Solar Panels so expensive

Discussion in 'Economics' started by toc, Jun 5, 2007.

  1. toc


    Can anybody with engineering or science background explain as to why the solar panels are so expensive like in thousands just for the water heater.

    Somewhere it was mentioned that 100 mile x 100 mile solar farm can produce enough energy to take care of US annual electric consumption each year. This sound very exciting but also why does not government move fast on this..........cost factors or too much already invested in the thermal and nuclear powerplants.
  2. id imagine a 100x100 mile solar array would cost more money to build than is in existence. we have to wait till research creates more efficient solar technology and/or cheaper ways to produce it.
  3. This articles says a panel costs about $615 per square meter.

    Its a real rough estimate, and they are quoting prices for home use, so that doesn't compansate for different efficiences and other technical factors that I probably don't understand.

    At that cost, 100 square miles would be about $160 billion.

    That makes me doubt that 100 squares miles would cover all of the US's energy needs (unless my estimates are way off). Where did you hear that estimate?
  4. Cost of silicon is rising, due to supply shortages.

    Recent research at Georgia Tech holds some promise of increases in efficiency.

    Wind is another clean technology that holds promise, in localized areas.
  5. TGregg


    One hundred square miles is only 1% of a square 100 miles on a side (ie 100x100). Multiply your calculation by 100 to get 16 trillion just to buy the panels. Not to mention the price would skyrocket because we can't make anywhere near that many in a year. Then add installation charges, and maintenance, and the US National Debt is tiny in comparision.
  6. toc


    "Bob Liden, SES executive vice president and general manager, says solar electric generation dish arrays are an option for power in parts of the country that are sunny like New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Nevada. They could be linked together to provide utility-scale power. A solar dish farm covering 11 square miles hypothetically could produce as much electricity per year as Hoover Dam, and a farm 100 miles by 100 miles in the southwestern U.S. could provide as much electricity as is needed to power the entire country."
  7. In a year? It's not a matter of price, it's simply impossible. You can't even build the factories you'd need in a year.

    Do it over 2 decades and it'd probably be a lot cheaper than 16 trillion due to economies of scale.

    In any case, large scale solar installations always use concentrators and generally use thermal generation rather than photovoltaic generation for cost reasons. For example Southern California Edison is building a 7.2 square mile, 500MW solar plant using dish concentrators and stirling engines. 10,000 square miles of these dishes would cost about $4 trillion. The same amount of coal fired generation costs about $900 billion, but you still have to buy coal.

  8. TGregg


    That's interesting. What are the operating costs roughly as a percent of the cost of building? 10%?
  9. I knew I made a mistake somewhere. And thanks for the link toc. Also those dishes are significantly more advanced (and probably signifcantly more expensive) than solar panels used in the home which I used in my crappy estimate.
  10. Solar hot water is different from solar thermal and from Solar electric (Photovoltaic). So you have to be more specific.
    Solar hot water actually has a good return without any subsidies so I think you are just being cheap.

    As for a solar farm powering the whole United States, that's not how the electric grid works. You need to maintain electric loads at all time and it's not feasible to do it by batteries. Also, what do you do when the load is below the production? You can burn out the grid.

    Federal is not doing much for solar, but is doing a lot for wind. States are doing the work for solar but they are just trying to stimulate the free market component. The whole 100x100 mile solar farm example in that HBO documentary was for illustrative purposes, it is not to be taken literally. Cause it is not at all practical.
    #10     Jun 5, 2007