Solar power to reach cost parity with fossils by 2015: study

The Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study, released by the research firm Clean Edge Inc. and the nonprofit "green-economy" group Co-op America, indicates that, "for the first time, solar power is beginning to reach cost parity with conventional energy sources."

The study is based on more than 30 interviews with solar, utility, financial, and policy experts.

As costs for solar panels and concentrating solar energy systems decline and as costs for coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants rise, the US will reach a "crossover point" around 2015. "For the first time in modern history, the price of solar-generated electricity is within striking distance of conventional energy sources for a wide range of applications. Already, solar power can compete in regions with high electricity rates and with favorable incentives. It can compete effectively for peak power production, in grid-constrained territories, and for applications that are off the grid."

The report shares that, with proper investment, solar power can reach 10 percent of US power generation by 2025. The US currently gets less than one tenth of one percent from solar, but it has been growing quickly. Solar power has jumped to 3,000 megawatts in 2008 from 600 MW in 2003, as per the study. Reaching 10 percent will require between $450 billion and $560 billion in capital costs by 2025, an average of $26 billion to $33 billion per year.

According to the report, the benefits include:

·          Solar can offer a price hedge against volatile and increasing costs for fossil fuel resources like coal and natural gas.

·          Once installed, solar provides stable fixed prices to utilities and users.

·          Solar is becoming a cost-effective peak generation resource.

·          Within a decade, solar power will be cost-competitive in most regions of the US on a kwh basis.

·          Compared to coal, nuclear, and gas-fired power plants, solar has no fuel costs, low maintenance costs, and will provide credits, rather than costs, in a carbon-regulated world.

·          Solar is a widely available resource, suited to most locales around the nation.

·          Solar can ease congestion in regions where energy demands have stressed the grid.