost of generating electricity from the sun rivals coal-fueled plants, industry executives and analysts said.

Large photovoltaic projects will cost $1.45 a watt to build by 2020, half the current price, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated today. The London-based research company says solar is viable against fossil fuels on the electric grid in the most sunny regions such as the Middle East.

Chinese companies such as JA Solar Holdings Ltd., Canadian Solar and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. are making panels cheaper, fueled by better cell technology and more streamlined manufacturing processes. That’s making solar economical in more places and will put it in competition with coal, without subsidies, in the coming years, New Energy Finance said.



Installation of solar PV systems will almost double to 32.6 gigawatts by 2013 from 18.6 gigawatts last year, New Energy Finance estimates. Manufacturing capacity worldwide has almost quadrupled since 2008 to 27.5 gigawatts, and 12 gigawatts of production will be added this year. Canadian Solar has about 1.3 gigawatts of capacity and expects to reach 2 gigawatts next year, Qu said.

Bill Gallo, CEO of Areva SA (CEI)’s solar unit says they could shave another 20 percent from the cost of making its concentrating solar thermal technology, and the same proportion from building and deploying plants.

Electricity from coal costs about 7 cents a kilowatt hour compared with 6 cents for natural gas and 22.3 cents for solar photovoltaic energy in the final quarter of last year, according to New Energy Finance estimates.

Comparisons often overstate the costs of solar because they may take into account the prices paid by consumers and small businesses who install roof-top power systems, instead of the rates utilities charge each other, said Qu of Canadian Solar.

“Solar isn’t expensive,” he said “In many areas of the solar industry you’re competing with retail power, not wholesale power.”

Solar power system costs have declined 5 percent to 8 percent a year.

Rooftops installations have the increased risk that comes from roofing being a dangerous profession and activity. It is still far safer than coal, oil and natural gas. However, roofing is the 6th most dangerous profession.

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