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Solar energy costs

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In a earlier post I talked about the benefits of photo voltaic electrical energy in comparison with different renewable supply of electrical energy. On this put up I’ll transfer away from my regular scientific matters and talk about the prices of small scale photo voltaic vitality and the way it compares with different renewables.

Whats is ‘the LCOE’?

When evaluating the relative prices of various strategies of electrical energy era, a key measure is the levelised value of vitality (LCOE). That is outlined as the entire prices divided by the entire quantity of electrical energy produced.

Nevertheless,  LCOE is a technical time period not utilized in on a regular basis language. So on this put up I’ll use the time period common unit value as a substitute. If prices are measured in and vitality produced is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) (the items home electrical energy meters use) then the typical unit value might be in $ per kWh.

(All through this put up I’ll speak about prices for a US client, however they’d be comparable for a  client in any nation within the developed world)

Calculating the typical unit value of photo voltaic electricity- for a small home set up within the US

To work out the entire prices, we want know the upkeep prices along with the preliminary value of the panels.

The Photo voltaic Estimate Group gives a free service offering data on the prices of photo voltaic panels to the US public. On their website they state system which might generate as much as 5 kWh of electrical energy prices round $15,000 to buy and set up. The annual upkeep prices are pretty low at $112 per year (lower than 1% of the preliminary value). If we assume a thirty-year lifetime the entire prices are:

$15,000 + (30 x $112) = $18,360

These prices ignore any authorities subsidies which can be in place to advertise using photo voltaic vitality.

To work out the entire quantity of electrical energy produced we have to know:

  • the effectivity of the panels
  • the quantity of daylight they obtain and
  • their anticipated lifetime,


Probably the most environment friendly photo voltaic panels available on the market have an effectivity of 22%. Nevertheless these are typically the costliest and it’s usually a less expensive choice to purchase barely much less environment friendly panels. Though extra environment friendly panels require much less roof area For the aim of this put up I’ll assume the 5 kW panels have an effectivity of 16%. If we common over a complete 12 months the quantity of daylight at a location relies on its latitude and the quantity of cloud cowl. At a location with latitude 40 levels North having a typical quantity of cloud cowl our 5 kW photo voltaic system would generate 6,900 kWh of electrical energy per 12 months.

If the system lasts 30 years, then you definately would possibly anticipate it might generate 30 x 6,900 kWh = 207,000 kWh of electrical energy over its lifetime. In actuality, the output of photo voltaic panels falls step by step with time. For contemporary photo voltaic panels this degradation price is usually zero.5% per 12 months and, as know-how improves, it should get even decrease. Assuming a degradation price of zero.5%, the panels would produce 191,500 kWh over 30 years

Based mostly upon these figures the typical unit value of photo voltaic electrical energy for the system is

$18,360/191,500 kWh  = $zero.096 per kWh.

If the system had a forty-year lifespan then the entire prices would change into $19,480 and the system would generate 248,400 kWh. The common unit value would then be:

$19,480/248,400 kWh =  $zero.078 per kWh.

One other issue – storage prices.

For customers who’re off grid, a lot of the photo voltaic vitality generated might be saved for use when it’s wanted. That is achieved by utilizing rechargeable batteries and the prices of those must be factored in as effectively. Presently, the prices of a chargeable battery pack which might retailer 20 kWh of vitality is around $4,000  Such a battery pack ought to have a lifetime of 10 years. So, over thirty years, three battery packs would must be purchased, costing a complete of $12,000 at at present’s costs.  Nevertheless, costs of rechargeable batteries are falling quickly – pushed by the demand for electrical automobiles

Information from https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/electric-cars-battery-life-materials-cost#bf-toc-2

As well as, battery lifetimes are bettering on a regular basis. So, in 10-15 years’ time we’d anticipate excessive capability rechargeable batteries to last more than ten years. Subsequently, a determine of $5,000 is a greater estimate for the entire rechargeable battery prices over a thirty-year lifespan. This offers our complete prices of $23,360. The common unit value for an off-grid client is due to this fact:

$23,360/191,500 kWh  = $zero.122 per kWh.


Comparability with the prices of different renewables

The prices of hydroelectricity depend upon the place the plant is and its scale. A assessment by the Worldwide Renewable Energy Agency in 2012 got here up with the next conclusions

  • The common unit value for small hydropower tasks (i.e. producing between 1 and 15 MW of electrical energy) in creating nations is between $zero.02 per kWh and $zero.10 per kWh, making them a really value aggressive choice to produce electrical energy to the grid, or to produce off-grid rural electrification schemes.
  • Very small methods often called pico-hydro, which generate lower than 10 kW, have common unit value $zero.27 of per kWh or greater and (as mentioned in earlier put up [put link here] ) want a continuing provide of water working downhill. In actuality the alternatives for the overwhelming majority of home customers to generate hydro-electricity are very restricted!

