Price Decline in Chinese Solar Panels

Up until the last week or so, I've been seeing solar panels (usually in the range of 300 watts) priced at 35 cents per watt. Within the last week or so, many vendors are now down in the 20 cents region, ranging from 19 cents to 25 cents per watt. This appears rather precipitous.

I've erased the company name from the attached image. A keyword search on 'solar panel 1000 piece' will bring up some of the links that lead to this and similar offerings.

Americans and people living in countries with tariff barriers won't be able to do much with this. Given that some major cities in China now use electric buses, cheaper solar may well impact oil prices.This will be particularly true in countries that don't have domestic oil supplies - their exposure to global prices is diminishing by the day.

SolarPanel19CentsPerWatt.png

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China, being a communist country, has a command economic format, with the leadership deciding which industrial sectors they wish to succeed in  (and that will vary over time).  For example, China leadership decided they would go big in the shipyard business.  As a result, China today has over-capacity of shipbuilding and ship-repair facilities, to the extent that some are even being closed.  Similarly, China has huge capacity in both steel mills and aluminum smelting, and is the big factor in volume dumping, the element that first precipitated the "trade wars."

China's leadership some time back determined to be the foremost producer of solar panels.  So you saw this massive expenditure for R&D in the manufacture of ever cheaper panels, to the point where the potential market, at least at some sustainable price level, got saturated.  You may now be seeing an effort to "dump" surplus production for which there is no home. 

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Yet China continues to depend primarily on coal. Why can't they use their own solar panels? Are their people too poor?

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13 minutes ago, ronwagn said:

Yet China continues to depend primarily on coal. Why can't they use their own solar panels? Are their people too poor?

Take a look at photos of the new Chinese cities put up around Shenzhen.  Their dwelling units are all apartments in high-rise buildings; hardly any room for solar panels.  China has become heavily urbanized, with that vast movement off the land and to the cities.  And those left on the land don't have any money, either.  So you end up with these coal power plants and big cables to the apartment towers.

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31 minutes ago, ronwagn said:

Yet China continues to depend primarily on coal. Why can't they use their own solar panels? Are their people too poor?

Coal will become a legacy in time as rates of growth are stronger in every other energy sector, with wind and solar making rapid inroads: Energy mix.

But it's a bit like the ICE vs EV race - hard to catch up quick when you begin from so far behind 🚘.

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3 minutes ago, Red said:

Coal will become a legacy in time as rates of growth are stronger in every other energy sector, with wind and solar making rapid inroads: Energy mix.

But it's a bit like the ICE vs EV race - hard to catch up quick when you begin from so far behind 🚘.

Nice graph. I am all for wind and solar IF they are the quickest and most economical way to eliminate coal. They presently are Not. Natural Gas and Biogas ARE IMHO. I have a medical background and think that health is best served by getting rid of coal ASAP. 

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3 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Take a look at photos of the new Chinese cities put up around Shenzhen.  Their dwelling units are all apartments in high-rise buildings; hardly any room for solar panels.  China has become heavily urbanized, with that vast movement off the land and to the cities.  And those left on the land don't have any money, either.  So you end up with these coal power plants and big cables to the apartment towers.

There simply is not one inch of Chinese land that is not being used for crops, industry, housing, etc., and now roads.  Not one inch.  They have been over every inch and use it for something.  Take the 1-3 foot wide levees separating rice paddies: after the rice is in, they are planted with vegetables.  The water in the rice paddies is also used to raise eel and fish for consumption.  This is the way it was before "opening to the outside world" and it wasn't enough to feed everyone then.  It hasn't gotten any better since. 

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7 hours ago, ronwagn said:

Nice graph. I am all for wind and solar IF they are the quickest and most economical way to eliminate coal. They presently are Not. Natural Gas and Biogas ARE IMHO. I have a medical background and think that health is best served by getting rid of coal ASAP. 

I see in California a modern gas generator is been closed down as it wanted large amounts of subsidies as it can compete with the renewables. The relevant agency looked at the figures and the cheapest option is renewables and a number of large battery installations. Renewable can and is breaking into more and more markets as it continually gets to be the best economic choice.

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(edited)

10 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

There simply is not one inch of Chinese land that is not being used for crops, industry, housing, etc., and now roads.  Not one inch.  They have been over every inch and use it for something.  Take the 1-3 foot wide levees separating rice paddies: after the rice is in, they are planted with vegetables.  The water in the rice paddies is also used to raise eel and fish for consumption.  This is the way it was before "opening to the outside world" and it wasn't enough to feed everyone then.  It hasn't gotten any better since. 

All true, but not totally complete.  the larger picture in China is the massive desert.  The desert is not stagnant; it is moving, rather rapidly, from West to East, and is now I recall less than 60 miles from Beijing.  MIght be down to 30 miles.  The continued loss of land to the encroaching desert has huge implications, and I gather the Chinese are hard at work attempting to de-desertify the encroachment, mostly by attempting to plant new forests.  How successful that will be is anybody's guess. 

