The bigger "win" in this is the transmission loss. Consumption close to generation has lower transmission loss so it's innately higher efficiency in that one regard.
PHES and Battery technology probably matter more now than PV as a the cost problem in generation: we need time shifting for solar power to replace other forms of generation, to get to serving demand outside of the sun.
The raw costs, not adjusted for inflation:
Q1 2014: $4.52/W total for $1.03/W modules 
Q1 2015: $3.09/Wdc total for $0.70/Wdc modules 
Q1 2016: $2.93/Wdc total for $0.63/Wdc modules 
Q1 2017: $2.80/Wdc total for $0.35/Wdc modules 
Conclusion: Even if the modules cost $0.0000001, the total price could not fall much more unless the rest of the business model gets updated. Probably some solar installer companies will drop out of the market, and the survivors will adapt to lower profits.
 Page 12, https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/60401.pdf
 5.2kW system. See page 7, https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/64746.pdf
 5.6kW system. See page 16, https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/66532.pdf
 5.7kW system. See page 21, https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/68925.pdf
Current costs in Australia are about A$ 1.70 /pk-W (~US$1.35), pre-subsidies, split roughly into 35% modules, 10% inverter, 10% mounting system, 10% other hardware (cabling, switchboard etc), 10% installation and 25% "vendor's margin", including marketing, sales and profits.
The household has also to pay for a bi-directional meter to allow for energy sales. IIRC that was around A$350.
It's a mystery why the US costs are so high - maybe not enough competition?
We also had the renewable energy credits scheme which made the price float about a bit since they were a traded commodity and the installer would take them off you for a price reduction proportional to their market value (if you elected to not instead keep them for yourself and pay 'full' price, but then have to sell them yourself too).
Basically what I'm saying is that there were multiple levers causing the price to float around a lot over the last 5-8 years and it's not strictly just because gradually supply/competition grew.
It would be great to see a DIY community around this, making widespread adoption even cheaper.
As is typical in Australia, to do almost any job you need to purchase that right. Even construction labourers (guys carrying out the bins and sweeping floors) and waitresses who serve alcohol, need an accredidation.
I mostly agree. Of the top of my head, installing solar panels mostly competes with leisure and other DIY projects.
Perhaps also with commuting, but for most people the decision on how long to commute can't be altered in the short term.
Also, any electrical work in most sane jurisdictions is going to require signoff from both the local code department and the utility (if grid tie).
The labor of a professional is cheaper than possible poor outcomes.
To be fair I installed a solar+2nd battery+inverter that can also charge or be charged from the primary battery in an RV. I waterproof'd the roof, did the wiring, there's lots of guides on how to do it and it is not rocket science. Should you or my local gov have stopped me from this?
The government isn't stopping you from putting solar panels on the top of your RV, and it's regulation of structures through building codes is usually reasonable.
Again, I don't see an enormous difference b/w putting solar panels on an RV, and a backyard, shed, cabin or house, particularly for off-grid power.
You are absolutely entitled to state your opinion though. I just think if other people want to do something that doesn't bother you in any way, it can be nice to warn of the risks, but why tell them they are wrong?
Because if you're breaking building code, you're breaking the law. That's the entire reason the Tiny Home movement has to build their structures on RV trailers; to be compliant with building code (which doesn't apply to RV trailers).
Bringing the goal posts back to the original aim of my comment: that a DIY community would simply increase adoption, let's look at the Tiny House movement. It grew as a DIY community. People sharing info on all parts of the process, incl. building code, helps many people who would have been told by someone that it can't be done, just as you are doing now, to build their own house. And we are talking about building an entire house, not a minor solar panel install.
As that community grows, you have more people that are able to even shape laws for the better, which is what that community is doing.
And you are incorrect about there being no laws governing auto work and customization.
No one is saying you should do this. To be frank, the "hire a qualified contractor" advice is pervasive at HN, but it's also this groupthink attitude of negativity that can grow around a subject that I don't think is necessary, or helpful.
Eg even if you don't want to get a second job, you could still be lazing about, spend time with family, do another DIY project, or even commute to a job in that time.
(Commuting decisions usually can't be changed in the short term, but in the long term it's up for grabs just as anything else as people contemplate moving or changing jobs.)
It'd be interesting to see the costs split out based on available sun. I would guess they are lower in Phoenix than in Connecticut.
It seems that solar is a very good overall fit for even most of the world, and once the tech is good enough to be used in huge numbers the differences can probably be compensated with other, local power sources (like hydro in Scandinavia, which is huge there).
It sounds like these two effects should cancel each other out. Are you saying that people take winter into account but not summer?
