Despite recent clashes between the US and Chinese solar industries, it seems that the entire solar power sector is prospering. As stated in a new report from GlobalData, with the ever-increasing number of solar power installations, the cost of energy generation is falling. In fact, it is falling so quickly that the report predicts that by 2017 it’ll be cheaper than generating power from traditional fossil fuels.
The report, which is called “Grid Parity for Wind and Solar Power – Future Outlook and Impact Analysis”, shows that the global solar PV capacity increased by 100% between 2009 and 2011. This figure is expected to soar as both China and the US reach grid parity within the next few years.
It is amazing to think how far the global solar industry has come in just a few years. Despite China being the world’s leader in PV cell production, the report states that it will be the US that reaches grid parity first. Domestic solar PV technology is expected to reach grid parity for some PV projects in 2014, while most regions in the country are expected to reach grid parity in alignment with average electricity prices in the residential sector by 2017. China isn’t far behind and is set to transform their domestic national grid in similar ways. They are expected to reach grid parity in most regions by 2015-2016.
However, the key part of the report concerns the Levelized Cost Of Electricity (LCOE). This is the price at which electricity must be generated from a specific source to account for the cost of the energy-generating system. Over the next few years, the LCOE for solar PV will continue to decrease due to declining capital costs and increasing capacity factor. All of this combined with no fuel costs, low operations and maintenance costs (not to mention ever-increasing fossil fuel costs) mean that the LCOE of solar PV technology is predicted to be lower than average retail electricity prices by 2017.
Currently, solar power accounts for 14% of the global renewable capacity, but this is just the start. It is the fastest growing renewable power source in the world, eclipsing (no pun intended) wind and tidal power, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.4% over the past five years. If solar power continues to grow at such a rate, the global solar PV installed capacity will reach 362,842 MW by 2020.