I suspect that it's less than a factor of two. Is this right?

A 1 kw panel has 10kg of silicon at $20/kg.

That's $200 for a panel that costs less than $400, at 34 cents/watt.

A 1.5mw turbine has 170 tons of steel worth $2.4/kg.

That's $408k for something that sells for less than 750k.

Anyone have better information? It seems like renewables are being sold basically at material cost, plus some profit and administrative overhead.

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    What is the result, if renewable prices are close to scrap value? Will upvote if you can provide some more detail or the consequences if such a case were true.
    – LShaver
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 8:31
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    It means that, if renewables keep getting cheaper, people will eventually buy them just to take apart and sell the material
    – D J Sims
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 14:20
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    OK, but there won't ever be a point where you could make a profit doing that... unless you're suggesting people would recycle panels before their time? I'm still not seeing the connection to sustainability.
    – LShaver
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 16:06
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    So renewables won't keep getting cheaper?
    – D J Sims
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 18:27
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    The raw material prices will go down as demand increases, manufacturing costs will go down as the industry matures and technology advances, and $/watt costs will go down as energy density increases (with technology improvements). But what you're talking about is the margin between raw material costs, and selling price. Unless people start working for free, this margin will never get small enough for someone to make a profit buying renewables and selling them for raw materials. Unless I'm mistaken, and there are examples of products where this occurs?
    – LShaver
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 0:08

1 Answer 1



The problem is that you've just taken some fairly random numbers and multiplied them together.

If you want to actually understand the cost structures of the manufacturers, then you need to go into the line-by-line detail of their accounts - lines that generally won't be publicly available, due to commercial confidentiality.

And that's going to be very difficult for PV, where the cheapest manufacturers have particularly opaque accounts.

  • 1
    You could say that about any argument
    – D J Sims
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 21:17

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