Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cool Video on the Solar Power Industry

This is a really interesting hour long video on the solar power industry. It takes a look at where it came from and where it is going.

I was curious if there was a Moore's Law for solar cells. Turns out there is. Prices are cut in half every decade (as opposed to microprocessors which double their processing power every 18 months). In 1979, photovoltaic cells could be produced for $30/W. In 2002 they are at $3/W in 2012 they are estimated to be at $1/W and in 2023 at $.65/W.

The market size of the photovoltaic industry has also grown 10 times every decade (which would be a growing of 25% a year). The speaker talks of the "progress ratio". I had never heard of this before, but he states that for every cumulative doubling of solar cell production, the prices go down 19%. So every 4 doublings leads to the prices being cut in half.

By 2012 he estimates that the industry will be price competitive and no longer need any subsidies for home installations. By 2023 he thinks that solar can compete as power plants in deserts.

In 2006 the photovoltaic industry actually used more tons of silicon than the microelectronics industry. In 2005 1.8 Gigawatts of solar cells were sold, up from 1.1 in 2004.

All of this leads me to believe that long term solar is going to be a big player and it is only a matter of time (probably 10-20 years) until it becomes economically competitive. Is it worth it to subsidize the industry so that we get to that point sooner? I don't know, but I think so.

via TreeHugger

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