Design Engineering

Cost of solar much lower than widely believed

By Canadian Press   

General alternative energy Queens University Solar solar power

Queen's University study states solar costs, per watt, are actually very close to traditional energy sources.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A Queen’s University professor says the public is being kept in the dark about the viability of solar energy. Joshua Pearce of the Kingston, Ont. university’s department of mechanical and materials engineering says many analysts project a higher cost for solar energy.

But Pearce says they aren’t considering recent technological advancements and price reductions. Pearce says he believes solar systems are near the “tipping point” where they can produce energy for about the same price of other traditional sources of energy.

Pearce makes the comments in releasing a study co-written by students published in the December edition of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. He has also created a calculator program available for download online that can be used to determine the true costs of solar energy.

Analysts look at many variables to determine the cost of solar systems for consumers, including installation and maintenance costs, finance charges, the system’s life expectancy and the amount of electricity it generates.


Some studies don’t consider the 70 per cent reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2009, Pearce said.

Research now shows the productivity of top-of-the-line solar panels only drops between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent annually, which is much less than the one per cent used in many cost analyses, he said.

One 2010 study estimated the cost of solar at $7.61 per watt of electricity produced. According to Pearce, the real cost in 2011 is under $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market.

© 2011 The Canadian Press


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