Dr. Robert Balog, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, was a guest speaker on a local radio show to discuss solar power.
Balog was interviewed Jan. 9 by Allise Burris and Jenn Atkins for their eco-friendly environmental talk show, Rethinking Green, on KEOS 89.1, where he discussed the issues of making photovoltaic solar power affordable.
“If solar cells were free, the average homeowner would still not be able to afford solar electricity systems,” Balog said during the show. “The cost of a residential system in the second quarter of 2012, the most recent period of reliable published industry statistics, was, on average, $5.71 per watt. A typical three kilowatt residential system cost $17,130 before tax credits, rebates or incentives.
“If the solar cells were free, that same installed system would drop to $3.56 per watt,” he said. “However, the resulting price tag of $10,680 is still too expensive to be within reach of the average consumer.”
Balog said clearly the economics are not yet sustainable for residential photovoltaic energy, even if all the technical challenges of the solar cells have been solved. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the cost of these systems is non-equipment that includes permitting, installation, labor and overhead such as health insurance. These are costs that don’t benefit from economies of scale or cycles of learning.
Balog’s Renewable Energy and Advanced Power Electronics Research Laboratory is addressing the holistic system issues of solar energy and developing technologies that can make solar energy safer and more affordable, facilitating a wide adoption of this sustainable energy source. He is currently investigating novel balance of system technologies to holistically address the cells-to-grid interface challenges in solar energy.
Balog is affiliated with the Electric Power and Power Electronics Group in the department. He received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University in 1996 and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2006. He has more than seven years of industry experience, including launching a technology startup company commercializing his work in residential scale solar inverters. He holds 13 issued and pending U.S. patents and is a licensed professional engineer.
Honors include receiving the 2011 Rutgers University Distinguished Engineer Award, being named an Ernest A. Reid Fellow, the first IEEE International Telecommunications Energy Conference (INTELEC) Fellow and receiving two Grainger Outstanding Power Engineering Awards. He was recently selected for membership in the external body of the Hungarian Academy of Science.
Visit Rethinking Green on KEOS 89.1 FM to learn more about the radio program.