Professor of Harvard University: solar panels will provide cheap energy


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Over the past few years, solar panels have become cheap, cheap enough source of energy to affect some of the energy markets, cheap enough to get continuous improvement, change in a decade on the world energy market, – says David Keith, professor of Harvard University, was awarded for its technological advances by Massachusetts Institute of technology and the weekly TIME.

Professor David Keith, who for many years engaged in the research, such as physics and solar energy, acknowledges that a few years ago looked skeptical on the possibility of solar panels and made a forecast reduction of income from solar energy. Development of solar panels market in recent years has shown, however, that the Harvard professor in his judgments with respect to solar energy was very wrong.

David Keith is now writes in his blog that the market of solar energy in the previous years there was basically due to tax incentives and feed-in tariffs, which, however, in his view, didn’t provide for the further development of technology and didn’t have contribute to the generation of this market by technological breakthroughs which would lead to the cost of solar energy that can compete with other sources in the wholesale market.

Professor of Harvard University admits now that his perception of solar energy prospects a few years ago was

I was wrong. Facts have changed. Several years ago, the cost of industrial systems was two times higher than at present. Solar modules currently cost about $ 0.5 / watt. Non-subsidized energy from industrial farms in prime locations fell today below $ 40 / MWh and can easily still fall to $ 20 / MWh by 2020, compared with other energy sources, it will provide cheap energy on the planet – commented scientist on his blog.
As Harvard professor came the opportunity to produce energy for the incredible price of only $ 20 / MWh (approx. 500 UAH / MWh)?

First of all, it is worth noting that, according to Harvard University professor, such a price would be in the best possible, mostly sunny places. However, the result of an American professor of analysis can also be promising for solar energy in the region.

David Keith provides that the cost of solar industrial installations (with a capacity of more than 50 MW), built on a single-axis trackers, is approx. US $ 1500 / kW, whereas the same setup with no tracking system can cost $ 1,000 / kW. In addition, power factor, real, for the best places in the United States, as well as for installation on trackers, professor at Harvard University estimates about approx. 30 percent. A solar power actual efficiency is determined at above 20 percent.

In view of the above data, David Keith predicts that the cost of energy from industrial installations for photovoltaic trackers that work in the most sunny regions of the USA, may be 34 USD / MW.

Then, professor at Harvard University suggests that will fall to the level of $ 1000 / kW, while the level of capacity utilization will be in the best solar locations 34 percent by 2020, the cost of commercial solar plants installations on trackers (with capacity of more than 100 MW). In such situation, in his opinion, will be available to the cost of energy produced at $ 20 / MWh.

David Keith notes that the trackers is an important component of capital expenditures, however, believes that the savings from economies of scale can provide a reduction in their cost of up to $ 100 / kW.
Harvard professor outlining the optimistic view of the decline in solar energy cost, yet doesn’t ignore the problems faced by the industry.

Cheap solar energy, however, doesn’t solve the problem of instability of this energy. (…) In the long term, we need easily accessible, one-time sources of energy in the demand centers. This will require the use of gas for peak demand, energy storage, and transmission over long distances. Most of the world demand in those areas where sunlight is at least 40 percent worse than in good locations, which are located in Mexico, Southern California, the Middle East and Australia. But this means that we can now build a solar system in the best sunny places and make very low cost electric energy – says David Keith.

A researcher from Harvard University believes that in the short term, the generation of solar variability issue can be effectively addressed through the provision due to the gas turbines, as well as, according to experts, such a mechanism can work, when production in the energy sector will be reduced by one third from the current level .

The professor Keith said, ultimately, the solution to this problem requires the transmission system to be used for the transport of cheap energy of the sunniest regions in places where there is the greatest demand.
What consequences can be case for the global energy system?

David Keith provides that solar energy will change the shape of the energy markets in the sunniest regions. The energy in these markets can be a cheap source in the middle of the day, this trend is already evident in the energy market in California. In his opinion, the place on such markets will lose the wind, for which, as estimates Keith, expenses remained virtually unchanged in recent years. Another finding is the negative impact of the development of solar generation in these regions for nuclear technology and CCS, which may prove to be an unbeatable combination of solar and back-up energy in the form of gas generation.

The second fundamental result of increasing the competitiveness of solar energy, according to a professor at Harvard University, is the possibility of partial transfer of demand for electricity in the regions with cheap energy.

One option is to find products that require energy-intensive manufacturing processes and construction of photovoltaic farms close to them, in areas with high sun exposure – says Keith. If you want a stable environment, humanity must reduce CO2 emissions to zero. And if we rely on well-being and a sufficient amount of energy, which will increase the standard of living of the poorest sections of the population, the demand for it will be twice as (…) the climate is not the only problem. Power systems have a variety of social and environmental costs.


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