Competitiveness of solar power often misconceived17th May 2012
As with most things in the modern age, cost is an important consideration when installing solar panels.
We all like to get more for our money these days - let's face it, the cost of most things is going up rather than down, so our dollars are more valuable than ever.
The long-term financial benefits of solar power systems are widely publicised, including lower energy bills and helping provide a buffer against any future price rises.
Even in spite of this, we are fully aware that the upfront cost of installing solar panels is a primary concern - but a new study suggests that we could be overestimating how much they will actually set us back.
Reconsidering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power, a paper from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, found that the cost of solar technology has fallen by almost 75 per cent in the past three years.
In some countries, solar power is now competitive with daytime retail electricity prices - once parity has been reached, who knows what it might do for the uptake of renewable energy.
One of the main reasons people wrongly believe solar energy costs more than it does is a "lack of clarity of reporting assumptions", the report authors found, meaning the information we are fed might not be as accurate as we'd hope.
The question is, will the cost of solar panels continue to decline, or will we eventually be stung with hefty price rises?
The report suggests that any recent reductions should be sustainable, mainly because they have been triggered by falls in manufacturing costs … so good news all round.
What does the future hold for solar? Well, aside from consistent pricing, the report authors believe there will be some changes in how policymakers address the situation.
Some feed-in tariffs and fiscal support policies might have to be redesigned to reflect the falling cost of solar panels.
Ultimately, if the technology is believed to be too expensive, this financial assistance might be removed, and we don't want that!
Solar panels have fallen in cost since the latter part of 2008 - all we need to do now is make sure policymakers and energy users are aware of the fact.
Grid-connected technology has been used for the past couple of decades, but it is only recently that they have started to become more affordable for domestic users.
Let's hope this downward trend continues, after all, we could all do with paying a little less for life's essentials!
Posted by Mike Peacock