Although panel prices have fallen by two thirds since 2008, the Department of Energy estimates that solar power still costs at least three times more than natural gas.

“There is a large price differ­ence with gas,” Robert Powers, president of American Electric Power (AEP) Utilities, told the ­Solar ­Power International conference in Dallas, Texas.

AEP operates in ten Midwestern states and Texas. It says five shale-gas formations lie beneath its service area.

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