Solar cell and panel maker SunPower says that in just 4 years its technology, which is some of the most efficient on the market, will be able to produce solar electricity for half of the current price. SunPower’s VP of Technology & Development William Mulligan gave a talk Tuesday afternoon on reducing the costs while at the same time boosting the efficiency of solar power at the Intersolar conference. SunPower says its goal is to produce solar energy for 12 to 18 cents per kilowatt hour, a price point Mulligan says is attainable now, but only with the right subsidies and tax incentives.
SunPower creates high efficiency solar cells, which can mean lower costs because fewer panels, materials, and space are needed. Mulligan stressed that the cost of the energy coming off of the panel is very important, not just the equipment cost itself. On a module level, SunPower has done a number of simple things to cheaply increase efficiency, including backside mirrors, lightly doped top layers and backside gridlines (often seen on the front of panels). These features increase the amount of light that can enter the cell, which delivers more energy output.
Cost-cutting also includes trimming the cost of installations, which for residential solar systems Mulligan says is nearly 50 percent of the cost of the system. And Mulligan says research into cutting installations costs has been under addressed. “I think there’s a huge opportunity in mounting structures, trackers, and inverters. Some of that is starting to happen, no doubt, but it’s a little late,” says Mulligan.