So efficiency has to do with the rated power per surface area and the performance ratio reflects all the system electrical and environmental factors that reduce the amount of usable power below what would be expected based upon module ratings and annual sunlight exposure.
Most of the energy comes from ambient light, direct light is best of course but not strictly needed
In July my panels make 1300 kwh and in December and January they make 300 kwh, mostly because of the angle of the sun and the length of the time above the horizon. I also have significant southern tree cover, so my production is not optimal for my area.
I mean they're installed at an angle to start with so how does the snow build up? Could panels not be designed with inbuilt defrosters?
It has sunlight almost all year round, it has a pretty progressive government, and a leading tech sector. With house prices being so high, so the cost of solar panels would be relatively lower too.
as more and more existing trees die off because of higher water costs and a general theme of reduced water usage, there's a little bit less shade, too.
Which is where solar roofing comes in, taking up the cost of installation almost completely and dropping price almost to grid scale. Of course, the only solar roofing available forces you to get it installed by their technicians, but hey. Baby steps.
Sure, when building the roof, it is installed as a solar one, saves on roofing materials and installation, since you only pay for solar and for solar installers. Granted not 100% substitution since not all the roof can be covered but a nice chunk.
Or make the panels more DIY...a few cases of beer, a few friends and be done. (plug it in after 24 hour, to make sure that the beer is gone from system)
to the LA Department of Water and Power, home solar is basically competition. and the DWP is an important cash cow for city workers and the city budget. they will find ways to add customer fees and reduce the customer's energy bill savings. (e.g. limiting the amount of electricity a home is allowed to feed back into the grid.)
the agency and the city simply need that cash.
In other words, yep.
Soft costs decreased appreciably from 2016-2017 in both "utility-scale" categories (Fixed-Tilt, and One-Axis Tracker), and have increased slightly at the smaller "commercial" and "residential" scales. Across all scales, soft costs claim a larger portion because other costs are falling more quickly.
Only at residential scale has soft cost growth consumed much of the savings in other costs:
$-0.18/(watt installed) total cost,
$+0.16/(watt installed) soft costs.
At commercial scale:
$-0.32/(watt installed) total cost,
$+0.05/(watt installed) soft costs.
While this direction of change is certainly suboptimal, I don't think the magnitude is worrisome yet.
EDIT: paragraph/line breaks for clarity of presentation.
The major component of residential cost is non-labor soft costs. The NREL pdf is easier to read (https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/68925.pdf) and lists them: permitting, inspection, and interconnection, land acquisition, sales tax, overhead and profit.
According to their modeling, it's mostly profit, overhead and sales and marketing costs.
Percentage-wise, not counting the module itself, the biggest culprits are profit(14% vs 7%), supply chain adding 17%, and sales adding 14%. Installation is actually lower as a percent of overall cost. Profit and sales are usually higher for direct to consumer, but supply chain is the biggest single cost at 42 cents out of 280 per watt. Scale will bring that down drastically but it will always be cheaper to centralize.
After that cost is reduced, there may be room for innovation in reducing install costs by bundling solar with roof replacement, or something similar.
I'm not so sure that transmission losses themselves are a huge win, since only about 5% of power goes to transmission and distribution.
However, if storage + solar allows the utilities to avoid transmission and distribution capital upgrades, that's a much larger chunk of the cost of electricity, about 36% according to the latest numbers and rising every year.
They visited my house when I was just looking for a quote. The quotes were these large custom contracts with all the information which we would iterate a few times on.
I can imaging these days just going to a website, finding my roof, selection my option and getting a quote in real time. Maybe they would even let different installers all bid for the job, who knows. The website would have detailed information and information if I want it. Only if I did an initial downpayment would someone come out to confirm it could be installed. Someone like this could be able to drive the install cost down.
Or maybe "groupon deals" where if you and 4 other neighbors on your block all buy solar it is 15% cheaper or something. That would be one way to shift the marketing and sales to the consumer and not the installer.
If I had to guess, the door-to-door folks are probably lead gen companies that sell leads to solar installers. The economics work out largely because solar installations are such a big ticket item that good leads can demand a nice sum. As a thought exercise, Amazon will pay in the range of 5% to affiliates. If you buy a $100 pair of shoes on Amazon, that will net the affiliate $5. If a solar lead gen gets the same rate, then a single $30k system will earn them $1500. So that salesman only needs to sell a few systems per month to cover salary. Hence the door-to-door.
