I have to take this with a grain of salt, because it is coming from GE, the current American poster-child for rent-seeking, particularly in attempting to be a magnet for green energy subsidies. But since the statement can be seen as under-cutting the subsidy argument, I have to take it more seriously:
Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co.
“If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office.
....GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, announced in April that it had boosted the efficiency of thin-film solar panels to a record 12.8 percent....The cost of solar cells, the main component in standard panels, has fallen 21 percent so far this year, and the cost of solar power is now about the same as the rate utilities charge for conventional power in the sunniest parts of California, Italy and Turkey.
I am all for that. I have always had faith that solar would make sense someday, and that we would be ranking out cheap solar conversion surfaces like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia, but every time I have priced it to date on my house, even with huge government subsidies, it has not made sense. In Europe, it requires 50-60 cent feed in tariffs (basically a subsidy in the form of above-market electricity prices paid by the utility for solar-sourced electricity) to get solar capacity installed, so 15-cents would be great and is approaching the cost of electricity in some high cost areas.
Here in Phoenix, FirstSolar does a ton of thin film. I have always had mixed feelings about FirstSolar. On the one hand, they live off subsidies and would basically not be in business if it were not for huge European subsidies of various forms. On the other, though, they have been one of the few solar companies that actively have talked for years of a development path to a cost position that does not require subsidies.