What's the cost of solar today? Well, it depends a great deal on where exactly you are located, but no matter where you're located, I'd bet that most of you have a cost of solar in your head that's 2-100 times greater than the actual cost of solar power.
One of the
things I majored in for my bachelor's degree (a long time back) was
sociology. I think one of the key lessons I learned in those four years
was that we are not exactly rational beings (okay, I guess I had a sense
of that beforehand). Societal theories and economic models based on the
idea of humans making completely rational decisions simply don't work.
There are a lot of different reasons for this, but one huge one is that
we often don't have all the information we would need in order to make a
In a related manner, something I've learned in
my several years reading and writing about clean energy is that the
average person has a price of solar power or price of wind power in
their heads that is at least a few years old, sometimes even many years
No criticism from me - I know how busy modern life is! It's
often hard to make time even for the essentials. If you're not working
and living in the clean energy arena, you probably don't feel like you
have time to practice your clean energy free throws (i.e. keep up with
the price of different energy technologies).
But energy is a huge
deal. It's most likely a big portion of your monthly expenditures. And
it has a transformational effect on the world we live in. But we won't
get into all that today - let's get into the fun stuff! I'm going to
catch you up on some tremendously awesome news about solar power.
however, to make one of my points, I need to give you a short briefing
on some wind power facts. (I know, this is getting complicated - just
stick with me.) On average, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study has
found that people think wind power is about twice as expensive as it
Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a similar study on
solar power. But I think this is still very useful for solar power for a
few reasons. To get to those, we have to ask, "Why do people think wind
power is so much more expensive than it is?"
From my experience covering this topic for years, I have a few ideas:
turbine prices have fallen 29% since 2008, and about 50% since 1990.
Very possibly, people simply have an outdated price of wind power in
their heads. It's quite logical - if they heard the price of wind power
10 years ago but haven't kept up with changes in the industry, they
simply have that one price in their heads.
There's a lot of
bashing of renewable energy by certain politicians and media agencies.
In particular, one of the most repeated claim is that "renewable energy
is too expensive." For those tied to the coal, natural gas, and nuclear
industries, this falsehood is key to their own financial success,
because everyone knows that wind and solar power are popular with the
masses, and almost everyone knows they're clean and good. The only hope
for these dirtier industries is to try to convince people that clean
energy is more expensive... even when it's not.
However, the even bigger news is that the two points above apply to solar power even much more than wind power!
Solar power prices have fallen off a cliff in recent years.
if you have a 1977 price of solar panels stuck in your head, you think
solar panels are 100 times more expensive than they actually are. If you
have a year 2000 price of solar panels stuck in your head, you think
they're about twice as expensive as they actually are. Even if you have a
2008 price of solar panels stuck in your head, that's about 80% too
high. And, actually, even if you have an early 2012 price of solar
panels in your head, that's about 20% too high!
Did you get a
solar quote back in 2008? If so, it's probably quite a bit higher than
it would be today. Maybe it's time to check again?
But while we're
at it, let's not forget the political and media coverage. Either
through simple lack of awareness, or something more nefarious, many
politicians and members of the media repeatedly assert that solar power
is "so expensive." They've got outdated information in their heads.
Don't listen to them. Check the numbers for yourself. And, very
importantly, share this information with your friends and family so that
they are not tricked by outdated information and misinformed media
professionals and politicians.
I think the points above are quite interesting and informative. But there's a lot more to say about the cost of solar.
I do some freelance research and writing for Cost of Solar (http://www.costofsolar.com),
a nationwide network of highly experienced, licensed solar
professionals dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public
about the benefits of solar energy. You can view some of my other posts
and some I've contributed research to at http://costofsolar.com/news/
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