From the first solar cells in 1883 with their 1% efficiency to today’s research lab cells that claim over 40% efficiency, the progress of the solar revolution has been bumpy and often uncomfortable for the major solar players, but it has been nonetheless steady.
As mass production has kicked in, the price of solar modules has fallen from $100 a watt in the 1970s to under $1 a watt today, and a 5 kW residential system that will generate 5,500 kwh a year—enough for a tight, well designed home with efficient lighting and appliances—will cost between $17,500 and $20,000.
As the price of solar PV continues to fall and the price of grid electricity continues to rise, when will solar grid parity arrive in British Columbia?
That is the critical question to which Andrew Pye has applied his research skills. Andrew approached the BCSEA in the summer of 2012 and volunteered his services as a research intern. He has invested many more hours and more diligence than we had the right to expect, but we hope the result justifies his efforts.
You can find Andrew’s report here, at the bottom of the page. His Grid Parity Calculator spreadsheet is also there.
The forecast date of 2024 for solar grid parity for utility-scale systems in BC is only eleven years away, which is a very short time in long-range electricity planning. Residential and commercial grid parity will follow three years later.
What are the implications of a major new source of clean power in BC, predominantly during the off-peak summer season? That is the question we need to explore. If the plans for Site C dam assume payback over many years, for instance, but there’s a big solar surge in the late 2020s, with gigawatts of installation, is the massive investment for Site C really needed? Could solar save the Site C farmland from being flooded?
The disappointing news is that due to the ancient geological gift of mountains, which give us North America’s third cheapest power, BC will be a latecomer at the solar banquet. The good news is that by 2024 other jurisdictions will have pioneered the best financing and installation options, easing our entry into the market for mass installations.
Meanwhile, solar PV is a cost-effective resource today for many off-grid and remote locations, and—as part of an integrated package of renewable energy alternatives—a much needed solution to the diesel generators that pollute the air throughout BC’s rural areas. For anyone seeking a good solar sales and installation company, we refer you to the BCSEA’s Sustainable Energy Directory, at www.bcsea.org/sed.