An Overview of the Photovoltaic Industry part 3


Continued from An Overview of the Photovoltaic Industry part 3 Click here

Another major complicating factor to the solar electric industry is that capital market(s) are always in search of financial bubbles to exploit; where the goal of investment is to privatize the profits and social the costs. Throwing large amounts of investment money at this “new technology” has led to the commoditization of solar technology, this has produced many systems installed by larger, “big box store type” national solar franchises whose business model of providing solar equipment “leases” has been questioned by many, as they typically are more expensive than a system purchased outright. These leases almost make the re-selling of a home with a solar lease very difficult.

Almost without exception, all the market forces are moving in the direction of product innovation and using less raw materials – and lower costs. This process continues at an un-abated pace, as this is a new developing industry that is certainly not mature. Unlike developed industries, the photovoltaic industry has virtually no entrenched powerful controlling interests – to retard the rate of change or control its direction or rate of adoption. Utilities are under the direction of public regulation authorities and because of laws like PURPA, Utilities cannot stop widespread PV adoption – now that these systems are widely affordable and 43 states have adopted net metering, though Hawaii has reached a limit previously set.

Today, the most rapidly growing segment of this photovoltaic electricity production is the utility mega-watt scale solar farms, using N-S horizontal trackers and large fixed angle ground mounts – (this utility market has recently seen the most growth in sheer numbers of PV watts installed).

What will this industry look like 3 or 5 years from now?

Coupling these systems with reserve batteries banks on the large or residential level has offered promises of future advancements, but currently the battery bank option is not providing economic quantifiable advantages. Many years may pass before the price of battery banks drop far enough, to be more than an expensive added feature and provide a real economic advantage to and end user.

Arizona to Begin Solar Cost-Benefit Study

arizona solar study

Arizona is set to begin a full cost-benefit study on roof top solar. Arizona utilities have maintained, for the past two years, that roof top solar adds costs to the grid that customers who don’t have solar have to pay. According to a recent article posted in Utility Dive, the utility concluded that customers with distributed solar, on average, shift $67 a month in costs to non-solar customers because they “pay less for grid upkeep”.
However, solar advocates point out that the utility is not calculating the value of solar correctly. They assert that solar adds around 33 cents per kilowatt hour to rate payers. Arizona solar advocates also point to a 2013 Crossborder Energy study showing every $1.00 invested in Arizona rooftop solar produced a $1.54 benefit to ratepayers.

The regulatory commission voted 4 to 1 at the end of October to study the cost/ benefits of rooftop solar in order to determine solar’s worth.