Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Solar Photovoltaics at a total cost of 1 $/Watt can change everything

GAINESVILLE, FL - APRIL 15:  Tom Doughty (L) a...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeGary Hunt has a post yesterday on Energy Secretary's Steven Chu's Sunshot initiative targeting 1 $/Watt as total cost for going solar. For sunny climates, where each kW can produce as much as 1,500 kWh of electricity, worth a couple of 100 dollars at current retail prices, an investment of a 1000 $/kW will give a much better return than the financial markets.

Unfortunately, the initiative targets bulk solar power plants of 100s of MW. For small-scale residential systems, the 1 $/W target is more distant, and may never be achieved for typical systems of 3-5 kW which carry too much planning, design and installation overhead.

For utilities and project developers with deep time horizons, this cost target enables bulk electricity generation in the range of 5 to 10 c/kWh. If the market massively invests in this technology, solar PV may even help to reduce electricity prices.

Comparing this with current retail prices of electricity, a rate of 5-10 c/kWh give some margin to invest in smart grids for balancing, solving any problems that may occur during the day. However, with massive investment in solar photovoltaics, and despite equally massive deployment of demand management, smart grids and strongly integrated regional transmission systems, substantial long-term storage will be needed. According to The Energy Report, this can be provided by a combination of pumped hydro, compressed air storage and hydrogen.
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International Zero-Energy Housing

Since buildings are major energy users, zero-energy building concepts are one of the major potential contributors to a sustainable energy system. This presentation from innovolve presents an International Zero-Energy Housing Initiative, demonstrating that the concept works for a wide variety of dwelling types in various climates. After the examples, the presentation introduces some of the technologies used, and what needs to be done to have a massive zero-energy housing movement.