Based on a previous discussion, it appears panels are being sold at less than 10% of their raw material cost. What is making up the difference?

Edit: The answer seems to be that... solar is viable as long as silicon is below about $50/kg. Which is odd considering panel prices were roughly the same in the late 2000s yet silicon was much higher.

Edit 2: Were getting contradictory statements on solar costs from energynumbers. Establishing a Small Commercial Solar Plant


1 Answer 1


Your first sentence is incorrect, as per the very chat discussion you've referenced: the sales price for panels is more than the cost of the panel's components.

The second sentence is also incorrect: solar is viable as long as people are willing to pay for it.

And so is your third sentence: panel prices have dropped a lot in the last six years.

Take all those away and all that's left is the title: "how does the solar industry fund itself?"

Remember that there is no single "solar industry". Silicon extractors and refiners sell to various markets: glass, electronics, PV.

Like pretty much any other supply chain, the PV supply chain funds itself through sales. And like a lot of other supply chains, in some countries it may also be partially funded by the State.

  • Panel prices fell 60 percent since 2008 while silicon fell more than 20 times intermtnwindandsolar.com/… upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fa/…, So it wasn't until after the late 2000s that solar was profitable.
    – D J Sims
    Apr 26, 2016 at 16:00
  • As for "solar is viable as long as people are willing to pay for it", nobody would pay for solar at 50 cents a watt. That would mean, if solar and similar renewables were to provide all energy- about 4tw in the US- it would cost more than all manufacturing production to sustain.
    – D J Sims
    Apr 26, 2016 at 16:19
  • 3
    @Mustang if you'd like to open a new specific question about the cost of renewable systems, or how to calculate energy demand (US energy demand is ~1.2 TW), please do so. If you want to work through a sample calculation of costs of energy using real numbers, then please do just ask in chat.
    – 410 gone
    Apr 28, 2016 at 4:09

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