Milestone: 10 Gigawatts of PV in 2010, Part
Jun 17, 2010 - Eric Wesoff- greentechmedia.com
In 2010, we will cross the threshold of 10 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar
installed globally in a single year -- a record-setting
and once-inconceivable number.
Rewind to ten years ago: the total amount of photovoltaics
installed in the year 2000 was 170 megawatts. Since
then, the solar photovoltaic industry has grown at
a 51 percent annual growth rate, and 170 megawatts
is now the size of a healthy utility installation
or a small solar factory. As Andrew Beebe mentions
below, Suntech has a single building with a one-gigawatt
Photovoltaic module pricing has made radical progress,
as well, moving from $300 per watt in 1956, to $50
per watt in the 1970s, to $10 per watt in the 1990s,
to $2 per watt today. It's not exactly Moore's law,
but it is that drop in pricing, chicken-or-egg with
policy and technology, that is driving this industry.
Pricing of $1 per watt is not that far off.
Ten gigawatts is a significant milestone for the
PV industry, but it warrants some perspective:
*That's the total power that five or six nuclear
power plants generate -- and there are about one hundred
nuclear plants in the U.S alone.
* The wind industry installed 27 gigawatts in 2008,
38 gigawatts in 2009 and has a total installed base
of more than 158 gigawatts compared to PV's installed
base of about 20 gigawatts. 2010 will see more than
200 gigawatts of installed wind and the Global Wind
Energy Council expects that to double to 400 gigawatts
by the end of 2014.
A few more points about today's PV market: From a
demand standpoint, it's healthier, with less reliance
on "savior" markets and feed-in tariff hot spots.
Note the diminishing reliance on Germany as solar
savior in the chart below and get many more details
in Shayle Kann's recent PV demand analysis.
From a supply standpoint, the market is less healthy
-- over-supplied and ripe for consolidation.
Still, the 10-gigawatt-PV-installed mark will occur,
barring disaster, sometime in October. Our calculations
put it at 2:15 PM on October 13. It's a milestone
worth noting and a stepping stone, as Jeff Wolfe notes
below, on the way to 100 gigawatts installed in 2020.
Here are some reflections on the achievement from
some of the technologists, entrepreneurs and investors
making it happen:
Steven Strong, President Solar Design Associates
My first ‘big opportunity’ out of engineering school
in 1973 was landing a job working for the oil companies
as an engineer on the Alaskan pipeline. In early October
(of 1973), the Arab / Israeli “Yom Kippur” war broke
out and, within days, precipitated the first world
oil embargo. The Western world was broadsided and
convulsed with the stark realization of how dependent
we were on OPEC oil. At that time, the U.S. imported
~15% of its oil -- today that figure is ~70%.
The very next week, as the war raged on and gasoline
lines grew in every Western city, the scientists,
engineers and researchers who had perfected photovoltaics
for space-based power systems came together in Cherry
Hill, New Jersey to begin to explore how this life-affirming
technology could be used for terrestrial electric
power. This first world colloquium on “Photovoltaic
Conversion of Solar Energy for Terrestrial Applications”
was planned for months and just happened to take place
as the world was gripped by the first OPEC oil embargo.
The convergence of these two events was an epiphany
for me as the stark contract of these two energy sources
and the future they portended became clear: Clean,
Inexhaustible, Free, Life-Affirming v. Polluting,
Finite, Costly and a Devil’s Bargain. I could not
stop thinking about it. The prospect, however nascent,
of leveraging my engineering skills to build a career
in solar energy became increasingly compelling.
As the world price of oil skyrocketed from $3/bbl
to over $12, ALYESKA (the pipeline consortium) furiously
threw money at the design and construction effort.
The pipeline was attractive at $3/ bbl and now ‘their’
Alaskan oil would fetch over four times that amount!
It was a heady time in Alaska -- greed stoked with
patriotism marshaled a military-like campaign to Get
the Pipeline Done and get “our oil to market.” With
unlimited overtime and performance bonuses, our weekly
pay exceeded most people’s regular monthly salaries.
