June 20, 2010
Cost Breakdown On Solar Panel Installations

An article about photovoltaic (PV) solar panel costs in Singapore breaks down the costs of PV.

According to Professor Joachim Luther, chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), the breakdown cost of a PV system sees BOS accounting for the lionís share at 39%.

The BOS, or balance of system, includes the cost of cabling, mounting system and inverters.

The silicon material accounts for 12% and the cells and modules take up 16% each, among others, says Professor Luther.

At first glance this seems to pose problems for the prospects of cutting the costs of PV. Even if the solar cells were literally free the cost of PV wouldn't even fall by half.

But bigger cost reductions still seem attainable for a couple of reasons. First off, higher efficiency solar cells would cut module costs by requiring less bracketing and glass cover for the same amount of electric power. Second, PV roofing tile for new houses and for when old roofs get replaced will avoid the need for much additional labor and special brackets to hold the PV. Integrated designs combined with higher PV efficiency could just be the ticket to very low costs.

A question for anyone who might know: What are the prospects for cheaper and/or longer lasting grid tie inverters?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 20 10:57 AM  Energy Solar

Fat Man said at June 20, 2010 11:04 PM:

I think I have made the comment on several occasions that solar is not affordable even if the cells are free. Not that this article did not mention the cost of storage systems.

anonyq said at June 23, 2010 2:55 PM:

You don't need storage until you hit the high 20's and that level wont be reached anytime soon so storage costs are not important

Andrew Guenthner said at June 25, 2010 8:09 PM:

A recent article on GreenTech Media's site by Miles C. Russell posted on June 18, 2010 provides some relevant information about emerging inverter technology.

John Moore said at June 25, 2010 9:48 PM:

There's no reason for inverters not to get pretty cheap - they are (by today's standards) relatively simple electronic devices. The costs of most components is low (don't know about the transformers, but using higher frequency switching in today's inverters should cut that way down).

Randall Parker said at June 27, 2010 9:41 AM:

Andrew Guenthner,

Thanks for the tip. I found the article you refer to.

Inverters do not last as long as PV:

the robustness of new units surpasses that of those older units, as evidenced by the standard 20-year to 25-year warranties that accompany most PV modules today. Inverters, on the other hand, have only made modest progress over the same period of time. Manufacturers today only offer inverter warranties of 10 years to 15 years, and this means they still need to be replaced long before any other components of the PV system. By some accounts, inverter failures have been responsible for about 80 percent of the downtime of today's PV systems, remaining the weakest link in the overall reliability chain of such systems.

The article focuses on increasing the lifespans of microinverters. But if inverter failures are such a big problem then doesn't it make sense to stay with single central inverters that are easier to reach to replace? The single inverter approach also allows for keeping the inverter farther away from the roof and therefore farther away from the higher temperatures and bigger temperature swings.

Also, what's the expected cost advantage from microinverters?

Also, if the electric power remains DC for longer then doesn't that open up the possibility of using some DC-powered appliances that operate at higher efficiency in some applications?

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