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The Price of Solar Panels Over Time

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Solar panel technology has been around in some form for a long time. Bell Labs invented the first useful solar cell more than 60 years ago, and scientists have known for centuries that the sun can be used to produce energy. However, it is only in the last 10 years or so that solar photovoltaics (PV) has really taken off as a renewable energy source.


French scientist, Edmond Becquerel discovered the PV effect and how to capture electrical energy from sunlight.


Bell Labs announced the invention of a silicon solar cell that produces electricity at 6% efficiency. Silicon is much cheaper and more efficient than selenium, which had been used for years.


Hoffman Electronics' Semiconductor Division released a commercial solar product that produced energy at 2% efficiency (most panels today have 15-18%). The price was USD $25 per cell with a peak power of 14 milliwatt (one thousandth of a watt), which is enough to power a laser pointer. Today, the cost of the energy produced using this technology would be USD $16,784.73 per watt!


The U.S. Department of Energy launched the Solar Energy Researched Institute, now known as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Due to rising prices of gas by the Oil Embargo of 1973, The United States wanted to explore non-petroleum energy options. Scientists and engineers from all different fields came together to develop a full understanding of PV technology to support and advance a budding solar industry.

Nowadays, the world's production of PV modules now exceeded 500 kW. The cost of a solar cell was about USD $330.28 per watt.


As a part of the National Energy Act, U.S. Congress released the Energy Tax Act. This Act gave a income tax credit to private residents who use alternate forms of energy, including solar, geothermal and wind. The tax credit was 30% of the first USD $2,000 of the next USD $8,000.


Global PV production exceeded 21.3 MW, enough to power around 3,000 homes. Solar technology and deployments continued to incrementally improve over the next several decades.


The Department of Energy launched the SunShot initiative, which aimed to reduce solar system costs by 75% in order to incorporate solar energy at a large scale. The SunShot initiative focused on 4 main cost areas:

  1. Technologies for solar cells and arrays that convert sunlight to energy.

  2. Electronics that optimise the performance of the installation.

  3. Improvements in the efficiency of solar manufacturing processes.

  4. Installation, design and permitting for solar energy systems.


The Department of Energy met their goal in September 2017, 3 years ahead of schedule. The Department of Energy is continuing their solar cost reduction goals by investigating and improving PV technology, soft cost reduction techniques, and innovative business models to bring new technology to market. Fully installed residential solar arrays now cost between USD $3 and USD $4 per watt.


In efforts to fortify U.S. solar panel manufacturing, a 30% tariff on foreign solar modules and solar cells was introduced by U.S. President Trump. The tariff declines 5% annually for 4 years and excludes the first 2.5 GW of imports each year. Leading up to this tariff announcement, the volume of solar installations and generations in the U.S. had increased dramatically. The U.S. imports about 80% of solar materials and modules from abroad.


Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said, facing the “loud and unmistakable” warning of climate change, Singapore needs to act. Solar panels installation price is cheaper than before. In Singapore, solar installation increased dramatically.

Solar Era recommends you to start exploring your solar options today. With the improvement in solar technology, now is the perfect time to jump on the solar bandwagon and go solar. Contact us to know more about solar panels system installation.

Source : SERIS

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