SOLETAIR Concept - Powered by Affordable Solar Photovoltaics

Jero Ahola/6.06.2017/article

SOLETAIR concept utilizes renewable electricity produced by solar photovoltaics. The use of solar photovoltaics is rapidly growing globally and affordable electricity prices have been obtained regionally already.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) is the most rapidly growing power generation technology in the world. Its core, the photovoltaics module, is an industrial mass product having a steady price/watt learning curve. Currently, the main focus in solar photovoltaics installations is on the decarbonization of the electric energy system and electrifying areas without existing grids. In the future, affordable solar electricity could also be used to indirectly electrify other energy sectors such as transportation and industry with power-to-x.

Lappeenranta University of Technology wall solar photovoltaics plant (photo Teemu Leinonen).

Solar photovoltaics technology is growing at a rapid rate: in year 2016, approximately 75 GWp of new capacity was installed, the cumulative capacity totaling more than 300 GWp. This corresponds to about 1.5% of the world’s electricity demand [1] (Figure 2). Both the installed and cumulative capacities of solar photovoltaics have increased 1000-fold over the last twenty years. During the same time period, thanks to industrial manufacturing and technology research and development, the price of crystalline silicon-based photovoltaics modules has decreased to one-tenth of the mid-1990s values, currently being around 0.35 €/Wp [2].

Figure 2. Development of global solar PV capacity [1], [2].

As a result of the development, solar photovoltaics has already become the least-cost option to generate electricity in several locations of the world. The current price record of PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) was set in the autumn of 2016 in Abu Dhabi, where a Chinese-Japanese consortium agreed to build and operate solar electricity with a fixed price of 22 €/MWh. The previous world record was set also in 2016 in the Atacama Desert in Chile with a PPA price of 27 €/MWh. The price levels estimated for 2030 were reached already in 2016.

The end of solar photovoltaics price development has not been reached yet. On the 50 MW utility scale, the turnkey price of a photovoltaics system is expected to decrease to around 0.3‒0.4 €/W by 2050 [3]. In Southern Europe, this would result in a levelized cost of electricity of 15‒20 €/MWh [3]. According to a study presented in [4], solar photovoltaics electricity is expected to be the largest, least-cost and most relevant source of energy in the mid-long term for the global energy supply.

[1] IEA PVPS, Snapshot of Global Photovoltaic Markets 2016, available at:

[2] IEA PVPS, Trends 2016 in Photovoltaic Applications, 2016, available at:

[3] E. Vartiainen, G. Masson, and C. Breyer, “PV LCOE in Europe 2015‒2050,” in Proc. 31st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conf., Hamburg, Germany, Sep. 2015.

[4] C. Breyer et al., “On the role of solar photovoltaics in global energy transition scenarios”, in Proc. 32nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conf., Munich, Germany, Jun. 2016.
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