New Jersey PV More Accessible than Ever

Home and business owners in New Jersey and other leading solar energy states can look forward to yet another drop in pricing for photovoltaic systems in 2010.

PV systems have been increasing in number as the benefits and incentives become available to home and business owners. However, although the rate of growth has been tremendous over the past ten years, it has been constrained by the shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon. This material is what makes up the semiconductor chips in PV systems, and in 2006, for the first time, over 50% of the world’s polysilicon was used to produce solar PV cells.

Supply shortages have forced many manufacturers to develop ways to use polysilicon more efficiently. New technology that does not depend on purified silicon allows thin film cells and amorphous silicon to be used instead, reducing overall costs. Thin film cells were initially not efficient enough to compete with conventional cells, but have been redesigned to make PV panels cheaper to manufacture.

In 2008, polysilicon supply to the solar industry grew by 127% in megawatt terms. The US contributed substantially to this figure; over 43% of the world’s supplies came from the United States.

For New Jersey, where alternative power is becoming the avenue more and more business owners are taking, PV costs continue to drop. Thanks to the reduction in cost for thin cell materials and the generous incentives offered by state and federal agencies, photovoltaic systems can now be installed with small upfront investments, and be completely paid off in short order (recent projections showed that a business installing a 40+ kw system could be free and clear in less than five years.

“The average price for a PV module, excluding installation and other system costs, has dropped from almost $100 per watt in 1975 to less than $4 per watt at the end of 2006. With expanding polysilicon supplies, average PV prices are projected to drop to $2 per watt in 2010.

For thin-film PV alone, production costs are expected to reach $1 per watt in 2010, at which point solar PV will become competitive with coal-fired electricity. With concerns about rising oil prices and climate change spawning political momentum for renewable energy, solar electricity is poised to take a prominent position in the global energy economy.” *

(* Earth Policy Institute)

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