Solar PV costs dropped 50% last year: time for south Georgia to lead in solar power

Solar energy continues to grow by leaps and bounds worldwide. Except in Georgia. Maybe we should change that. There’s an election going on right now.

Frank Jordans wrote for AP 11 June 2012, $257 billion invested in renewable energy in 2011,

Global investment in renewable energy reached a record of $257 billion last year, with solar attracting more than half the total spending, according to a U.N. report released Monday.

Investment in solar energy surged to $147 billion in 2011, a year-on-year increase of 52 percent thanks to strong demand for rooftop photovoltaic installations in Germany, Italy, China and Britain.

Large-scale solar thermal installations in Spain and the United States also contributed to growth during a fiercely competitive year for the solar industry. Several large American and German manufacturers fell victim to price pressure from Chinese rivals that helped to halve the cost of photovoltaic modules in 2011.

Lower solar PV module price should mean more people can afford to install solar electricity, which should mean more jobs for people to install it. How much lower? According to the report:

The most spectacular price plunge was in PV cells, whose average price fell from $1.50 per Watt in September 2010, to $1.30 per Watt by January 2011 and $0.60 per Watt by the end of the year, according to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Solar Price Index. This fed into a fall in PV module prices of nearly 50% between the start of 2011 and the beginning of this year.

According to solar installation price quotes dropped by 30% in 2011: that’s including the other components, such as rack mounts, wiring, inverters. Solar PV panels are now so cheap that installers in Georgia and Tennessee want to mount them flat to the roof because it’s cheaper to just add more panels than it is to include the cost of angled rack mounts.

Here’s the report, and the U.N.’s press release for it, Global Renewable Energy Investment Powers to Record $257 Billion,

Solar generation surged past wind power to become the renewable energy technology of choice for global investors in 2011.

In Georgia while there’s opportunity for large wind power off the coast, inland there’s opportunity everywhere for rooftop solar.

  • Total investment in solar power jumped 52% to $147 billion and featured booming rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations in Italy and Germany, the rapid spread of small-scale PV to other countries from China to the UK and big investments in large-scale concentrating solar thermal (CSP) power projects in Spain and the US.

CSP in Spain, such as Torresol’s Gemasolar Array, which we could do in south Georgia. But we don’t even need to do that: solar PV has become so inexpensive that we could quickly generate more than Gemasolar’s 19.9 MW through rooftop power.

  • The United States surged back to within an inch of the top of the renewables investment rankings, with a 57% leap to $51 billion, as developers rushed to cash in on three significant incentive programs before they expired during 2011 and 2012. After leading the world for two years, China saw its lead over the US shrink to just $1 billion in 2011, as it recorded renewable energy investment of $52 billion, up 17%.

Maybe if Georgia would move ahead with wind power and with solar energy, the U.S. would lead the world. And south Georgia could lead Georgia!

There’s really no excuse not to:

The price of all major renewable energy technologies continued to fall in 2011—to the point where they are challenging fossil-fuel sources, even before climate, health and other benefits are factored in.

And no, Thomas A. Fanning and Southern Company, the “revolution in shale gas” doesn’t save you:

While 2011 saw significant falls in the costs of generating a MWh of power from onshore wind (down 9%), and from PV technologies (down more than 30%), the cost of electricity generated by fossil-fuel sources changed less in most parts of the world—despite the sharp falls in US natural gas prices due to the increased use of “fracking,” a hotly contested form of resource extraction.

It’s time to turn around the Georgia ship of state so Georgia can lead the country and the world in solar power. There’s an election going on right now.