In a recently published report, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) traces the development of solar photovoltaic and its dramatic decline in costs.
IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin says in REthinking Energy — the first edition in a new IRENA series — that solar PV costs fell by two-thirds between the end of 2009 and 2013 "a speed of change comparable to that seen in the IT revolution."
Indeed, PV prices have fallen by 80% since 2008 and are expected to keep dropping. Furthermore, the report says commercial solar power reached grid parity last year in Italy, Germany and Spain and will do so soon in Mexico and France.
Solar deployment outpaced wind for the first time in 2013, reaching around 38 GW and 2014 is expected to be a record year for both solar PV and wind power.
Increased efficiencies and decreasing technology costs, against a backdrop of rising electricity prices, have allowed solar PV to reach new levels of cost competitiveness, according to IRENA’s findings.
Solar PV is increasingly competing without subsidies: power from a new 70 MW solar farm under construction in Chile, for example, is anticipated to sell on the national spot market, competing directly with fossil fuel-based electricity.
Between 2009 and 2013, prices for solar PV modules declined by 65%-70%, despite module prices stabilizing in 2013. The technology reached new levels of competitiveness at both distributed and utility scale. The cost of residential solar PV systems in Germany declined by 53% in the same period.
The report found that technology cost reductions have been driven by: