November 28, 2002
DOE EIA Renewable Energy Annual 2001

The Energy Information Administration of the US Department Of Energy has just released its Renewable Energy Annual report for 2001. The summary is available on a web page.

There were dramatic changes in the patterns of photovoltaic (PV) cell and module shipments. Domestic shipments shot up nearly 80 percent in 2001 to 36.3 peak megawatts, while exports declined 10 percent. This reverses a 10-year history of largely modest growth in domestic shipments and strong gains in exports. Overall, total PV cell and module shipments rose 11 percent in 2001 to 98 peak megawatts.

There were also substantial changes in the type of module produced. For example, thin-film silicon, which had never had more than 4 peak megawatts shipped in a single year, had almost 13 peak megawatts of cells and modules shipped in 2001. This was partially at the expense of cast-and-ribbon cells and modules, whose shipments decreased from 33 peak megawatts in 2000 to 30 peak megawatts in 2001.

Module manufacturers purchased substantially less product in 2001, receiving shipments of 14 peak megawatts of cells and modules, compared with 19 peak megawatts in 2000. Despite this trend, total module.shipments rose from 55,007 peak kilowatts to 67,033 peak kilowatts.

The total value of PV cell and module shipments rose to $305 million in 2001, a 13-percent gain over 2000. The average price per peak megawatt held fairly steady for both cells and modules during 2001 at $2.46 and $3.42, respectively.

A 34-percent surge in shipments to the residential market enabled it to regain its ranking as the top market for PV cells and modules in 2001. Manufacturers shipped 33 peak megawatts of cells and modules to the residential market in 2001, compared with 25 in 2000. Shipments to the second-largest market sector, industrial, declined slightly from 29 to 28 peak megawatts.

What's interesting here is that thin film solar photovoltaics are expanding their marketshare at the expense of other types of photovoltaics. Also, wind is growing faster than solar and has almost equalled solar as seen in the table H1. My guess is that hydroelectric's decline is due to changes in weather patterns.

As can be seen in this chart renewables are only 6% of total US energy production and solar is only 1% of total renewables (so solar is about 0.06% of total energy production). What's surprising (at least to me) is that biomass is a bigger source of energy than hydroelectric. Three quarters of the biomass is wood and wood wastes.

There is no dramatic trend of declining prices in the photovoltaics market. From the full text PDF version of the report:

The total value of photovoltaic cell and module shipments grew 13 per cent to $305 million in 2001 from $270 million in 2000 (Table 29). The average price for modules (dollars per peak watt) d ecr eased 1 per cent, from $3.46 in 2000 to $3.42 in 2001. For cells, the average price increased 3 per cent, from $2.40 in 2000 to $2.46 in 2001.

Looked at over a longer period of time a more dramatic price drop can be seen:

Twenty-one companies were involved in the production of 88,221 kWp of solar PV in 2000, says the Energy Information Administration in its 'Renewable Energy Annual' report. The total of 85,155 kW of crystalline silicon and 2,736 kW of thin-film silicon is an increase from the 12,492 and 1,321 (respectively) produced in 1990. The cost was US$3.46 per peak watt for modules and $2.40 for cells, compared with $5.69 and $3.84 a decade earlier.

Still, we aren't going to get cost effective photovoltaics any time soon unless annual price drops become consistent and dramatic. Gradual refinement of existing photovoltaics manufacturing techniques is probably not going to be what makes photovoltaic devices into a low cost energy source. The research on thin films and nanotechnology will probably be what produces the technological breakthrus that will finally make solar power cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 November 28 02:42 PM  Energy Tech

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