Solar PV rising, set to outstrip coal in efficiency scale

The Solar PV (photovoltaics) technology will equal coal power in terms of cost of energy in South Africa by 2018 and will become the cheapest energy generating technology by 2020.

These projections are carried in a fresh study conducted by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan on behalf of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA). The study comes amid a take off in South Africa’s Solar PV industry as largely propelled by the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (RIPPP).

Commenting about the study findings SAPVIA said Sola PV technology is projected to achieve true cost parity with coal power (currently the cheapest per kWh) in terms of the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) in 2018. The technology will be the cheapest generating technology in South Africa by 2020 with R1.36 kWh against coal’s R1.69 kWh. And the bonus is the fact that Solar PV carries none of the massive broader costs of coal and nuclear in terms of carbon emissions or water consumption.

SAPVIA said the Frost & Sullivan report for the first time fully details the real cost and value of solar PV as a source of energy when compared to coal, nuclear and wind generated power.

“Given the value that solar power is delivering for the country, and the growing need for energy, in particular clean energy, to meet South Africa’s needs, the industry is ready to roll-out more megawatts and projects now,” said SAPVIA chairperson Davin Chown.

“We believe that working together with Government we can rapidly scale up further delivery of solar projects and are ready to take on this challenge now”.

The government’s current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) sets aside 17% of energy output by 2030 for renewable. The renewable allocation is split between Solar PV and wind (with a small allocation for other technologies). This translates into 8400MW of solar PV by 2030. Currently only approximately 650MW is being generated.

SAPVIA noted that Solar PV is the fastest growing power generation technology in the world, with a huge uptake in Europe in particular.

The SAPVIA statement emphasised that Solar PV is not the same technology which is widely used to directly heat water for domestic geysers. “PV stands for photovoltaics which take energy from sunlight and convert it to electricity either for smaller scale residential and commercial use or, through an array of panels, for utility scale power generation into the national grid.”

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