Renewables reaching a tipping point?

As conservatives rush to ban and clamp down on renewables, it is becoming clear that solar and wind energy are becoming a large scale player in markets traditionally dominated by fossil fuels. In fact, it may well be the success and strength of renewable energy that is driving the backlash to defend fossil fuels.

In some areas of Australia, rooftop solar panels have already reached price parity with coal fired power from the grid, despite a bumpy ride over the Coalition state governments’ slashing of the solar feed-in tarriff in NSW and Victoria. In the US, Krishna Das writes for Reuters,

Photovoltaic panel prices have tumbled by more than 30 percent so far this year, making them far more affordable for consumers.

(. . . )

The average installed cost of photovoltaic systems, which includes installation and financing costs as well as the panels, fell about 17 percent last year and an additional 11 percent in the first half of 2011, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report.

“As the pricing continues to go down … customer demand is getting spurred in some markets even without incentives,” said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of solar systems maker Westinghouse Solar.

Now the giant manufacturer GE are entering solar in a big way. Giles Parkinson reports at Climate Spectator:

GE, which is the biggest industrial company in the world, and the largest supplier of energy equipment, says it will build a 400MW capacity manufacturing plant in Colorado. It will produce thin-film panels, where US companies believe they have a competitive advantage over the Chinese silicon-based manufacturers, and estimates that its panels will have an efficiency rating of 14 per cent when the panels first roll out in 2013, well ahead of the 11.7 per cent recently produced by market leader First Solar.

. . . Mark Little, the global research director for GE, said solar would be cheaper than retail prices in many areas within three to five years (in places like Hawaii it already is).

Meanwhile, conservatives are mobilising to defend fossil fuels from the renewable onslaught – not just in Victoria. Parkinson:

The announcement came as the US Republicans and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp maintained their extraordinary attack on solar companies and the department of Energy loan guarantee program following the collapse of Solyndra. The Republicans have sought to use Solyndra as an example of mismanagement by the Obama administration, and of the folly of investing in new technologies, and not just oil and gas, as leading presidential candidate Rick Perry outlined on Friday.

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