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Chinese manufacturers 'making solar cheaper for everyone'

18th Oct 2012

The sheer volume of Chinese solar power products hitting the market is helping to bring the price of renewable down for everyone.

Or so say industry experts, who claim the country's prolific output is allowing consumers to buy solar energy systems at a price not seen before.

Kobad Bhavnagri of Bloomberg New Energy Finance told the Sydney Morning Herald that the global impact of China's manufacturing machine is highly visible.

"The price of PV modules has fallen by 75 per cent since 2008 and some 45 per cent in 2011," the clean-energy analyst. "Every time global production of PV modules has doubled, the cost has fallen by 24 per cent."

And it doesn't stop there. He claimed that China is also responsible for 60 per cent of all solar cells manufactured worldwide.

Global solar capacity has tripled in the last three years, Bhavnagri stated, with almost all of that growth being Chinese-led.

This dominance was apparently evident at a recent All-Energy exhibition in Melbourne.

According to the Herald, Chinese firms were restricted to just 20 per cent of the available 274 booths - purely to give other businesses a chance!

Julie Peng, sales manager at machinery maker Sinomach's solar arm, said China's market for clean technology products is stronger than ever.

"Maybe 80 per cent [of solar PV panels], including those distributed by others, is from China," she explained, noting 80 per cent of her company's sales are from exports.

So what do Chinese firms predict for the Australian market? Well, they admit that recent declines in rebates for feed-in tariff schemes could act as a drag on solar power expansion.

For example, Victoria's generous 60 cents per kilowatt hour offering has been reduced twice in recent times, with the state's government firstly shaving off 35 cents to 25 cents - before bringing it all the way down to eight cents.

But, according to Chinese exhibitors, this isn't a problem that can't be fixed by solar PV's spiralling costs.

They predicted that wholesale prices of approximately 70 cents per watt would tempt the 90 per cent of Aussies without solar PV to consider buying. 

Bhavnagri said that the solar industry could be in for a shake-up, with some firms likely to go out of business - similar to the US automotive car industry of the 1900s, where hundreds of suppliers dwindled to just three.

However, he said: "We've seen a wonderful trend of technology costs coming down and they will keep on coming down."

Posted by Mike Peacock

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