Solar Power Generation in the US: Too expensive, or a bargain?

Author:  Perez, Richard | Zweibel, Ken | Hoff, Thomas
Organization:  GW Solar Institute | SUNY-Albany | Clean Power Research
Report Date: 
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This report identifies a full range of benefits from solar electric power plants including environmental, fuel price mitigation, outage risk protection, and long‐term economic growth components and estimates the combined value of those benefits to utilities’ ratepayers and society’s taxpayers with a specific case study of photovoltaics in New York City.


Key Take-Aways: 
  • An effective system that would provide solar generation at fair value to rate/taxpayers would need to be stable and predictable system that accounts for capacities and penetration that varies by location.
  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificates can be designed to address this criteria, however value-based Feed In Tariffs that are stable and tunable by design would be a better fit.
Key Facts: 
  • The value of solar electric power to utility and rate payers accrues from transmission (whole sale) energy at 6 - 11 c/kWh, transmission capacity at 0 - 5 c/kWh, distribution energy (loss savings) at 0 - 1 c/kWh, distribution capacity at 0 - 3 c/kWh, fuel price mitigation at 3 - 5 c/kWh, grid security enhancement 2 - 3 c/kWh, environment/health 3 - 6 c/kWh, long term societal value 3 - 4 c/kWh, economic growth at 3+ c/kWh.
  • The report found an overall value of solar electric power systems to utility/ratepayers, and society/taxpayers at 15 - 41 c/kWh, with a cost of 20 - 30 c/kWh to the developer/investor group.
  • Solar jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance, represent more than ten times conventional energy jobs per unit of energy produced, in other words ten new solar jobs only displace one conventional energy job.