Was going to the end of the earth to extract the
last of the fossil fuels the best use of my budding
skill set? Despite the bonanza, I resigned from my
pipeline position and, not really knowing any better,
founded Solar Design Associates in the spring of 1974
to offer design services in energy-autonomous buildings
and the engineering and integration of the renewable
energy systems to power them. About this same time,
Dr. Joseph Lindmeyer was founding Solarex -- one of
the first U.S. PV companies. Crystalline PV was <
$30 / Wp, and the Japanese government inaugurated
their “Project Sunshine,” a high-level, coordinated,
25-year program with the goal of commercializing PV
for widespread, cost-competitive terrestrial use by
the year 2000.
In 1975, the U.S. government authorized NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and their Lewis Research
Center (LeRC) to pursue a major development program
for terrestrial PV, Bill Yerkes launched Solar Technology
International, and Ishaq Shahryar founded Solec International.
Tyco labs grew crystalline EFG ribbon and Exxon expanded
operations at Solar Power Corp. By 1977, PV modules
had come down into the $20 / Wp range and total annual
PV production exceeded 500 kWp worldwide, which was
heralded as a major milestone.
In 1978, we designed and fielded the world’s very
first utility-interactive PV system (outside the fence
of the government labs) -- a 5 kWp system here in
Quincy, MA that was used to power the pumps and controls
of a 7,500 sq.ft. solar thermal system -- and went
on to design and constructed the world’s very first
zero-net energy, solar-powered, utility-interactive
residence here in Carlisle, MA in 1979. The rest,
as they say, is history.
Julia Hamm, President & CEO, Solar Electric Power
It's hard to believe that I've been involved with
the solar industry for 11 years now. What makes me
a veteran in the solar realm still leaves me as a
newcomer to the larger electric industry. But in those
years, I've seen the U.S. solar market blossom and
believe we are just now on the verge of the true mainstreaming
When I first started working with electric utilities
back in 1999, the topic of solar almost never reached
the executive level. Today, many large utilities across
the U.S. have a Vice President of Renewables, and
solar is an important part of their energy supply
strategy for the near- and long-term. Solar is now
a frequent topic of discussion in the utility boardroom
and office of the CEO. PG&E, a single utility, has
already announced plans for more than 1.5 GW of utility-side
meter PV projects to come online between now and 2016.
That does not take into account other future large-scale
project plans yet to be announced and the significant
amount of PV that will continue to be integrated into
PG&E's grid by its customers. Most exciting about
what is now happening is that it's no longer only
California utilities that are recognizing the value
and importance of PV. Utilities from New York to Oregon
to Hawaii are preparing for PV to represent a significant
portion of their energy supply in the not-too-distant
future. To successfully integrate a high penetration
of this intermittent resource will require utilities
to alter the status quo when it comes to business,
technical, and regulatory matters, but they are stepping
up to the plate to prepare for this challenge.
Historically in the U.S., the relationship between
the utility and solar industries has been an adversarial
one, but today that is changing. In order for PV to
make a significant contribution to the world's --
and the nation's -- CO2 reduction challenge, the actions
of homeowners and business owners alone installing
rooftop solar won't get us there fast enough. Utilities
are the key to wide-scale installation and integration
of significant levels of solar electricity on both
the small-distributed-rooftop scale and the large-central-station-power-plant
Barry Cinnamon, CEO Akeena Solar
In 1985, according to Doc Brown in Back to the Future,
you needed a nuclear reactor to generate 1.21 gigawatts
So what's changed since then, or since 2001, when
I got back into solar?
1. Except for First Solar's success with thin film
for large ground mounts, the basic technology hasn't
changed. Crystalline panels were working in 1985,
and are still working great now. It's an evolution
of technology, not a revolution. I expect forms of
crystalline panels to continue to dominate the market
-- particularly for Distributed Generation.
2. Now that prices for panels have come down and
are no longer the biggest cost factor, increased attention
is being paid to installation costs. There are enormous
improvements that can be made in this area (such as
our Westinghouse panels) -- and in the amount of paperwork
that is required. It's a hell of a lot easier to save
$0.20 per watt on installation/paperwork costs than
to reduce panel costs by the same amount.
3. In the words of George Westinghouse, AC is better
than DC. To keep the metaphor going, it's Back to
the Future, with AC panels becoming the dominant technology
for rooftop solar -- for both cost and safety reasons.
No more High Voltage!
4. Incentives. I've never met an incentive I didn't
like -- as long as it got traction in the market.
