The day will come when solar power isn't just for treehugging eccentrics, but is as cheap, or cheaper, than buying electricity from the grid. This turning point is known as "grid parity"
in the energy business. As parts of the country start to hit grid parity, the people in those areas can save money by switching to solar, and the market for solar will skyrocket.The nonprofit Prometheus Institute
recently released a new projection for when grid parity will happen:By 2015, two-thirds of the U.S. will have achieved grid parity, the point at which electricity generated from photovoltaics is equal in cost or less expensive than grid power.... At that point, solar power will be no more than 5 cents per kilowatt hour more expensive than grid power for 99 percent of the country...
This is right in line with a lot of earlier predictions
. The U.S. Department of Energy also targeted a date around 2015
for solar grid parity, as seen in their graph below. The "system price range" is the cost of solar and the yellow and blue horizontal strips across the bottom are the price ranges for grid electricity. As the cost of solar dips down to meet the current cost of grid electricity, the percentage for solar takes off.
Hitting a point of grid parity for large parts of the country will be a huge milestone. It'll be a boon for solar but it'll also change the debate-we won't have to argue about Al Gore's movie every time we talk about the merits of renewable energy because it'll make economic sense at the household level. I don't think most people are aware of how close we actually are to grid parity-or how big a deal it is.