First Solar to World: “Hey, We Make Solar for Under A Dollar A Watt!”


First Solar, the company that’s producing a whole bunch of PV for the Masdar Array, dropped another bomb to the world this week – “hey world, First Solar is making solar panels for under a dollar per watt installed!”  Obviously that’s not exactly they said, but let’s hope they shouted it from the rooftops.

The rooftops probably had solar panels installed on them.

The issue really isn’t the cost per watt installed in the case of having PVs (photovoltaics) as power sources – the problem is the installation cost.  Solar panel installation is expensive!  If companies like First Solar want to achieve true parity with other power sources, the price still needs to come down about 25-28% of what it is now.  For a house about the size of the one I live in now (about 2000 square feet – we’re renting!) a 1000W solar installation would cost between $7400 and $11,000.  So, we’re looking at what – $8 or $9 bucks a watt?  You do get a few bucks from the government in rebates, and you save in the long run.  However, my wife and I probably need a 2-3kW system to remove all need for grid power in our house.

You know what would be awesome?  It would be awesome to go to Lowes or Home Depot (or wherever) and buy a DIY solar power kit that is good for a few thousand watts.  I’d have a bunch of work to do this weekend if you could.

Masdar’s MASSIVE Photovoltaic Array

I have been reading a lot lately about Masdar, the “Super City” in Abu Dhabi being built as sustainable.  Recently in both Reuters and Inhabitat, I read about Masdar’s new construction venture – a 10 megawatt grid-connected solar array.  5 MW of the plant is going to be utilizing thin-film panels (which are being provided by Arizona’s First Solar), and the other half crystalline silicon photovoltaics.  This is the largest grid-connected solar plant in the Middle East.  The plant is actually expected to generate 17MW with its 87,777 panels of photovoltaics.

Abu Dhabi-based power company Environmena Power Systems has developed and designed the rig – I am assuming they’re installing as well – which will route any extra power to the Abu Dhabi power grid.

Have you ever heard of these thin-film PV panels?  They operate on 1-2% of the semiconductor material of traditional PV technology, with more watts per kg of material used.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO has predicted that these modules will cost under a buck per watt in the near future.

The Masdar solar array is expected to reduce 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.  It’s going to cost around $50 million when everything’s said and done.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Cadmium Telluride technology used in First Solar’s thin-film PV’s, check out the product page on the technology.

I’ve added a video on thin film photovoltaics below:

Thanks, Inhabitat and Reuters!