By John Boley
This has been a year of upheaval for the solar power industry. It was the year when solar panels began fast approaching grid parity, when the cost of implementing solar energy began to reach that of other generation methods. Until 2012, solar power was relatively expensive due to the high costs of photovoltaic panels, making solar prohibitive in all but a few applications without government incentives or subsidies.
But photovoltaic prices have collapsed since 2008 at an increasing rate; one industry estimate puts the drop at more than 80 per cent with half of that drop coming in the last year alone. Another has it that the average capital cost of a new solar array has dropped 30 per cent in the last two years. Many solar companies anticipate further reductions in the cost of their equipment and facilities.
So is now the time to go out and buy up panels? After all, they are all the same – they all come out of China, where over-production stoked by government subsidies to manufacturers has reached crisis proportions – so now they should cost next to nothing, shouldn’t they?
Well, not exactly. Not if you listen to George Phani. He is National Sales and Operations Manager for the Australian arm of Kyocera Solar, one of the world’s largest vertically-integrated producers and suppliers of solar energy panels. He has some 15 years of experience in this industry while Kyocera has more than 35 years of production of solar panels and it is his considered opinion that while tech-nology has improved and prices have become more competitive, there is a crying need for education at customer level – in all fields including commer-cial, residential and power genera-tion. During this century, the number of companies offering solar energy products has increased by 51 per cent per year; few of them manufacture their own and even fewer have complete control over every step of the manufacturing process like Kyocera.
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As featured in Resource in Focus, December 2012