The Federal ITC and California rebate programs are
the two most successful incentives in the U.S. Other
states have tried programs, but their lack of consistency
has resulted in a damaging series of starts and stops.
So far, here in the U.S., we've been too chicken to
establish a long term feed-in tariff that will actually
works. Germany did it, Ontario is doing it -- but
when we try, we set the FIT at a level that is either
too low to gain traction (like in California) or we
create a program that is hobbled by inadequate funds
(e.g., Gainesville, Fla.).
5. Obviously, I'm a fan of branding -- especially
when the underlying product is a commodity. Just about
anyone can make a cheap, tasty soda, but unless it's
called Coke or Pepsi, it's a struggle to get people
to buy it.
Ron Kenedi, Vice President, Sharp Solar Energy Solutions
Thirty years ago, the solar industry was a pre-niche
market -- a gleam in peoples’ eyes.
It was a market borne of absolute necessity, primarily
for use in remote areas or for the space program.
There were experimenters and folks who were working
off-grid who wanted to use the technology. And a few
survivalists, as well -- solar was a technology that
could help them live remotely.
My first customers in solar were industries that
needed solar for remote applications like off-grid
living and working. This included ranching and industrial
applications such as monitoring and telemetry of oil
platforms and gas flows; lighting, call boxes, signage,
water pumping, village power and water delivery. Solar
was also used in recreation, to help power RVs and
boats. And today, many of those original applications
are still going strong.
Back then, we didn’t even contemplate the concept
of 10 gigawatts. Solar modules were 50 or fewer watts,
and arrays were about 2 or 3 modules. Every thing
was so much smaller.
Including the paychecks.
I remember when my business passed the $1 million
mark. Interestingly, a lot of those people who were
working in the solar business decades ago are still
in the solar business. That’s a credit not only to
the technology, but to the commitment of the people
in this business. The original believers. People who
were drawn to solar because of their lifestyle and
their system of beliefs.
Everything was a lot smaller at the outset; there
were very few people were working in solar, and everyone
knew each other. Today, as opposed to the beginning,
we have a gigantic industry with growth that’s got
no end in sight. We now have a lot of people in the
business who want to make their mark in this industry.
People who want to see science in action, further
their careers -- and make money.
The uses of solar are quickly evolving. We’re seeing
tremendous growth in grid applications. Solar is now
powering homes and businesses -- and now it’s providing
technology for power plants.
Julia Curtis, Director, Business Strategy and Government
Relations for Solar at BP
Solar needs to be more than a small but bright glimmer
in our energy mix. Milestones are important, and the
U.S. is still behind other countries for solar installations:
the United States should achieve 10 gigawatts of installed
solar by 2015, and given the solar resources and energy
needs of the U.S., this is an achievable goal. The
U.S. solar market lacks the level of political consistency
that is necessary, and with the Treasury Grant Program
set to expire at the end of this year, there is a
push to meet the start-construction deadline of December
31, 2010. However, extending this deadline is critical
to reaching the 10 GW goal, and will help create jobs
in this rough economy. It is through one united voice
that solar PV can reach this goal, and begin to take
on a significant portion of America's growing energy
demand. As with all energy sources, government policy
and incentives are critical to growing the market.
Solar energy clearly provides clean, reliable energy
-- so why can't we do a lot more?
Both China and India made headlines with solar projects
in 2009, including BP joint venture manufacturing
plants to help expand their solar power capacities
to 20,000 megawatts by 2020. However, the largest
area of job creation in the energy sector is through
the installation of distributed generation solar.
It will take policies like net metering, interconnection
standards, financing programs like PACE and other
state and federal clean energy leading programs, and
feed-in tariffs to meet this goal. We need bigger
goals,and long-term, consistent policies to help hedge
against volatile and increasing energy prices, creating
more energy independence
. Paul Maycock, PV Energy Systems, solar pioneer
with 40 years in the industry
In 1995, I forecast 8 to 10 megawatts in 2010 with
an average price of $2.00 per watt. The sad part is
that the world market is 90 percent subsidized, especially
in Germany. The real milestone will be when we reach
installed costs of $2.00 per watt. This will result
in "grid parity," where PV with net metering is equal
in cost to retail price in many of the markets of
the world (though probably not in Germany). I forecast
this will happen in 2015, especially by First Solar.