Has First Solar achieved grid parity? Report claims the numbers add up

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

According to Greentech Media’s report, it seems that First Solar has managed to achieve grid parity with its 12.6MW system in the Nevada desert, installed for Sempra Generation. Mark Bachman, a senior research analyst with Pacific Crest and a specialist in cleantech energy, has aggregated the numbers in the Greentech Media report.

Mr. Bachman claims that the Nevada desert system costs $0.075 per kilowatt-hour to install without any subsidies, compared to costs incurred by ‘conventional’ power of $0.09 per kilowatt-hour. Looking solely at these figures, it would seem that this is an achievement that should have the solar energy industry rubbing its hands together in joy.

However, naysayers will always challenge such claims. Bachman’s cost calculations are based on one particular location and one particular panel type; different results may have resulted from use of the same panels in a different location, or using different technology in conditions similar to those found in the Nevada desert.

“In our view, the industry leaders will be those companies that can deliver electricity at or below grid parity pricing without the aid of subsidies while also delivering superior return to shareholders,” said Mr. Bachman. “Currently, only First Solar can claim these achievements, in our view.”

First Solar has managed to produce large numbers of panels at a low cost for the past few years, claiming recently that it had lowered the cost-per-watt of production of its modules to $1.08 per watt. According to Greentech Media, this figure is an amalgamated average of the individual costs of production in each of the company’s manufacturing facilities, although First Solar has reached a low cost of 75 cents per watt in its Malaysia-based plants.

Bachman noted that while the installation for Sempra cost around $3.17 per watt, this price incorporated the cost of frames and installation as well as the cost of the modules themselves. He also pointed out that the solar industry spends too much time focussing on the cost of production and installation of panels, and not enough time looking at the overall cost of the entire project in terms of kilowatt-hours.

“By focusing on the cost/kWh calculation, we can compare competing business models on a defined metric that is independent of technologies,” he said.

This report also highlighted the potential competitors First Solar may encounter in the next few years in the race for grid parity. Cypress Semiconductor’s CEO T.J. Rodgers was reported as saying that power produced by crystalline silicon solar panels will be cheaper than that produced by coal by 2012.

SunPower is another potential runner: the company’s 14.2MW system at the Nellis Air Force base in Nevada features crystalline silicon panels that cost $7.04 per watt to install. In terms of kilowatt-hour cost, Bachman figured that it worked out at $0.164 per kilowatt-hour. For SunPower to rival First Solar’s kilowatt-hour rate of electricity generation, however, Bachman reckons that SunPower’s panels, despite the fact that they boast a much higher conversion efficiency rate, would have to be sold at 52% less, or $3.4 per watt.

So whether or not First Solar has achieved the much-coveted grid parity is unclear, but the numbers do add up.

28 July 2021
LONGi has launched its Hi-MO N module, the company's first bifacial module with N-type TOPCon cells, designed to deliver ultra- high value and lower LCOE to utility-scale PV power plants. This PV TechTalk Product Series webinar will provide an overview of the module’s technology and how the introduction of n-type technologies will provide efficiency and performance gains for solar project developers.
29 July 2021
This free webinar will explore the ongoing opportunities in the UK solar PV market, looking at global technology trends and how they apply to the UK. Join us for an overview of the project pipeline and forecast for deployment over the coming years. We'll be looking at the types of modules available and being used in the UK and presenting a case study on the deployment of bifacial modules in this market.
19 August 2021
The utility-scale PV market is poised for exponential growth and yet the industry still has many fundamental opportunities to improve on standards and best practice. Tracker shade loss has been one of those topics that deserve more attention, but has been typically handled by derate factors rather than trying to accurately forecast the loss over the life of the system. Join Nextracker’s subject matter experts, Aron Dobos and Neelesh Umachandran, and Rounak Kharait, director of solar energy assessments at DNV, for a webinar about why shade modeling matters and recommendations on what the solar industry should do about it.
25 August 2021
Energy Next is a new industry exhibition focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, which will be held for the first time in 2021 in Sydney, Australia alongside the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit, the peak gathering of leaders driving Australia's energy transformation. Organised by the same people behind Australia’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will give visitors two days of access to key suppliers in the industry, free-to-attend professional development and industry workshops, and networking opportunities to better understand clean energy issues and solutions and learn about the latest developments in this transformational, dynamic sector.
25 August 2021
The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste takes place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It addresses leading local and international experts on solar power and renewable energy in the region. The Summit’s mission is to provide in-depth education, enable high-quality networking opportunities, expand the use of PV technologies at regional and national level and strengthen the local PV industry. The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste is organized by Intersolar South America - Latin America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry: Solar Promotion International GmbH, Pforzheim, Freiburg Management and Marketing International GmbH (FMMI) and Aranda Eventos & Congressos Ltda, São Paulo as co-organizer.
25 August 2021
Join us to hear directly from the CTOs and heads-of-research from the top-20 cell/wafer producers to the PV industry today. The event will focus on predicting the key metrics underpinning the next big shift to n-type with answers to the key questions: When will the transition to n-type happen? Which companies will be first to 10 GW capacity and production? Who will be the key equipment suppliers for the new production lines? Which n-type process flow/architecture will emerge as the front-runner? What will polysilicon purity and wafer thickness levels look like for optimized n-type manufacturing? What will the upstream poly/wafer supply-chain look like in 5 years from now?

Read Next

July 27, 2021
Tesla reported retrofit solar installations of 85MW in Q2 2021, cementing its recovery from a worst-ever performance in the corresponding period last year.
July 26, 2021
A solar-wind-energy storage hybrid project is to power a Madagascan mine after Rio Tinto signed a power purchase agreement with independent power producer CrossBoundary Energy.
July 26, 2021
The pace of climate action in the US is “wholly unacceptable”, according to the director of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programme Office
July 26, 2021
Support for distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, community solar and battery storage could save Californian ratepayers US$120 billion over the next 30 years, according to a new report
July 26, 2021
Oil and gas giant Eni has acquired 1.2GW of Spanish renewables from Madrid-based European private equity manager Azora.
PV Tech Premium
July 26, 2021
Boris Farnung and Keith Punzalan of VDE and David Moser of EURAC’s Institute for Renewable Energy take a look at the positive impact comprehensive quality assurance measures can have on the early stage of a project’s lifespan, exploring yield assessments, LCOE projections and the critical need for high quality components.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
July 29, 2021
Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021