Sweet Answer from Solar Mango: (updated Jul 2015)

The solar PV value chain looks thus (for crystalline solar panels):

Polysilicon ==> Ingots & wafers ==> Solar Cells ==> Solar Panel ==> Solar Power Plants/Off-grid Solar Products.

Stages requiring high capital expenses

  • Within the solar PV value chain, Polysilicon manufacturing and ingot/wafer manufacturing facilities require high capital costs, in the order of $1 billion or more.
  • Cell manufacturing typically comes in at about $50-100 million (for a 50-100 MW capacity range).
  • At the downstream end, solar PV power plants, if they are in the MW scale, involve high upfront expenses. As of 2015, a 1 MW solar PV power plant could cost in the range $1-1.5 million depending on the region.

Stages that do not require high capital expenses

  • Module assembly capital costs can be in a few million $ (you can have a reasonable sized module assembly plant at less than $5 million)
  • Plants assembling off-grid solar products (solar lanterns etc.) cost much less and could be done even by small entrepreneurs or investors.

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