  • For giant hydropower tasks the typical unit prices covers a wide range between $zero.02 per kWh and $zero.19 per kWh. On the decrease finish of this value band it makes hydroelectric energy an affordable choice. Though, as mentioned in a previous post the environmental influence of huge hydroelectric energy stations could be large.


Wind energy


  • The weighted common electrical energy value of recent onshore wind farms in 2016 was between $zero.05 per kWh. and $zero.12 per kWh. Information from https://www.irena.org/costs/Power-Generation-Costs/Wind-Power.
  • Nevertheless, Small wind generators are normally not value efficient. Except an space has a really excessive common wind pace the typical unit value is considerably greater than photo voltaic vitality.  A small home set up may have a median unit value of $zero.213 per kWh


Common unit value of electrical energy from small installations. In actuality home hydro is impractical for the overwhelming majority of customers.


I hope you will have loved this put up, which has strayed away from my regular matters. It’s definitely clear that photo voltaic vitality is value aggressive with different renewables and, given the persevering with fall within the value of photo voltaic panels, it will likely be much more so sooner or later.

To search out out extra concerning the Science Geek’s weblog, click on here or on the Science Geek Home hyperlink on the high of this web page.

Further notes

  1. LCOE Calculation

On this put up the calculation of the LCOE for photo voltaic vitality has been simplified. To calculate the LCOE extra rigorously you additionally want to think about the next components.

  • The low cost price. This permits for the truth that over time the worth of cash decreases.
  • The upkeep prices might range from 12 months to 12 months
  • The quantity of electrical energy generated might range in a extra advanced method than a easy zero.5% drop every year.

Taking all these under consideration, the components to find out the LCOE is given beneath.

For the needs of this put up I made the next assumptions.

  • All calculations are in 2019 .
  • The funding expenditure all happens at the beginning (12 months 1). There isn’t a funding expenditure in subsequent years.
  • For simplicity I’ve taken the low cost price to be precisely equal to the speed of inflation. So, as a result of the calculation in actual 2019 , it’s zero.
  • The operation and upkeep expenditure are the identical in 2019 yearly, i.e. they enhance at precisely the speed of inflation


2.Definition of photo voltaic vitality

There are two other ways of producing electrical energy from daylight.

  • A technique is to pay attention the Solar’s vitality utilizing mirrors onto a small space and use the warmth generated to provide steam to show a turbine which generates electrical energy. This is called Concentrated Photo voltaic Energy (CSP)
  • The opposite method is use arrays of photovoltaic cells (extra generally often called photo voltaic panels) to generate electrical energy instantly from daylight. Round 98% of photo voltaic electrical energy is generated this manner and all through this put up after I speak about ‘photo voltaic vitality’ or ‘photo voltaic electrical energy’ I imply electrical energy generated utilizing photo voltaic panels.


  1. Lifetime of photo voltaic panels

As a basic photo voltaic trade rule of thumb, photo voltaic panels are anticipated to final about 25-30 years. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply that they immediately cease producing electrical energy after 25-30 years. It implies that vitality manufacturing has declined by what producers contemplate to be a ‘vital quantity’. Photo voltaic panels can proceed to work for a lot of many years, in the event that they aren’t weakened by wind, particles, or every other exterior components. That is primarily as a result of photo voltaic panels don’t have any transferring components and are often solely broken by outdoors forces like a poor racking setup or inclement climate. https://news.energysage.com/how-long-do-solar-panels-last/

four.Off grid storage

The off-grid calculation ignores the truth that when electrical energy is saved in rechargeable batteries the cost/discharge course of shouldn’t be 100% environment friendly

  1. Common unit value of home wind turbine

In line with the Renewable vitality hub web site [

https://www.renewableenergyhub.us/wind-turbines/how-much-does-wind-turbines-cost.html ]

a home 5 kW wind turbine prices round $32,000 and may generate round eight,900 kWh of electrical energy per 12 months, offered it’s put in in an acceptable windy location. If we assume that the system lasts 20 years and has upkeep prices of $300 per 12 months, that are greater than a photo voltaic system as a result of it has transferring components, then the entire prices are $38,000. The whole quantity of electrical energy generated over the lifetime of the system is 20 x eight,900 kWh = 178,000 kWh. The common unit value is due to this fact

$38,000/178,000 = $zero.213 per kWh

That is roughly double that of a photo voltaic system.

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