Saturday, March 19, 2011

Remarkable New Global Solar Numbers Eclipsed By Fukushima

A starling 18,200 megawatts of solar, enough to power about 4 to 5 million American homes, was installed globally in 2010, according to Solarbuzz (    How many nuclear plants would be needed to produce this amount of electricity?  Four to five large nuclear stations, each about 1,000 megawatts, would be required to provide the equivalent amount of power.

The 2010 total solar number is an amazing 139% increase over the 2009 solar installation total, a record year itself at the time.

The world solar market jumped to $82 billion, up 105%, in 2010 from $40 billion dollars in 2009. 

The increases in the amount installed and the size of the global solar market are impressive.  But the most important news is that prices for solar plummeted in 2010 and are going still lower rapidly.  For example the Solarbuzz price index for a small residential module decreased 3% just in March from February pricing.  Solar is not oil for sure.

Solar Buzz projects factory gate pricing for modules falling another 37% to 50% by 2015 from record low prices in 2010. 

For large projects multicrystaline modules at RETAIL in the USA can now be bought for $1.50 to $1.80 per watt.  Thin Film retail prices for large projects are below $1.30 per watt.  

And less money is buying more power. Panel efficiency continues to increase at about 0.5% per year.

All this good, important news was eclipsed by Fukushima as the desperate events there dominated the news in the past week.

Japan ranked 4th in the world in 2010, installing more than 900 megawatts or about 5% of the total installed.  Undoubtedly one consequence of Fukushima will be considerably greater solar installations and more gas usage especially in Japan but also around the world over the next 5 years than would have taken place.

Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic ranked 1,2, and 3 in solar installations. The USA ranked fifth. More than 100 countries installed solar in 2010.

Not all energy news is frightening and bad.


  1. This is really important news. Are these prices pure market prices or do they reflect tax breaks or other government incentives to solar? I'm all for those sorts of programs, but I just wonder if it costs $1.30 in the US but $5 in developing markets that are still building capacity.

    The proverbial low hanging fruit, it seems are places that are building electricity infrastructure as opposed to places, like here, that have to replace infrastructure. And that's why I wondered if the prices were "pure."

  2. The per watt prices in the post are USA market prices for modules. They are what a customer pays to the supplier. They do not include installation costs. Installation costs as a rule of them are about 50% of the total costs of a PV project.

    Large PV projects in Pa are being done for about a total (equipment plus installation) of $3.50 per watt.

    In the US there are federal tax credits that allow the ultimate customer to have the total cost cut by 30%.

    If a customer was paying $3.50 per watt to build the project, after the federal tax credit of 30%, total cost would be reduced to $2.34 per watt. That can be an attractive project economically.