Also, it's worth mentioning that the residential solar market is pretty cutthroat. Quite a few companies have recently filed for bankruptcy. Part of the reason lead gen and marketing costs are so high is because these companies are fighting tooth and nail for customers. I am pretty sure most installers would love to cut back on that spending, but without it their business would collapse.
Asking this as a layman.
Page 22 of the report estimates sales and marketing/customer acquisition for residential solar to be 12% of the price, and says Vivint and Sunrun report it as 17% and 22%, so I think your numbers are a bit high. I also doubt that cost will actually fall- if anything it might rise, since advertising pays for itself. As costs drop it becomes more important to advertise the low costs!
Edit here if anyone's curious: https://goo.gl/maps/SjzWw9b2dSH2
Edit 2 - as an aside, when I first saw, I couldn't tell if it was solar or ag (e.g. here's what ag looks like - https://goo.gl/maps/AGvAxJ61BwB2 if you zoom out they look very similar!)
Can you cite a significant environmental group that completely opposes all large desert solar projects for this reason? Otherwise this reads like a rather unfair characterization.
In a recent case , the Sierra Club successfully argued that a planned solar array outside Hollister should be made smaller (by about either one half or two thirds, it's not clear why each successive cut was made), due to the potential threat to a handful of endangered species in the area. They also indicated unequivocal support for a similarly sized solar array in Imperial County.
Given how much undeveloped desert land exists in the US Southwest, it seems reasonable to build solar arrays first in areas that won't threaten the habitat of endangered species.
Humans have only been farming for the past 11,500ish years, while Homo sapiens have been around for more than 200,000 years. Humans modifying the environment to a significant extent is rather new in our timeline.
So it isn't necessarily the case that you need to be more knowledgeable to challenge them. Availability of inexpensive energy without burning coal is another preference.
I certainly have reached the point where I think popular environmentalism is waaaaay too focused on static conservation.
But OP made a more specific claim about solar arrays in the desert. Seems like we should be able to debate that on its merits.
Not that I see any intrinsic beauty in concrete titles or roofing felt. Even clay tiles and slates I suspect are just something we have gotten used to.
In all cases they are a financial and embodied energy and financial cost as-is, and PV can turn them into something positive.
Agriculture is and will be much more land-intensive than solar.
I once calculated that the US could switch entirely to solar just on a fraction of the land that is currently used for ethanol production alone.
And what is a better place to put solar panels? In the desert or fertile arable land? Deserts contain life, of course, but the density of life and biodiversity per unit area is much smaller. Additionally, solar panels provide shade and, unlike agriculture, don't require intensive tilling, harvesting, irrigation, spreading of pesticides (natural or otherwise) or fertilizer and the runoff that causes. They mostly just sit there, maybe getting a cleaning every once in a while (but unlike concentrating/thermal solar, don't need to be cleaned super often).
Once the panels are placed, your desert tortoise can nestle in the convenient shade they provide.
Anyway, I read that this instantly incinerates any birds flying near the focal volume and you get these little puffs of vaporized bird every few minutes.
Existing AZ Solar:
- Agua Caliente (~400MW)
- Arlington Valley (300MW)
- Solana (280MW)
- Mesquite (150MW)
Future AZ Solar:
- Sterling (1200MW)
- Hualapai (340MW)
- Hyder Valley (325MW)
- Sonoran Solar (300MW)
- Crossroads (215MW)
- Quartzsite (100MW) 
If solar panels could be modified to create substained microclimates below that would be awesome. After all, there is still enough straylight getting below, to allow for a average forrestplant to exist.
The US can't quit coal/oil - because the alternatives along with advanced batteries would sideline petroleum. And we certainly can't have that.
Ultimately the goal is to wean off of fossil fuels, but if all our R&D is unprofitable we may miss some breakthroughs.
It sounds like the real issue is that doing R&D in the U.S. is uncompetitively expensive compared to doing the same work in China.
This is one of the very few cases where I don't mind states subsidising. The technology is still well understood by others so that European/US companies could start producing again if China decides to raise prices.
If the install is cheap crap and only lasts 5 years when you need 10 to amortize it, that's a problem. If the cheap crap drives good manufacturers out of business, that's even worse since now you can't recover once you discover it.
Also, this is an unfortunate misinterpretation of even econ 101. Econ 101 says that there is not a fixed demand for most goods. Demand (and supply) have elasticity, which is a measure of their responsiveness to price changes. A rational producer with perfect information does not "clear the market" if that means "supply enough to meet all demand for the good." (If that's not what it means, I really don't know what it does mean.) They supply just to the point where marginal cost of production is equal to the price the next consumer is willing to pay.
And, subsidies are not definitionally distortionary. Sometimes they can be used to correct uncaptured positive externalities.
