Graph of the Day: solar PV vs flat-screen TV

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Can the growth trajectory of solar PV be likened to that of LCD TVs? It has been, but this graph shows we’re not quite there yet on solar.

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The stunning growth trajectory of solar PV has been likened to that of a variety of its technology forbears, the most popular comparison being mobile phones. But at this week’s Disruption and the Energy Industry conference, hosted by RenewEconomy, another interesting analogy was used.

“LCD televisions fell at a cost curve of 20 per cent,” said Tony Sennit, managing director of Melbourne-based clean energy generator and retailer, Diamond Energy. “It only took 18 months for sales of LCD TVs to go from 2 per cent of market to go to 80 per cent of market.”

Sennit’s point was, that when the economics of solar PV get there, “it’s going to happen really quickly.”

“In 2012, solar was pretty expensive,” Sennitt said. Three years later, he adds it is already “so much cheaper than where we are in Australia with coal”, in terms of new-build, utility-scale plants – and he cites the example of the PPA First Solar secured from Nevada-based utility NV Energy, to buy electricity from its 100MW Playa Solar 2 project at 3.87 cents per kWh. Described at the time as, “quite possibly be the lowest electricity rate in the country.”

In light of this, Sennitt says, “nobody’s going to build another coal plant. Why would you? You can’t bank them, you can’t finance them.”

But according to Professor Ray Wills, the managing director of Future Smart Strategies, solar PV is not quite there yet. And he provided the chart below to prove it.

Global TV v solar production

“If we think we’re really in a tech tsunami really and we’re building more panels that consume power (televisions) than we are panels that generate power, we’re not there yet,” Wills told the same conference on Tuesday.

The true measure of when solar PV is as ubiquitous in Australian households as LCD TVs, says Wills, will be when we start seeing solar panels left out on the nature strip, alongside the old flat screen TV, as part of the hard rubbish collection.

The panels will be out there, he says, not because they have stopped working, but because the household has decided to upgrade to the latest, most efficient energy self-generation technology – technology it needs to help power its five flat-screen TVs.

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4 Comments
  1. Jacob 4 years ago

    CRT or LCD?

    The graph just says TV.

    • Professor Ray Wills 4 years ago

      The data is total TV sales of any types – plasma, LED, LCD, the surge from 2013 result of availability and move to 3D and smart TVs. Production of CRT sets ended 2010.

  2. Mike Dill 4 years ago

    I disagree wit the author, as very few people will get rid of the old solar panels in the next decade or two. While they will not be as efficient, there will continue to be places where the old panels can be used. In thirty years the panels on my house might have degraded by 20%, but will still be working. Since most people tend to forget the things that are still working, like the old hot water heater, I expect most panels will stay in place for much longer than most people would expect.
    I did get rid of my old CRT TVs, not because they did not work, but because they did not fit in my new house. At the same time, I reduced my power usage with the new LED TV technology. Since I ‘see’ the TV every day, it stays nearer to the front of my consciousness.
    When working panels end up on the side of the road solar penetration will have exceeded 100% of daytime load.

    • Professor Ray Wills 4 years ago

      The point is not all nor the majority, but many – the decision to replace panels could be made in any number of circumstances such as when inverters reach end of life, or when batteries are added, or when the roof is repaired, or when the residence is renovated (or knocked over).

      A few years ago rooftop panels were 150 watt costing >$600 per panel, in 2015 now 300 watts+ and <$300 per panel, and within a few years perhaps 500 watt+ and maybe costing <$150 per panel.

      And not everyone will replace panels all at once – in same way that not everyone replaces a TV set at the same time. Sure, some panels might be left in place for their lifetime, but 25 years is a long time…

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