General Electric is expecting solar power to be cheaper than energy generated from fossil fuel and nuclear reactors. GE attributes the drop in the price of solar power generation to innovations in the industry.
GE’s goal is to get solar power price down to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour or below. The company expects the prices to decrease in three to five years. Once the price of solar goes down to that level, homeowners would choose to have a solar power system in their houses. In 2009, the average retail rate per kilowatt-hour in the United States is from 6.1 cents in Wyoming to 18.1 in Connecticut.
Last month, GE announced that it managed to improve the efficiency of thin-film solar panels to 12.8 percent. This would help decrease the costs of solar power to a level where there’s no need to rely on government subsidies.
GE plans to open a factory for its improved thin-film panels in 2013. The manufacturing plant will employ at least 400 people and can make solar panels that are enough to power around 80,000 homes.
At present, solar panel manufacturers are expanding their operations in order to gain more savings in costs. This way the solar panel industry needs all the savings it can get to sustain its expansion. According to analysts, solar power installations may increase to as high as 50 percent in 2011, with projects totaling around $140 billion. Cheaper solar panels can make the industry depend less on government subsidies.
In this year alone, the price of solar cells has decreased to 21 percent. The cost of solar power is now at the same level as what the utilities charge for conventional power in Italy, Turkey and California.
Most of the solar panels still use silicon-based photovoltaic cells to collect sunlight that is converted into electricity. The thin-film version is usually made of glass or any other material coated with cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide alloys. It accounts for around 15 percent of the total solar panel sales across the globe.
This year, GE plans to launch the Nucleus, which is a device that would allow consumers to track their household electricity consumption with their smartphones and personal computers. It also invested in its appliance and lighting division to come up with innovative ways to save energy.
To promote power-saving appliances, utilities must have incentive programs and Congress should pass a measure to provide more certainty on tax policy regarding renewable energy.