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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011

Costs for solar energy closing in on coal


The cost of generating electricity from the sun will rival the price of building coal plants in the next decade and may already be competitive now, executives and analysts said Tuesday.

Large photovoltaic projects will cost $1.45 a watt to build by 2020, half the current price, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated. The research company said solar is viable against fossil fuels on the electric grid in the most sunny regions such as the Middle East.

Companies such as JA Solar Holdings Ltd., Canadian Solar Inc., and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. are making panels cheaper because of better cell technology and more streamlined manufacturing processes.

Installation of solar power systems will almost double to 32.6 gigawatts by 2013 from 18.6 gigawatts last year, New Energy Finance estimates. Manufacturing capacity worldwide has almost quadrupled since 2008 to 27.5 gigawatts.

Electricity from coal cost about 7 cents a kilowatt hour, compared with 6 cents for natural gas and 22.3 cents for solar energy in the final quarter of last year, according to New Energy Finance estimates.

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