Monday, March 19, 2007


The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s.

Mr Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, believes his product will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and 50 cents in a decade.

It is based on a CIGS (CuInGaSe2) semiconductor compound that absorbs light by freeing electrons. This is then embedded on the polymer base. It will be ready commercially in late 2009.
Never heard of this company Flisom before, but I think thin film solar cells (NanoSolar makes them as well) show a lot of promise, and if they can hit the price numbers they are talking about, it is a company to watch.

In fact the whole solar industry is looking good.
Mike Splinter, chief executive of the US semiconductor group Applied Materials, told me his company is two years away from a solar product that reaches the magic level of $1 a watt.

"We think solar power can provide 20pc of all the incremental energy needed worldwide by 2040," he said.

Michael Rogol, a solar expert at Credit Lyonnais, expects the solar industry to grow from $7bn in 2004 to nearer $40bn by 2010, with operating earnings of $3bn.
Those are some serious growth numbers. I need to take a look and see what companies are likely to take advantage of this growth and then invest in their stocks.


al fin said...

Photovoltaics may be the answer to arab/muslim terrorism. Solar cells can be de-centralised if they are cheap enough. Terrorists bomb oil pipelines, power grids, and gasoline stations--not an off-grid solar installation.

Photovoltaics are a great way to generate electricity, in places with a lot of long sunny days. If you add good storage technologies (redox flow cells for example) you can avoid most use of load-leveling technologies such as gas turbines.

Fat Knowledge said...


Interesting idea on solar power being the answer to terrorism.

I am not so sure. If you look at the last 3 major Al Qaeda attacks, they flew airplanes into buildings in the US, they blew up some trains in Spain and they committed suicide bombings in the London Tube. I don't see how using PV would stop these kind of attacks, as I think we will still be using planes, trains and subways.

Then again I think terrorism is over rated in its impact. The American Lung Association estimates that 24,000 people die prematurely each year from power-plant pollution. That is like 8 9/11s a year. I see PV being a substitution for coal and helping to limit the health and environmental impacts of coal and other fossil fuels.

In the long term (30 yrs+) I think solar could reduce the need for oil, and that would hit at one of the underlying causes of the terrorism. But that in my opinion is still a long ways off.

al fin said...

I meant to say that photovoltaics (and other decentralised power sources) may be ONE answer to arab/muslim terrorism (and terrorism from other sources).

I was referring mainly to terrorism in the third world, which has a significant impact on the lives of many third worlders in the muslim world and its bloody borders, and in latin america. Most western people do not keep up with news from the third world, but demography dictates that what is happening there will happen here--sooner or later.

Even in the US, power lines have been the targets of eco-terrorists. Decentralising much of the power infrastructure would reduce the number of high profile targets in the third world and the modern world.

The impact of terrorism on people's lives must not be gauged merely by the loss of life it causes. Its true impact is much greater.

Fat Knowledge said...


I can see what you are saying about decentralized power decreasing the number of targets.

But, I don't know if that is a big enough reason for me to go for decentralized power. I think nuclear power would be good for the US. Those that disagree rightfully point out that nuclear plants make nice terrorist targets. But, I think the cost due to the risk of terrorism is lower than the health and environmental benefits we would gain from nuclear power.

I agree with you that terrorism has a greater impact than just the loss of life, but I would argue that is only because of how we choose to respond to it. If you fail to be terrorized, does terrorism work? For that reason I think we should be educating people about how low the risks of terrorism is and how they should just live their lives like they did before. In that way the impact of terrorism becomes just the loss of life. And when that becomes the case, I think there are much better ways to improve peoples safety and longevity than putting lots of resources into terrorism prevention.

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