Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

Solar Costs Heading Down

Silicon shortages drove up prices, but supplies are now increasing.

In 2003, the spot-market price of a kilogram of silicon used for solar cells was $24.

Solar commodity: Most silicon solar cells use polysilicon, shown here.

But by 2007, it was $400.

This story is part of our July/August 2008 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Silicon, which is derived from quartz, has accounted for up to one-third the cost of a solar panel since a boom in solar power drove up the price of raw materials. But an expected jump in silicon production should improve solar power’s economics.

Cost of silicon as a percentage of a solar panel’s production cost (below left). Silicon prices (solar-panel makers pay mostly contract prices, below right).

Download a PDF of the article.

Annual shipments of solar panels (most are silicon-based, below left). Silicon available for solar-panel manufacturing (below right).

The Price of Solar
With silicon supplies tight, the price per watt of solar panels (below) started rising in 2003, ending more than two decades of steady declines (in 1980, the price was $30 per watt in today’s dollars). Most observers agree that solar-power prices will now drop.

Keep up with the latest in clean energy at EmTech MIT.
Discover where tech, business, and culture converge.

September 11-14, 2018
MIT Media Lab

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.