Solar Energy Is Now as Cheap as It Should Have Been in 2020

US Department of Energy has announced that utility-grade solar panels now cost as much as they would have had to cost in 2020, essentially hitting the 2020 solar power cost estimates even faster than predicted. Utility-grade power now costs approximately $1 per watt expressed in total install cost, and while the commercial and residential panels are not as cheap, they will reach that milestone too, eventually. According to Department’s data, the price of solar power in commercial and residential sectors are approximately at 85% of the way towards the 2020 affordability goal.

The Department of Energy had established the SunShot Initiative, a program meant to lower the solar power cost to $1/kWt by the end of this decade. It seems like the Department has succeeded, albeit there are a few caveats.

First, the price goal was reached in Kansas City, Missouri, a so-called “middle ground” between the places where solar power is cheap (like Phoenix, Arizona) and the most expensive locations to install solar panels (like New York City).

Second, as we’ve already stated, this price goal only concerns utility-grade solar power. While the commercial and residential solar installations have also dropped in price, they will need to become approximately 15% cheaper to reach the SunShot Initiative goals.

However, the cost data does not take into account any applicable tax credits. Additional research from National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that the utility-grade solar system installation costs have dropped 29% over the first quarter of 2017.

What’s next for the SunShot Initiative? The initiative will now focus on reaching the same price goals for commercial and residential solar power installations. Plus, the department will now focus on improving the reliability of solar systems rather than solely lowering its cost. The 2021-2030 goals will include better reliability, resilience and larger storage.

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