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Solar PV Generation Reaches the Mainstream

William Opalka

solar at Occidental CollegeSolar photovoltaic power generation has attained mainstream status, especially in Europe, as technology costs have plummeted and it has grabbed a larger share of the market.

According to an article in the New York Times, near the end of 2012, installed global photovoltaic generating capacity passed the milestone of 100 GW, according to a recent report by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

Europe has most of global installed photovoltaic capacity, or about 80 GW. Of that, 35 GW is in Germany, which provides about 7 percent of its electricity.

The use of feed-in tariffs has been one of the drivers, but not without controversy. Rising power prices have been blamed on generous support for renewable energy. Governments are now cutting the subsidy, which renewable energy advocates say threatens the industry’s existence.

The world has installed 130 GW of PV, up from 1.4 GW in 2000, the Times said.

With large-volume installation, economies of scale have substantially reduced unit costs.

According to a report by the EPIA, PV costs have dropped 22 percent with every doubling of production capacity.

In Germany, rooftop systems that cost $70 per watt a decade ago are now $1.34, with the back-up system, the inverter, and the cost of installation.

In other countries, like in the United States, it’s about a factor of two to three times more expensive.

And as quoted in the Times, the European Environment Agency, Europe had already achieved an emissions reduction of 18 percent by last year, putting it on course to overshoot the 2020 target, even if the E.U. economy recovers by then.



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