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March 06, 2007


Greg Woulf

Is there any way to find what the payback time limit is?

Whenever I see a quote for cost/watt I wonder what the payback period is, cause if you set it at 10 years and the average life was 20 years then there's a back end bonus that I feel should be reported. Conversely if you set it at 20 years and they only last 10 then they're underestimating cost.

Kit P.

Greg, the payback period is longer than the design life of the components. Unless you can design, build, and maintain your system; you will only lose money. This is called a hobby.

When I see solar panels or BMWs, I think bad logic.


Kit, Greg, the payback period is not by definition longer than the component life. It is true that the current price of PV has a payback period longer than the design life, without subsidies. With the largest subsidies (certain states like NJ and CA) you can make a profit after 10 years or so.

All PV panels have at least a 25-year manufacturer warranty within a reasonable range of degradation of output. The lifetime is expected to be at least 30 years.

While it is true that unsubsidized, there is not a return on investment on PV currently, the prices that are being discussed in the article above represent real return on investments. $0.75/W (this price must be the manufacturing cost not the resell cost) could be competitive with utilities with the balance of system components and other costs. A site like findsolar.com will allow you to play with the residential finance #s of PV.


Jim @ Energy Blog,

Could you re-link "this presentation" link, it doesn't seem to work.

Production-line CdTe from First Solar are around 9-10% efficient. They are constantly trying to improve the efficiency toward what has been achieved in the lab.

I would also like to remind everyone that efficiency only has meaning when dealing with surface area constraints. A 20% panel costing $800/m^2 (i.e. ~$4/Wp) is much more expensive than a 5% panel costing $100/m^2 (i.e. ~$2/Wp). The 5% panel will of course take up 4x the surface area of the 20% one.

Sky King

I agree it's all about surface area. There's a company offering thin film panels for $3/Watt but they have no frame, just four tabs on the back and bare wires (no MC). By the time you add mounting options and MC connectors, you are up to $4.00/Watt anyway. And, they are the same size as a 200W panel and only produce 42W. So, instead of the 15 across the top of my roof, I'd need 68 which would more than cover my entire roof. It's all about improving the efficiency of thin film to reduce surface area.

Jim from The Energy Blog

*_* The link I was refering to in the post is no longer active. I found another presentation, but it is 6 months older, has less detailed information and does not give costs on the gen 8.5. technology that Baer bought. The post has been revised to reflect these changes. I would gather from this data that Baer's cost of production could be in the range of $2.00 per watt assuming a single production line of 40 MW.

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