Generation Sector Update   
A Report from EPRI's Generation Sector January 2010

Renewable Generation (Program 84)

Solar Photovoltaics Update.
Two EPRI reports reveal significant deployment increases and cost reductions for PV technology.

Between 2003 and 2008, annual growth of solar photovoltaics (PV) averaged 52% per year, the fastest growing form of electricity generation on a percentage basis. In 2008, global module sales exceeded 5,400 MW, and it is anticipated that 2009 brought an equal or greater amount of growth, resulting in a total worldwide capacity approaching 20 GW. This rapid pace is driven by a combination of government incentives and popular support for clean energy. It translates into a billions-of-dollars-per-year business for both module production and system installation.

Significant cost reductions are expected to continue as a result of improving power conversion efficiencies, development of low-cost fabrication processes, and increasing cell production volume and economies of scale. Historically the selling price of modules has declined by about 20% with each doubling of sales. After three years of higher prices due to a shortage of high-purity silicon feedstock, 2009 saw a massive investment in feedstock production and expansions in module manufacturing, which, along with the softening demand caused by global recession, resulted in silicon module prices falling over 30% in the past year.

Large-scale commercial PV and central-station utility-scale PV will most likely become the dominant growth market in future years; however, the relatively high value of displaced retail kWh are expected to stimulate ongoing strong growth of the residential and commercial markets as well. Recent trends suggest that power companies will have a significant role in both distributed and utility scale applications.

In December, EPRI published two reports on the status of PV technology. The first is a publicly-available perspective called Solar Photovoltaics: Status, Costs, and Trends (1015804). Detailed cost and performance results for six PV technologies in different climate regions are contained in a second report, titled Engineering and Economic Evaluation of Central-Station Photovoltaic Power Plants (1017600).

For more information, contact Chuck McGowin (, 650-855-2445) or Tom Key (, 865-218-8082).