Lots of China is desert and rock. A bit like Tibet, which China swallowed up, something the native Tibetans are not exactly thrilled about. 

Edited by Jan van Eck
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29 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

All true, but not totally complete.  the larger picture in China is the massive desert.  The desert is not stagnant; it is moving, rather rapidly, from West to East, and is now I recall less than 60 miles from Beijing.  MIght be down to 30 miles.  The continued loss of lad to the encroaching desert has huge implications, and I gather the Chinese are hard at work attempting to de-desertify the encroachment, mostly by attempting to plant new forests.  How successful that will be is anybody's guess. 

Lots of China is desert and rock. A bit like Tibet, which China swallowed up, something the native Tibetans are not exactly thrilled about. 

Desert encroachment IS a big problem.  When those winds start blowing across Beijing at 3:15 every afternoon (as I recall) the whole city gets blanketed with sand and the sunshines is cut drastically.  And, like you point out, when land is swallowed by the desert, it is nearly impossible to reclaim, so like a bad cancer all they can do is slow the inevitable, or so it would seem.

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(edited)

3 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Desert encroachment IS a big problem.  When those winds start blowing across Beijing at 3:15 every afternoon (as I recall) the whole city gets blanketed with sand and the sunshines is cut drastically.  And, like you point out, when land is swallowed by the desert, it is nearly impossible to reclaim, so like a bad cancer all they can do is slow the inevitable, or so it would seem.

Yet the Chinese remain an industrious society, and not hampered by Western-style lawsuits from Greenies and other assorted people and groups that imagine themselves aggrieved.  One result is the construction of a vast aqueduct from the rivers to the South to the Beijing area.  My guess is that some part of that torrent of water will be channelled to the "front" where the Gobi Desert is charging into the Capitol,  to provide the necessary groundwater levels to sustain grasses and forests for land reclamation. It is entirely possible to reclaim land that is totally degraded.  It does require effort, but effort is hardly an area where the Chinese are lacking! 

Incidentally at one time the USA had a parallel plan called "NAWAPA," for North American Water and Power Authority, which would bring fresh water from the Northern Plains and Idaho-Oregon-British Columbia watersheds down to the parched areas of Western Oklahoma, Texas, and the Southwest.  It got squelched by lawsuits. 

Edited by Jan van Eck
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15 hours ago, DA? said:

I see in California a modern gas generator is been closed down as it wanted large amounts of subsidies as it can compete with the renewables. The relevant agency looked at the figures and the cheapest option is renewables and a number of large battery installations. Renewable can and is breaking into more and more markets as it continually gets to be the best economic choice.

Well, I would certainly want to see specifics on that. California's logic is very suspect in many areas and this is just another example. 

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10 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Desert encroachment IS a big problem.  When those winds start blowing across Beijing at 3:15 every afternoon (as I recall) the whole city gets blanketed with sand and the sunshines is cut drastically.  And, like you point out, when land is swallowed by the desert, it is nearly impossible to reclaim, so like a bad cancer all they can do is slow the inevitable, or so it would seem.

Sand is a deadly enemy of solar panels. A sandstorm can destroy them. Maybe that is why they are not using them much. 

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2 hours ago, ronwagn said:

Well, I would certainly want to see specifics on that. California's logic is very suspect in many areas and this is just another example. 

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/12/03/coal-is-on-the-way-out-natural-gas-is-next/

Theres a link to an article in cleantechnica. The times are a changing.

2 hours ago, ronwagn said:

Sand is a deadly enemy of solar panels. A sandstorm can destroy them. Maybe that is why they are not using them much. 

China is a massive installer of solar panels, so much so they were basically installing internally all panels manufactured in the country until this year when they have slowed down installation to catch up with grid infrastructure.

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On 12/9/2018 at 5:29 AM, ronwagn said:

Yet China continues to depend primarily on coal. Why can't they use their own solar panels? Are their people too poor?

air-pollution is a big part of the answer. 

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(edited)

On 12/9/2018 at 12:39 AM, Dan Warnick said:

There simply is not one inch of Chinese land that is not being used for crops, industry, housing, etc., and now roads.  Not one inch.  They have been over every inch and use it for something.  Take the 1-3 foot wide levees separating rice paddies: after the rice is in, they are planted with vegetables.  The water in the rice paddies is also used to raise eel and fish for consumption.  This is the way it was before "opening to the outside world" and it wasn't enough to feed everyone then.  It hasn't gotten any better since. 

I would think that wind turbines would be part of the answer then. In Illinois, they are in the cornfields. Still, I favor natural gas and biogas. China has a lot of biogas potential and can import natural gas while developing their own potential which is potentially vast. As previously mentioned, the deserts and mountains are also available but there would be cost and line loss. 