With perfect information.
Extreme price swing for panels aren't guaranteeed to happen, it depends on how governments respond in financial support for producers and changes to subsidies, but that's just shifting the costs of all of this on to tax payers.
If you want to take the idea to an absurd level, garage doors could be designed with integral panels and then installed anywhere somebody has a south-facing garage door. In most cases the garage door will also be unshaded since there will be a driveway in front of it rather than a tree.
Obviously not optimal since these are literally turning to continually face away from the sun yet apparently get you a 1% improvement and you're spending the rest of the money for installation, wiring anyway so at a certain price point it makes sense.
If I do the installation myself, will that make it cheaper?
>Listen later today to our witnesses who will tell you about:
• how Suniva’s ion implant cell technology was a commercial failure;
• how Suniva shipped its cells to other countries to assemble into modules because its own module assembling facility in Michigan was poorly designed;
• how Suniva and SolarWorld both failed to take advantage of opportunities to sell to some of the largest residential solar developers in the country;
• how both companies failed to meet basic delivery and product quality standards, leading to a loss of repeat business; and
• how SolarWorld had the opportunity to sell American-made 72-cell modules to utility-scale developers but filled those orders with imports instead, because they clearly don’t have the capacity to meet U.S. demand for these products.
Basically they tried and failed, where others are succeeding. Now they are trying to play into a political narrative that doesn't apply to them in order to prop up their business, at the expense of all the downstream solar installers in the industry.
It sounds too much like a crappy Iced Tea.
As you would expect, there a lot of factors that go into how much an array would save/produce (generation, storage, etc.), but a regulatory factor that changes everything is rate structures. Rate structures are far from a standard thing, pretty much wherever you go, there's something different, it varies by state and even at a smaller, city level for municipally-owned utilities (about 15% of the US is served by these, including parts of Bay Area, LA area, Phoenix, Seattle, etc.).
For consuming energy, there is usually a flat-rate or a time-of-use rate (many varieties) but there are more and more capacity fees and fixed charges taking over. For producing energy, it gets much stranger. Many cities and states use versions net metering , some will pay you the wholesale power rate and others will pay you the retail rate (retail is ~3x wholesale), some will use a Feed-In Tariff , some will factor in a more time-based rate (like time-of-use above), and some others too. If you want to know more about rate structures in general, check this out .
Rate structures are heavily regulated, for good reason. Their design is a very difficult task and is pretty murky. On one hand are the consumers and their desire to connect solar and other DERs  like storage to lower costs. On the other hand are utilities, usually not acting malevolent, wanting to maintain reliability, and, at all costs, avoiding the death spiral , which basically means that more people connecting solar and even leaving the grid will skyrocket costs and tank reliability. Though sometimes, the generators will desperately lobby against them. Depending on where you are, the utilities can be the generators too, another matter.
Rate structures are arguably the largest factor in installing solar. Initial costs are important, but the rate structures will affect them over their 30+ year life. In some places, like North Carolina, it can lead to solar flourishing. In other places, hostile rate structures and other regulations can severely harm solar's adoption, like Florida which should be the best place in the US for photovoltaics.
Even more complicating is the ability of the grid to handle a lot of solar, let alone other DERs. The energy grid in the near future can be highly distributed, 100% renewable, and even more reliable than it is today, but there are some big system levels problems to solve before than (these rarely get any attention, most attention goes to node-level problems like sheer generation). I am fully engulfed in this field and am working on these things now. I thought I would present an important point and give y'all some information on this field that I find absolutely riveting. :)
What aspect of the field are you working in currently?
Step 2: ...
Step 3: Profit!
The improvements in solar panel tech do not depend on such a straightforward route. There is no process that you can simply iterate through to reproduce the last performance gain.
PV panels have had certain types of regular process improvements. My understanding is that they try to add layers that use more of the energy of the light spectrum.
Conversion efficiency improvements are responsible for more of the cost-benefit improvements than taylorist improvements via economies of scale. And those improvements have been occurring at a remarkably steady rate for five decades.
Later Intel said that performances (not just transistor density) would double every 18 months, which is different.
Moore's law talks about transistors and we arguably have finally reached a point where it slowed, after having outlived its initial prediction for several decades.
Moore's law, though, was more than an extrapolation of the past: it was an understanding of the causes for the speed of the trend and an examination of what the future may provide by someone who understood the manufacturing process behind CPUs.
Moore knew about CPUs, he was talking about CPUs and transistors. His "law" holds no predictive power whatsoever for PV. You will have to find a specialist about the processes to know if there are any predictable roadbloacks ahead.