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Q: Solar Energy Costs ( No Answer,   6 Comments )
Subject: Solar Energy Costs
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: oakbay-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 20 Jul 2006 11:06 PDT
Expires: 19 Aug 2006 11:06 PDT
Question ID: 748046
Why hasn't the cost of roof mounted solar panels come down into the
hundreds? What are they made of? Diamonds and platinum?
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Solar Energy Costs
From: keystroke-ga on 20 Jul 2006 11:18 PDT
I think they're pretty inexpensive ($2,000 or something), considering
that most states will give you tax breaks for getting them. You also
will break even in a few years just on the electricity bill. Some
people are willing to spend $2000 for a TV, so why not spend it on a
solar roof panel?
Subject: Re: Solar Energy Costs
From: markvmd-ga on 20 Jul 2006 12:34 PDT
While the price has remained surprisingly steady over the last 20+
years, the efficiency has dramatically increased along with some other
improvements. To compare an older panel with a current one is like
comparing a basic car from 1983 with a basic 2006 model. The current,
say, Dodge Neon is essentially the same price (13K) as the base Accord
of 1983(11K) but is substantially better, safer, more efficient, etc.
Subject: Re: Solar Energy Costs
From: timespacette-ga on 20 Jul 2006 19:49 PDT
"You also will break even in a few years just on the electricity bill."

Not necessarily so depending on the climate you're in.  We spent 15K
on our system here in the Great Pacific North Wet and I'm not sure
we'll make that back in my lifetime . . .

unless, of course, my super dooper life extension regime works, in
which case I'll get a reverse mortgage when I'm 90 and dupe the system

a girl can dream, eh?

Subject: Re: Solar Energy Costs
From: keystroke-ga on 29 Jul 2006 02:55 PDT
I was going by a house I know of in North Carolina. The Pacific
Northwest is NOT the best place for a solar house, one of the few
places in which there is a caveat. There's not enough sun to make it
fully effective.
Subject: Re: Solar Energy Costs
From: eestudent-ga on 08 Aug 2006 21:02 PDT
Looks like you have a basic question in economics. An example: It
costs oil companies 25 cents to pump the amount of oil that would
become one gallon of gasoline. Why is is $3? Because there is such a
thing as futures trading.

Same thing with solar panels. It might not be expensive to produce the
solar panels, but then a number of factors keep the prices up.

1) The fact that there untill recently have not been dedicated
manufacturing plants for solar panels. Solar panel manufacturing had
to compete with the production of other electronics (integrated
circuits, LCDs, etc)

2) Demand for solar panels is growing and has outpaced supply.

3) Solar panels are installed in large numbers outside of US in
countries like Japan, and also EU.

4) A large portion of solar panels have been manufactured by Asian
manufacturers. Add to #3 the need to ship the units.

5) Glass for solar panels competes with LCD glass production.

6) Untill some time ago, solar panels did not have a dedicated
technology. They were produced with technology taken from other

Another analogy with oil might help. Although US troops are fighting
close to oil, their oil costs 100 bucks per gallon. That is how much a
price can climb after transportation, subcontracting, security, etc
costs are figured in.
Subject: Re: Solar Energy Costs
From: tashanna-ga on 28 Aug 2006 10:50 PDT
Actually, the problem is that they're made of silicon. Solar cell (the
working part of a solar panel) prices are dominated by the amount of
silicon it takes to build them. Solar cells and microchips (computer
processors and memory) compete for refined and processed silicon and
the world is production limited on silicon. New factories are coming
online (,, but it
takes year to build a new and functioning plant.

Solar Buzz ( tracks solar
module prices. You can see that the prices have declined from ~$5.90
per watt to ~$5.60 per watt from 2002 to today, but this is not enough
to cause the price reduction you're looking for.

There are several companies actively working on using less or no
silicon. I suggest looking at Evergreen Solar
( or Nanosolar ( if
you're curious about these techniques.

Even beyond that, Solar Buzz estimates that solar panels make up only
half the cost of a residential solar power installation. There is
power conditioning equipment, batteries, and installation costs to
contend with after you've bought the solar panels.

In response to eestudent-ga's comments, several manufacturers are
trying to create manufacturing plants closer to their end markets.
This has traditionally meant Europe since their tax incentives have
been the most generous and they purchase the most end product, but
I've heard more talk of plants in the US to reduce shipping costs.

Hope this helps...

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