A new report from a noted international energy research company has put forward the argument that solar PV could potentially disrupt the US energy markets in the same sort of way, and to a similar degree, as the shale industry did a few years back.
And, it could potentially impact natural gas markets to a great enough degree to the stop the shale “revolution” dead in its tracks.
The new report — from the energy research company Wood Mackenzie — makes the note that with the minor disruptions to natural gas markets that we are already seeing in California, a broader disruption of these markets could occur as a result of growing solar PV attractiveness… within the near future.
The research director for America’s power and renewable research arm of Wood Mackenzie, Prajit Ghosh, noted: “The role of solar in the North American power market has snowballed from a science experiment and a niche technology at best, to a key renewable competitor to wind, a regional threat for non-renewable technologies, and a potential disruptor of utility business models and the power industry at large.”
With falling solar costs (balance of systems costs in particular), and rising conversion efficiencies, solar appears to be nearing a breakout point, according to Ghosh.
“While more efficient solar technology may command a higher module price, the capacity gains per square meter usually make high-efficiency modules more economic on a $/W basis,” Ghosh stated.
Commenting on the potential of emerging solar modalities, such as perovskites and organic PV, senior analyst Chad Singleton, stated: “While these technologies are nowhere near commercial availability at the moment, they have a promising potential as an immensely versatile source of power generation.”
According to the report, by 2020, solar PV costs will be at grid parity in 19 states — and 38 by 2030. The prediction is that, owing to grid parity, installed capacity in the US will reach 71 gigawatts (GW) by 2035.
The report does note, though, that there are potential barriers between that number and where we are now — in particular, “reliability concerns, legal statutes, and other factors… including the indirect impact of lower oil prices on drilling activity and consequent gas prices.”
If rapid growth is to be seen, the report concludes, the solar industry needs to develop “compensations mechanisms.”
“Solar rooftops reduce the need for grid-connected power but do not eliminate it,” Ghosh continued. “Thus, issues around assigning fixed cost charges to maintain the grid have and will continue to rise.”
A lot is expected to happen in the coming years, one way or another. It should be interesting to watch, and participate in!
Image Credit: SolarTrade