#3 – Myth: Solar power is way too ridiculously expensive
First to the ridiculous $60/watt claim. It absolutely ignores the lifetime of that Home Depot solar kit, which is vital to any real analysis of cost. Assuming the industry norm for solar panel warranties, the panel(s) should last for at least 20 years. And assuming an average of four hours of daily sunlight, the panels will produce 800 watt-hours of electricity per day (.8 kWh), which equals 292 kWh per year, or 5,840 kWh over 20 years, and a long-term cost of about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. That, by the way, equals about 0.02 cents per watt. Obviously in that time span, upgrades to inverter, charge controller and batteries will be necessary, and some deductions from production estimates should be factored in due to losses at the inverter, etc. However, none of these are likely to raise the cost from two-hundredths of a penny to $60 per watt.
Now, solar power is currently more expensive than conventional power sources. There’s no denying that. In fact, that is the very reason why it is incentivized—to encourage growth of the industry so that demand, manufacturing capacity and technology will combine to reduce costs to a competitive level. Already, despite still-high costs per kilowatt-hour, we are seeing the effects of solar and renewable energy subsidies as costs continue to fall.
Even without any subsidy whatsoever, solar energy costs are dropping, down about 6 cents per kWh on the residential, small-scale side, and about 3 cents per kWh in the large-scale, industrial sector (according to SolarBuzz data) between 2001 and 2009. Granted, prices still hang between 19 and 35 cents/kWh depending on sector, but the trend is downward, and significantly, over a time span of less than 10 years. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, thanks in large part to subsidies, which are also in place to avoid a much worse, socioeconomically-frightening energy scarcity later on when fossil fuel supplies run out.
Subsidies are making solar power affordable for some right now. Down the road, it will be these early adopters that make solar affordable for everyone else.