Friday, February 03, 2012

Solar panels becoming financially viable

New Scientist reports: [edited]

SOLAR power has always had a reputation for being expensive, but not for much longer. In India, electricity from solar is now cheaper than that from diesel generators. The news - which will boost India's "Solar Mission" to install 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022 - could have implications for other developing nations as well.

In India, electricity from solar supplied to the grid has fallen to just 8.78 rupees per kilowatt-hour compared with 17 rupees for diesel. The drop has little to do with improvements in the notoriously poor efficiency of solar panels: industrial panels still only convert 15 to 18 per cent of the energy they receive into electricity. But they are now much cheaper to produce, so inefficiency is no longer a major sticking point.

Solar power is now cheaper than diesel anywhere as sunny as Spain. That means vast areas of Latin America, Africa and Asia could start adopting solar power.

The one thing stopping households buying a solar panel is the initial cost. Buying a solar panel is more expensive than buying a diesel generator, but solar becomes cheaper than diesel after seven years. The panels last 25 years.

Image: Joerg Boethling/Alamy

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