MIT report finds dropping cleantech costs means shifting focus from hardware
The cost of installing a solar energy system has dropped by more than 99 percent since 1980, with improvements to hardware features responsible for the lion’s share of this decline.
To continue reducing the costs of solar energy and other clean energy technologies, scientists and engineers will likely need to focus, at least in part, on improving technology features that are not based on hardware, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In a recent report published in Nature Energy, the authors write that the cost of installing a solar energy system has dropped by more than 99 percent since 1980, with improvements to hardware features responsible for the lion’s share of this decline. Their analysis shows that “soft technology” features, such as the codified permitting practices, supply chain management techniques, and system design processes that go into deploying a solar energy plant, contributed only 10 to 15 percent of total cost declines.
But because soft technology is increasingly dominating the total costs of installing solar energy systems, this trend threatens to slow future cost savings and hamper the global transition to clean energy, says Jessika Trancik, a Professor at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society and the study’s senior author. The findings indicate that to reverse this trend and accelerate cost declines, engineers could look at making solar energy systems less reliant on soft technology to begin with, or they could tackle the problem directly by improving inefficient deployment processes.
“Really understanding where the efficiencies and inefficiencies are, and how to address those inefficiencies, is critical in supporting the clean energy transition. We are making huge investments of public dollars into this, and soft technology is going to be absolutely essential to making those funds count,” says Trancik.
Click here to learn more in an MIT news release.