2013

In 2013, San Diego hits grid parity.

2015

In 2015, New York joins the party.

2017

By 2017, the Bay Area and much of the rest of southern California are making the switch.

2019

By 2019, grid parity reaches other southern and southwestern states.

2021

In 2021, more than 94 million people live in areas that have hit grid parity. That’s about half the current population.

2023

In 2023, grid parity hits much of the Midwest.

2025

More Midwestern areas join by 2025, at which point 156 million people live in areas where solar electricity is the cheapest electricity.

2014-11-13

When Will Solar Power Hit A Tipping Point In Your City?

At some point in the near future, solar will be cheaper than the power from the grid. At that point, it won’t be a do-gooder energy choice, it will be the smart thing to do. New maps pinpoint when that day is coming to your city.

Clean energy from the sun is getting cheaper every year, thanks to the plummeting cost of solar panels. This trend has been going on for decades—and it’s accelerating. At the same time, the cost of producing energy from coal and other sources is going up—that’s what scarcity will do. These trends are going to meet sometime soon.

According to a recent study published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, between late 2009 and mid 2011, the wholesale price of solar panels dropped by 70%. Meanwhile, the cost of electricity from our grid, which is mostly generated by coal and gas plants, has been slowly rising over the past decade. As those two trends continue, solar electricity will soon become as cheap and cheaper than regular retail electricity. That moment is called "grid parity" (i.e., when solar reaches parity with grid electricity) and it’s exciting because once we reach grid parity, solar power won’t just be the eco-friendly option—it’ll also be the economical option. That will give America a powerful new incentive to switch.

And in fact, grid parity is right around the corner. In some parts of the country, we’ve already reached it. John Farrell, of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program, recently mapped which cities will hit grid parity first.

Scroll through the slideshow of the Farrell’s grid parity maps to see when solar power will get a kick in the pants from the free market in your community.

Farrell produced this map using the current retail rate for electricity in different areas and two assumptions: first, that the cost of solar power would continue to decline by 7% per year, and second, that the cost of retail electricity would continue to rise by 2% per year.

These projections are just that: projections. It’s possible that the cost of solar will decline even more quickly. Or—who knows—maybe we’ll invent some other breakthrough energy technology. Much also depends on political support for renewable energy. But this timeline, for what it’s worth, is encouraging. We have to get off coal quickly, because we’re really playing with fire (and floods and droughts) with the way we’re currently altering the climate.

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4 Comments

  • justaplumber

    Guitarchitect makes good point that is lost and overlooked by environmentalists. One Ernegy companies and alot of folks like myself recognize that weening off of Oil and Coal as our main source of energy worlwide will take some time but is abundently evident that it will happen. Lets do it cost effectively so that we dont self-induce more economic turmoil. We will always need oil and coal is some capacity for the distant future. If we make it cheap and affordable thean the switchover with American produced alternative energy products gives our country a economic edge in the future. The Chinese are producing Solar products with labor wages bordering on the insane. The US's response can and should be to reduce the cost of the raw products nesesary to build the infrastructure, products for the impending switchover. Take a hint Environmentlist, be willing to accept a an Energy plan that for every step forward in Oil self-reliance we should be take one step forward with alternative energy production.

  • JFSII

    Another important statistic to figure out: at what point we will be able to produce solar panels from solar power. Until that day comes, we are still creating a lot of pollution during the extraction, refinement and production of the minerals and raw materials that go into solar panels. If we were to get off coal too quickly by doing a wholesale switchover to PV panels we would probably destroy the environment in an effort to preserve it.

  • Diane

    As pleased as I am to see great progress on the solar front, guitararchitect has a point.  Another consideration is the dramatic impact of PV panels made in China rather than here in the US, from both a "fair trade" and an economic policy standpoint.  One path to getting people and business behind solar (or anything, for that matter, renewable energy or otherwise), is to make it financially attractive, both in manufacturing and implementation. 
    Interesting thoughts on grid parity, Andrew; I hope to pass this along on my blog as well.  http://responsiblebusregistry....