## Graph of the Day: Cost of Solar Cells

### February 15, 2011

If today’s computer chips were the same size and cost as they were in 1975,
Apple’s iPod would cost \$1 billion and be the size of a building.

### 5 Responses to “Graph of the Day: Cost of Solar Cells”

1. If you have the source data could we see that Cost Reduction curve in linear instead of log? It looks like it would be pretty dramatic! 🙂

Regards,

Larry Oliver
@tweetingdonal

2. […] Regardless of the graphic technique being used, it’s very very clear that Solar has become THE affordable alternative energy source, especially for a distributed grid. If today’s computer chips were the same size and cost as they were in 1975, Apple’s iPod would cost \$1 billion and be the size of a building. From the American Energy Innovation Council. … Read More […]

3. otter17 Says:

This graph is a great pick-me-up… I was feeling a bit crummy today.

4. otter17 Says:

@ tweetingdonal

There is a program you can get from sourceforge.net that can estimate the source data. It is called “Engauge Digitizer”, and it takes a bit of fiddling with to figure it out. Nevertheless, you can set up the axes (even log-log axes) and click on the data points in a picture file, and the program can export a set of data that gives the x/y coordinates you clicked on.

So, from my Excel sheet, I see that the data as plotted on a linear scale show that there was a large drop in price at first (up until the 90’s). Now the price drop has leveled off and decreasing asymptotically.

Now, that may sound a bit discouraging, but let’s say the graph continues its trend down to roughly \$0.70 or \$0.80 per Watt when the cumulative module production reaches 100,000 MW. Under these circumstances, I set up a few formulas to see what the payback period would be for a solar farm, and it can be a big money maker even with \$0.08 per kW-hr and a 0.15 capacity factor. I played it conservatively by assigning a very high maintenance, management and overhead cost per year.

Hell, even with the 2010 photovoltaic price of around \$1.40 per Watt, a home-sized installation could pay itself back in as little as five years with a 0.3 capacity factor and \$0.10 per kW-hr of electricity saved.