Solar Cheaper Than Wind?

Everyone knows wind is cheaper than solar, right?

Wind energy was the first renewable to mature and the first to achieve parity with coal in many situations.

But solar is growing up and catching up to wind on price and definitely on installations. 

Last year, in certain markets, it cost less to buy solar systems than wind per watt. 

While Vestas charges about $1.34 per watt for wind, solar systems from leading manufacturers are down to $0.70-$0.80 per watt, says Reuters.

And this year, solar could cross another threshold – where more is installed each year than wind turbines worldwide, reports Reuters.

It still costs less to produce energy from wind than from solar, but not for long.

Prices have come down for solar and wind, but for different reasons. For solar, as you probably know by now, prices plummeted from China’s subsidies which encouraged commoditization and a global glut of equipment, which continues today.

For wind, the problem has been cuts in subsidies at a time of low energy demand from western nations and competition with suddenly abundant cheap natural gas. Prices have come down, but nowhere near as much as solar.

Going forward, prices for wind equipment are expected to remain steady, while solar continues to fall.

Comparing the cost for utility-scale solar and wind energy is more difficult because other factors come into play, such as location, but solar is catching up there too. One estimate is that installed wind costs an average of $1.61 per watt and solar costs $1.83 per watt for projects over 250 kilowatts, says Reuters.

The wind industry expects a down market this year, installing around 42 gigawatts (GW), while the solar industry expects new capacity in the range of 28-47 GW.

Last year, 46 GW of wind was installed worldwide compared to 31.1 GW of solar. 

New solar and wind plants are already cheaper than new coal plants. 

Regardless of which technology "wins" renewables will account for 69%-74% of all new power capacity each year by 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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