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The cost of operating and building solar power plants has fallen this year, largely down to a big fall in the price of solar panels. According to New Energy Finance, the cost of electricity generated from solar energy is likely to fall by 50% during 2009 compared to the previous 12 months which they are also attributing to the fall in price of solar panels.

The 50% fall in solar energy costs refers to what is commonly called the levelized cost of electricity. This is the cost of generating the power over the lifetime of building and operating a solar power plant.

Using these metrics, the cost for solar electricity dropped to as little as $160 per megawatt hour during 2009 worldwide, according to Jenny Chase, New Energy Finance head of solar research.

The lowest cost of $160 per megawatt-hour was achieved by installations in ideal sunny spots, such as deserts in the western U.S., and utilised the cheaper thin-film solar panels.

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