How Did Solar Get So Cheap?

March 15, 2023

Solar price has plunged in the last decade.
Now battery storage following same trajectory.

ZME Science:

Thanks to incrementally better technology, panel design, and manufacturing of scale, solar panels have become incredibly cheap. In the past decade alone, their price per unit of generated energy has fallen by 85%, so much so that multiple reports consider solar to be the cheapest energy ever. 

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), two-thirds of all wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects that came online in 2020 were cheaper than the cheapest new fossil fuel power planets. That’s double the equivalent share for 2019. 

This trend is only to continue in the future, with the cost of renewables expected to drop significantly. 

Below, massive energy storage solution in Michigan comes from a long proven technology.


7 Responses to “How Did Solar Get So Cheap?”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Pushback I have been hearing:

    1) Battery storage still way too expensive. Lazards doesn’t account for integration costs

    2) Battery storage needs to work for weeks at a time, not just for a few hours

    3) Actual utility engineers hate wind and solar b/c they are:

    A) still too expensive
    B) difficult to integrate into existing systems
    C) Require massive investments in grid infrastructure not needed by nuclear, for example

    Be great if you could address these, Peter. 🙂

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Form Energy finally got its ass in gear and is building its first iron-air (“rust”) battery factory in Weirton, WV.

      These rust batteries work at a longer, slower, cheaper scale than Li+ or LFP batteries, analogous to high-capacity hard drives backing up on-board memory. The increase in time scale might not be weeks, but it probably covers another 90% of the need that a few days can provide.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I would like a citation for the utility engineers who hate wind and solar, please.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        The guy says he works for a utility and he gets this “info” directly from the people in his company.

        I said I have seen videos of actual utility managers here at Climatecrocks talking about how easy RE is to integrate, but I can not find the darn videos.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      need more specifics on that.
      Not what I am hearing from utility people I know.
      Their primary frustrations are local siting obstacles, System operator queues, inadequate transmission

    • J4Zonian Says:

      To solve the duck curve it obviously doesn’t need to be weeks; it needs to be about 4 hours, which just happens to be how long lithium batteries are often built for. See Jacobson 2021 for concatenating batteries to work in series for 8 hours, etc. The ARFs on the lunatic right wing claim storage is needed for weeks or months because they know it doesn’t exist yet (because it’s not needed yet), & then they can pretend to believe in their own denial that renewables can do the job. The storage can be provided behind the meter in community micro-grids like those being built in California, Australia, & elsewhere by Tesla, eg.

      Offshore & near-shore wind typically peak in afternoons/evenings while interior winds often peak at night, which complements solar. Texas is a perfect example in development; many other places can be.

      CSP provides near-perfect demand-coincident power.

      A study a few years ago found more than 500,000 potential sites for pumped storage globally. A few percent would be more than we’d ever need.

      Overbuilding wind & solar plus more sane use of water would allow many hydro reservoirs & larger watersheds to refill & then be used as ersatz pumped storage in rare times of longer need.

      Distributed generation grids can allow time-shifting energy to meet duck curve needs across time zones.

      EVs that have sat all day charging at work & shopping areas can be plugged in with V2G on arriving home, to meet duck curve needs, then recharged by wind, geothermal, & tidal at night, when other demands are low.

      Longer term, clothesline paradox energy like passive heating & cooling with built-in storage (stone & concrete walls & floors & New Alchemy-like greenhouse/solarium hydroponics & aquaculture …) can be built into the grid


      Demand response strategies targeted to reduce duck curve demand can include a wide variety of strategies like home storage (Powerwalls, eg), refrigeration & water heating innovations, industrial pricing plans, etc.

      These interlocking strategies are far more than is needed to cover 90-99%, probably 100% of needs. As long as we start immediately we have a few years to create & test the systems before completely eliminating fossil fuels.

      All 3 “engineer” objections (actually just Charlie McCarthying by fossil-fueled right wing anti-renewable fanatics) are bullshit. Solar, wind, & efficiency [1] are obviously the cheapest energy sources of all. I’m happy to provide (voluminous) support for that. With no extra transmission (only distribution) required for distributed solar [2], short transmission with no NIMBYs, for most offshore wind,

      [1] “With Heat From Heat Pumps, US Energy Requirements Could Plummet By 50%”
      Electrification and heat pumps radically reduce the requirement to build new wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, and geothermal primary energy sources.
      Michael Barnard Cleantechnica 2023/03/14

      [2] “Rooftop solar and home batteries make a clean grid vastly more affordable”
      Distributed energy is not an alternative to big power plants, but a complement.
      David Roberts May 28, 2021

      DR’s “DER ALDC (Altered Load Duration Curve)” chart,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: