- Monday, December 1, 2008
- Democratizing Solar: AC PV modules lead the way
- Published at:Power Systems Design Europe
As the world faces the economic, environmental, and political consequences of its heavy dependence on fossil fuels for energy, the search for a suitable alternative only grows more intense.
The collection of solar energy through photovoltaic (PV) cells is a particularly promising technology. Sunshine is an abundant resource, while PV technology is clean, quiet, and suitable for distributed installations. Gridtied PV technology allows the integration of PV resources into the utility grid near points of load.
Today, cost is the primary challenge facing PV power systems. Presently, the solar electricity price index ranges from 21.41¢/kWhr for industrial applications to 37.78¢/kWhr for residential applications. This price index is primarily driven by PV module cost (~40%-50% of system cost), inverter cost (<10% of system cost), balance of the system costs (~10%-20% of system cost), and labor and installation costs (~30%-40% of system cost). Since the inverter cost constitutes a small percentage of the overall system cost (<10%), a major reduction in inverter cost will not have a major impact on overall system cost. On the other hand, soft costs (labor and installation) constitute more than 1/3rd of the system cost. Reducing these costs can result in major reduction in overall system cost.
The AC PV module is poised to truly “democratize solar” as it offers a budget friendly incremental installation. Unlike string inverter based system where a base residential system cost could approach upwards of $25,000, low budget end users can get started with few AC PV modules to supplement their power usage and add more modules as they go. This is the true spirit of democracy.