Edited by ronwagn
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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 4:29 AM, ronwagn said:

Yet China continues to depend primarily on coal. Why can't they use their own solar panels? Are their people too poor?

In 2015 China had 44GW of solar (No.1). I bet that has doubled by now.

For an economy with 1.3 billion people no change is going to be overnight.

On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 4:46 AM, Jan van Eck said:

Take a look at photos of the new Chinese cities put up around Shenzhen.  Their dwelling units are all apartments in high-rise buildings; hardly any room for solar panels.  China has become heavily urbanized, with that vast movement off the land and to the cities.  And those left on the land don't have any money, either.  So you end up with these coal power plants and big cables to the apartment towers.

With the direction solar panel prices are going it will be quite economical to clad the walls of high rises with solar panels. A double benefit is they will also help to insulate the buildings.

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 8:39 AM, Dan Warnick said:

There simply is not one inch of Chinese land that is not being used for crops, industry, housing, etc., and now roads.  Not one inch.  They have been over every inch and use it for something.  Take the 1-3 foot wide levees separating rice paddies: after the rice is in, they are planted with vegetables.  The water in the rice paddies is also used to raise eel and fish for consumption.  This is the way it was before "opening to the outside world" and it wasn't enough to feed everyone then.  It hasn't gotten any better since. 

I doubt that is the case with Tibet which given the altitude would be one of the best places on Earth to stick large scale PV farms.

Don't know how the Tibetians will view that but that's another debate and the installations would provide jobs in the region.

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On ‎12‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 4:25 AM, ronwagn said:

Sand is a deadly enemy of solar panels. A sandstorm can destroy them. Maybe that is why they are not using them much. 

Really? - they can take 20-30mm of hail so I can't see a 0.1mm grain of sand destroying them. Some risk of scouring maybe.

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7 hours ago, NickW said:

Really? - they can take 20-30mm of hail so I can't see a 0.1mm grain of sand destroying them. Some risk of scouring maybe.

They can destroy the paint on a car. Scouring is exactly what I am talking about. 

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40 minutes ago, ronwagn said:

They can destroy the paint on a car. Scouring is exactly what I am talking about. 

The glass on solar panels is somewhat more resistant than paint. 

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 1:57 PM, Meredith Poor said:

Up until the last week or so, I've been seeing solar panels (usually in the range of 300 watts) priced at 35 cents per watt. Within the last week or so, many vendors are now down in the 20 cents region, ranging from 19 cents to 25 cents per watt. This appears rather precipitous.

As one of the earlier posters noted when the Chinese get into a sector the result is a wild over-building of capacity and, sure, prices on panels have been coming down for some time. So will that have the effects the original poster speculated about? Probably not. The price of panels is just one part of the cost of putting green energy on any network - you still need big-time storage to make any difference and even then you'd be mad not to have diesel back-up. If you already have a lot of hydro power then putting a heap of solar panels in the network may actually add value. As for reducing dependence on oil, the price of oil spiked a while back but has since fallen, so oil-importing countries won't care much just at the moment. As for EVs reducing petrol demand, there have been other threads on that point - basically don't hold your breath.

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On 12/9/2018 at 5:07 AM, Red said:

Coal will become a legacy in time as rates of growth are stronger in every other energy sector, with wind and solar making rapid inroads: Energy mix.

But it's a bit like the ICE vs EV race - hard to catch up quick when you begin from so far behind 🚘.

First ICE car was 1874

First EV was 1884 

Ok so I admit ICE has had a good 10 year head start but 130 years on how is that race going ?

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(edited)

On 12/9/2018 at 10:42 AM, Jan van Eck said:

Yet the Chinese remain an industrious society, and not hampered by Western-style lawsuits from Greenies and other assorted people and groups that imagine themselves aggrieved.  One result is the construction of a vast aqueduct from the rivers to the South to the Beijing area.  My guess is that some part of that torrent of water will be channelled to the "front" where the Gobi Desert is charging into the Capitol,  to provide the necessary groundwater levels to sustain grasses and forests for land reclamation. It is entirely possible to reclaim land that is totally degraded.  It does require effort, but effort is hardly an area where the Chinese are lacking! 

Incidentally at one time the USA had a parallel plan called "NAWAPA," for North American Water and Power Authority, which would bring fresh water from the Northern Plains and Idaho-Oregon-British Columbia watersheds down to the parched areas of Western Oklahoma, Texas, and the Southwest.  It got squelched by lawsuits. 

4

I am very glad to hear that people have been thinking of moving excess water where it is needed badly. It has been done throughout much of human history but we need to continue to improve water distribution to where it is most needed. It is a political time bomb though. California is proceeding with a massive water plan, however. 

Water conservation can also help meet the needs of mankind. See Water Conservation https://docs.google.com/document/d/1s6vxrBPC_8XYQgSNK7-UuNbqsdDKflhXPDeswYFKDt0/edit

Edited by ronwagn
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