01/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Grid Parity: When Solar Costs The Same As Coal (Now!)

The holy grail of all renewable is to reach grid parity -- the point at which buying green power is no more expensive (or even cheaper) than buying power from, say, a coal burning plant. And it seems that one solar power plant in a desert in Nevada -- built by First Solar -- has reached that momentous mark. At least according to one analyst named Mark Bachman.

What do I mean, "according to one analyst"? Well it all boils down to how you do your math and how you define "grid parity". Traditionally, people (by which I mean investors) have defined it in terms of cost per watt, and it was also generally thought that if solar power plants could be built at a cost of $1 per watt or less, they would achieve grid parity. Thus, if First Solar had been able to build a 10 megawatt plant for 10 megadollars (that's 10 million for any of you non-geeks out there), they would have achieved grid parity a la traditional definition.

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