Yingli says cost of solar modules fell another 25% in 2012.

Graph of the Day: The plunging cost of solar PV

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Yingli says cost of solar modules fell another 25% in 2012, and suggests that will continue in 2013.

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 Please click here for more graphs of the day

The plunging cost of solar PV from the end of 2008 to the start of 2012 has been well documented. It amounted to a fall of around 70 per cent. What is less well understood is that the price of solar modules continues to fall dramatically, as our Graph of the Day clearly shows.

This Graph of the Day is taken from Monday’s presentation of the annual results of Yingli Green Energy, which has overtaken Suntech and First Solar to become the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar PV modules.

It shows two things, the non-silicon cost per watt has fallen 25 per cent over the past 12 months, and the cost of silicon has fallen even further. In the first quarter of this year, Yingli expects its non-silicon costs to fall “another few cents” per watt, and for silicon prices to stay in the low $20s/w over the year.

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The good news for Yingli, and for other solar manufacturers, is that while manufacturing costs continue to fall, the price of modules is stabilising and may even rise. Yingli expects its margins to emerge from negative to positive mid-to-high single digits over the year.

The reason for this is that in Europe the levelised cost of the electricity for solar PV is now below the retail price of electricity in many markets, particularly in countries like Germany, Italy and Spain, and the economics of solar PV begin to make sense without government support.

“Solar solutions built on these new models will emerge during 2013 and form the backbone of sustainable PV industry and infrastructure within Europe.”

What’s more, the Japanese and the US markets will continue to surge, as will Latin American markets (where Yngli is sponsoring the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014). Most of all, China is emerging as the biggest market, supported by a 1RB/kWh (15.6c/kWh) tariff for utility scale solar, and free grid connection for all distributed solar installations less than 6MW. (Australian solar developers must weep in frustration)

Still, that may not be enough. One analysis from Nomura Securities suggested that Yingli will need to make margins in the 20s (per cent) to deliver sustainable profit. Maxim Group, though, said Yingli’s strong cash balance gives it “years of breathing room.”

Here’s a late addition to the story, another graph of the plunging cost of solar PV over the last two years, showing the all-in cost of modules, provided by analysts at US-based Maxim Group.


 Please click here for more graphs of the day

Email: giles(at)reneweconomy.com.au

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  1. Finn Peacock 8 years ago

    Hi Giles,

    I think the only way for module prices, and installed solar systems is to continue their downwards march.

    I think the increased gross margins by manufacturers (which is inevitable) will be more than compensated for by technology improvements and innovation by manufacturers of panels and BOS components in the medium to long term. Here’s why:




  2. Bob Cart 8 years ago

    Will solar continue to get cheaper? I’m not so sure of that. When solar energy beats traditional alternatives on costs, demand will increase and may even outstrip supply. Providers won’t need to lower their prices to sell out manufacturing capacity so why would they? To win business, providers will deliver new technologies with new features such as storage or cogeneration that may even add to the cost, but solve new and different needs in the market. As in the auto industry, cars really aren’t getting so much cheaper, but they are getting better. Market dynamics have a great impact. Also, solar energy won’t just be about silicon panels or even panels. Thin films are very different, though they look like panels. CSP systems and some CPV systems don’t even look like “panels” anymore, but they will increase penetration in the years to come. Overall, the picture for solar is rosy, and I agree that it will continue to provide a better value, though perhaps not via lower panel prices.

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