The solar panels are produced for less than $1 per watt, and are expected to reduce the cost of solar electricity to about the same cost as traditionally generated electricity. AVA Solar Inc., is expected to produce enough solar panels to generate 200 megawatts per year by the end of 2008. Based on average household use, 200 megawatts will power 40,000 U.S. homes. Consumers will pay about $2 per watt, about half of the current cost of solar panels and close to the cost of being on the traditional electrical grid. - The ColoradanThe key to the solar power revolution will be the point at which power generated off of solar cells matches the price point of power acquired from the electrical grid. When that happens, and this development means that solar technology is within striking distance of this critical price point, society can expect the rollout of solar cells to commercial and public buildings (and even homes) to accelerate.
The rollout of point-electrical solutions is critical to the long-term viability of our civilization. The capacity of our power grid is limited, but our demand for electricity is not. (Go read Bacon's Rebellion, which discussed the power grid issue in deep detail.) If we want to prevent a proliferation of power lines and high-tension wires across the piedmont, we need to implement local point solutions for power which will even out supply even as we implement something like revenue decoupling to increase conservation and moderate demand.
In a situation where demand is peaking, and brownouts or rolling blackouts may be necessary, building-based solar power can provide bridge energy for important facilities which may not be critical (think office towers, not hospitals). During times of lower demand (the spring and fall, for example) solar power can be used to significantly reduce the power demand, and power cost, of these buildings. But none of this makes sense as long as the price of power from solar cells is two or three times that of the national electrical grid.
The advent of price-competitive solar cells is critical to the future of green construction. We Americans have shown that we do not choose to pay extra, or reduce our comfort, in order to live green, so any effective green solution will need to provide the same quality and comfort as a non-green alternative, at the same price as the non-green alternative. Solar electricity is an important part of that answer, because electricity is completely fungible, regardless of its generation source. Thus, the only barrier to widespread acceptance of solar power is the cost per unit.
None of this takes into account what might be the greatest benefit of price-competitive solar power: economic growth. The Coloradan article makes this point clearly.
Although AVA Solar plans to expand its production in the coming years, the company wants to stay connected with the Fort Collins community. “All the founders are products of CSU and have a strong desire to remain close to the local community,” Kanjorski said.We are present at the advent of a brand-new, high-tech industry. And this industry promises to both save money, and make money, for people who get involved with it. This is the kind of industry that Governor Kaine had in mind in his Virginia Energy Plan.
We can only hope that the County won't miss-out on this opportunity, too.