World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind

December 16th, 2016

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

Via: Bloomberg:

Emerging markets are leapfrogging the developed world thanks to cheap panels.

A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.

This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The chart below shows the average cost of new wind and solar from 58 emerging-market economies, including China, India, and Brazil. While solar was bound to fall below wind eventually, given its steeper price declines, few predicted it would happen this soon.

3 Responses to “World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind”

  1. Duros Says:

    Does solar have much maintenance/failure rate issues in your experience Kevin?

    I’ve heard one of the bigger issues with wind power is mechanical failure, which makes the ROI harder and harder to meet if you’re spending money on repairs before you’ve made the money back.

  2. Kevin Says:

    The article is about utility scale solar and wind, which I have no experience with at all. I only deal with residential/shipping container/house bus/livable shed scale. haha

    Anyway, if you’re interested in small scale applications:

    For grid tie, the panels might need to be cleaned once a year. That’s it. I say “might” because rain pretty much does the job. In very dry places, or in places with extreme pollen issues (like where I live), cleaning once a year is a good idea. You can have wildcard issues like excessive seagull poop, or large leaves blowing on to the array which might necessitate more frequent cleaning, but for most non desert conditions, there’s no maintenance.

    I’m going to go with the industry standard advice with regard to snow on panels: Just leave them alone. Lots of people brush the snow off. It’s up to the individual.

    For off grid, the maintenance would involve dealing with some batteries where fluid levels need to be checked and generator maintenance.

    Inverters don’t require any maintenance.

    Utility scale wind is cheap because of the scale. Smaller scale wind is mostly not worth it, and this is not just my opinion because I sell solar power systems.

    Sure, small scale scale wind might make sense for some people, but it mostly doesn’t:

    I know the guy with the most wind power in my area of NZ. He has a genuinely good site for wind. As his turbines fail, he’s switching to PV. Cheap, reliable, no maintenance PV.

  3. Duros Says:

    Hmm very cool, I hadn’t considered snow as an issue. The large scale wind power turbines are a bit of an eyesore, solar and geothermal are the two first things I’m looking at when I get to that stage.

    I’ll be waiting a few years to see where the technology ends up.

    The Amish around me are getting into the solar power, I visited a few farms where they were using them to run basic lights. They also had a homemade gas generator, using an old engine system to run a refrigeration unit for milk storage. Had it all open too so you could see/work on parts.

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