Researcher: forgot those solar panels, get back into the lab

A new study from a UC Berkeley researcher is good news for VCs, Silicon Valley and other centers of green tech innovation. It's equally glum news for the current pruveyors of solar panels.

A new study from a UC Berkeley researcher is good news for VCs, Silicon Valley and other centers of green tech innovation. It's equally glum news for the current pruveyors of solar panels. Current solar panel technology is not worth installing, it's a waste of money according to Severin Borenstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business and director of the UC Energy Institute.

You can read Borenstein's analysis here.

In addition to more solar tech research that bring a major breaktrough in efficiency, Borenstein wants a better marketing system. Currently electricity always cost the same regardles off time of day or time of year. Here's how his press summary puts it: "However, the premium value of solar PV could be from 30 percent to 50 percent higher if U.S. systems were run with less capacity and prices were allowed to rise as demand increases at different times of the day, said Borenstein, who has long advocated for such variable time pricing. He noted that U.S. systems typically operate with excess capacity and that consumers pay the same price for electricity at all times of the day."

Borenstein does not try to estimate the cost of greenhouse gases released by traditional fossil-fuel generation systems. But does say the savings would have to be huge to make solar electricity a financial win: "The analysis does not incorporate valuation of externalities, or the reduction of externalities from other generation technologies, but the results speak to the level of such non-market value that would be necessary to make the social cost-benefit analysis favorable. 'This cost-benefit gap is much greater than plausible estimates of the value of greenhouse gas reduction from solar PV generation."

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