One of the nice things about all the networking events in Silicon Valley is the chance to meet people who know more than you do (or at least know interesting things that you don’t). When it comes to PV, that includes pretty much the whole industry as far as I’m concerned.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Silicon Valley Photovoltaic Society, I met a few old faces (like SVPVS head honcho Jurgen Daniel) as well as a few new ones. In the latter category was Barbara Nussel, who has a PhD in Chemistry from LMU in Munich. She worked in industry for 12 years before becoming a consultant here in the Bay Area helping companies “all along the solar value chain.”
As I do at any meeting, I ask basic questions that will help me explain the solar industry to my students (and eventually in a research paper). For PV, the main economic questions are “how soon to grid parity” and “what’s holding us up.” Leaving aside that grid parity is a moving target — between the cost of conventional grid energy and changing subsidies — and it’s still an impossibly complex topic.
After the meeting, Barbara sent me some information about the allocation of costs in the PV value chain which I’m still trying to digest. However, one really cool site she pointed to me was SolarBuzz.
In particular, their monthly US/EU “Solar Module Retail Price” report looks like an invaluable resource to provide a starting point for outsiders (journalists, academics, students) to get a relative sense of changing costs in the industry. According to report, the price of larger PV modules in the US fell from $4.84 to $4.81 per peak watt.
Of course, the price of a peak watt is not the same as the price per average output, let alone the levelized cost of energy. But that’s a subject for another time.