NREL/MIT study: Solar manufacture costs not driven primarily by labor

By: InnovatioNews Thursday September 5, 2013 0 comments Tags: Alan Goodrich, David Danielson, DOE, Golden, MIT, NREL, photovoltaics, solar

NREL logoGOLDEN - A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals production scale - not lower labor costs - is the primary driver in China's current advantage in manufacturing photovoltaic solar energy systems.

Although the prevailing belief is that China's low labor costs and government subsidies account for the nation's dominance in PV manufacturing, the study shows a majority of the advantage comes from production scale and resulting supply chain benefits.

"Assessing the Drivers of Regional Trends in Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing" was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative and was published today in the peer-reviewed journal Energy and Environmental Science.

The study also found that technology innovation and global supply chain development could enable increased manufacturing scale around the world, resulting in broader, subsidy-free PV deployment and the potential for manufacturing price parity in most regions.

"Our analysis finds that investments in technology research and development are critical not only to the widespread deployment of solar PV in lost locations - without subsidy - but also may equalize factors that affect regional competitiveness, thus recreating opportunities for U.S.-based manufacturers," said Alan Goodrich, NREL senior analyst.

"Innovation is critical to driving the technological advancements that can position the U.S. to gain greater market share in the global PV supply chain," said David Danielson, DOE's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"We believe that innovation could drive down costs and drive up efficiencies not only in PV manufacturing but also in the production of other high-tech and high-value clean energy technologies and position U.S.-based manufacturers to be leaders in one of the most important global economic races of the 21st century."

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