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# Solar Energy: How Do You Relate Cost-per-watt To Cost-per-kilowatt Hour? (12/23/2011)

I need information on the cost of solar energy over the past couple decades. Most sources give solar energy production in units of dollar per watt (\$ /W), whereas units of traditional energy cost is usually cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh). I would like to convert solar energy costs to same units as traditional energy costs for comparison.

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nashe December 23, 2011 at 1:58 am

its a fairly easy conversion. theres 1000 watts/kilowatt and 100 cents/\$ so the math isn’t too complicated since the numbers are easy to work with

Mike1942f December 23, 2011 at 2:06 am

You can’t
The solar figures are for installed cost of equipment – if a panel can generate up to 1000 watts and it costs \$ 200 then the cost is \$ 0.20 per watt. You would have to know the number of hours of sunlight and the hour by hour efficiency to come up with kilowatt hours and you would have to make an estimate of repair and replacement cost and possibly financing over several years.

HyperDog December 23, 2011 at 2:07 am

Dollars per watt is a way to express the cost of solar panels per their instantaneous power capacity.

Energy production is measured in watt-hours, or kilowatt hours (one kWh = 1000 times one watt-hour).

The cost of solar energy depends on the site – how much sunlight does it get and for how long each day?

Bonnie818 December 23, 2011 at 2:47 am

The solar cells give units in \$ / Watt because that is how much money is needed to get that amount of energy out. Solar cells are dependent on energy density so… the bigger the cell, the more power, and the more money to produce.

The \$ / kWh is how energy is bulled due to consumption.

I know what you are trying to do but unfortunetly there isn’t a simple conversion. One number deals with the cost of creating energy and the other number deals with the cost of energy consumption.

According to the US Solar Energy Industry Association current solar installations are producing energy that ranges from 26-35 cents / kWh.

Hope this helps but keep in mind that the costs change as efficiencies and materials change for solar cells.

billrussell42 December 23, 2011 at 3:34 am

dollars per watt is not meaningful as a cost of energy, as watts are a unit of power. (watt-hoiur or kW-hour or joiules are units of energy).

The only way dollars per watt make sense as the cost of building a power plant, such as “Cost of a 5 MW power plane is US\$ 1M, so the cost per watt is \$ 0.2″.

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