Many analysts claim that solar power for the masses is simply not cost effective, and therefore not a realistic option for most power requirements.
However, a recent study conducted at Queen’s University and published in the December edition of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews concludes the public isn't properly informed about the viability of solar photovoltaic energy.
"Many analysts project a higher cost for solar photovoltaic energy because they don’t consider recent technological advancements and price reductions," says Joshua Pearce, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
"Older models for determining solar photovoltaic energy costs are too conservative."
Pearce believes solar photovoltaic systems are being innovated to the point where they are practically capable of generating energy at the same cost as more traditional sources of energy.
Obviously, there are multiple factors used to determine the cost of solar photovoltaic systems for consumers, including installation and maintenance costs, finance charges, the life expectancy of the system, and the amount of electricity it generates.
The problem, Pearce says, is that some analytical studies don’t consider the impressive 70% reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2009. Additionally, research now shows the productivity of the top solar panels only drops between 0.1 and 0.2 percent annually. This is much less than the one percent used in most cost analyses.
The cost of equipment is determined in dollars per watt of electricity produced. A study in 2010 estimated the cost at $7.61, while a 2003 survey weighed in at $4.16. According to Pearce, the real cost in 2011 is less than $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market. He says system and installation costs vary widely.
Pearce has created a calculator program that is available online and can be used to more accurately determine the costs of solar energy.