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Good News - Environment - Solar Nearing Grid Parity

Rutgers' Chinese Solar Panels Show Clean-Energy Shift

At Rutgers University in New Jersey, 7,600 panels convert sunlight into electricity, saving some $200,000 in energy costs this year in the biggest solar-power experiment at a U.S. college.

Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., China’s second-largest solar-panel maker, supplied the $10 million project. Yingli is one of several Chinese manufacturers that have slashed costs to reduce global prices for solar modules by about 50 percent in two years. The drive made them more affordable for buyers from Rutgers to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the biggest U.S. retailer.

“It’s all about economics,” said Chief Executive Officer Al Bucknam of SunDurance Energy, the South Plainfield, New Jersey installer that picked Yingli over Western competitors on price and helped sell the deal to Rutgers as a money-saver.

China is slashing prices and moving to dominate solar energy in the way Japanese manufacturers ruled consumer electronics decades ago. The price declines inch the cost of solar energy toward what’s called grid parity, or renewable electricity at the same prices charged for conventional power.

“The ability of the Chinese to manufacture at scale is a very big reason why the cost of these panels has come down,” said Kathleen A. McGinty at venture capital firm Element Partners in Radnor, Pennsylvania. “They’re a big part of the reason why we can even start to talk about grid parity.” 

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