Today (Feb. 12) the U.S. Energy Department said that utility-scale solar photovoltaic is now more than 60 percent cost-competitive with other energy sources. The news comes just three years into President Obama’s SunShot Initiative, which is attempting to reduce the cost of rooftop solar power until it in parity with grid-supplied electricity.
While people in certain states can already get solar power or rooftop solar on their homes and businesses that is at parity with the power they can get from their utility, those prices are often supported by subsidies—the ultimate goal of the SunShot Initiative is to make solar power inexpensive enough that it doesn’t need subsidies to compete with electric prices offered by utilities to their consumers. With today’s announcement it looks like significant progress is being made already.
“In just the last few years, the U.S. has seen remarkable increases in clean and renewable energy—doubling the amount of energy that we produce from solar and wind and supporting a strong, competitive solar supply chain that employs American workers in every state,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “To continue this growth and position the U.S. as a global leader in clean energy innovation, the Energy Department is helping to advance new technologies that further reduce costs, improve performance and support new jobs and businesses across the country.”
The DOE said that utility-scale PV in the U.S. produced electricity at 11 cents per kilowatt hour at the end of 2013. That’s a more than 60 percent drop from the 21 cents per kilowatt hour it cost when the SunShot Initiative was launched 2010. That puts the cost of utility-scale solar well over halfway toward the goal of 6 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020. Hardly any technologies have fallen in price quite that rapidly.
That’s also less than half the average cost of grid-supplied electricity (12 cents per kilowatt hour) in the U.S., according to recent information from Energy Information Administration. The lowered cost of solar PV is based on the EIA’s estimates of the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE)—a measure of the national average of electricity cost based projected over the life of a generating asset.
In announcing the new benchmark for lowered PV costs, the DEO also announced that Secretary Moniz will commission the world’s largest operations concentrating solar power (CSP) plant—the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS) tomorrow (Feb. 13). That project is owned by BrightSource, NRG and Google and will deliver electricity customers of Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric. In addition the DOE also announced $25 million in more SunShot funding to help increase domestic manufacturing and speed up the commercialization of more affordable PV and CSP technologies in an attempt to help further lower the cost of solar electricity. The DOE will hold a Webinar about the “Solar Manufacturing Technology 2” opportunity later this month.Tweet