Photovoltaic cells, most of which are made from silicon, have exploded in use around the country over the past five years as once-prohibitive costs for home use of the technology have declined. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of new photovoltaic systems installed in U.S. homes nearly tripled to 7,446 from 2,805, according to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council in Latham, N.Y. Industry officials say that such installations are expected to top 11,000 this year.
To put this in perspective the United States has about 70 million single family detached housing units. The yearly installation rate would have to go up by a factor of over 6000 to reach 1% of the existing single family home housing units per year (more for attached townhouses, apartment buildings, and other housing structures).
Sun Run's contract--called a purchased power agreement--won't eliminate the initial cost of getting solar electricity. But it will reduce by about 60 percent the pain of shelling out anywhere from $20,000 to $35,000 for solar panels, according to the company.
Akeena Solar's Andalay panel is supposed to cut installation time from four hours to 30 minutes. It's also meant to be more attractive and look like a skylight.
Sharp Solar, the largest solar panel maker in the world, has started to promote a pre-fab solar system to the U.S. market.
Ultimately what we need are photovoltaic shingles or tiles so that putting a new roof on a house installs photovoltaic materials. That would make most of photovoltaic installation cost just part of the existing cost of roofing installs.
Increasing demand for solar power,engineered by governments, has kept solar prices stable over the last 12 months. Prices have stayed close to $5-6/watt.
In 2005, silicon solar cell production was measured at 1.7 Gigawatts (GW) globally. That number is expected to grow to 10 GW by 2010. At the same time the electronic sector is growing at a five percent annual rate.
Another source shows solar module prices have risen about 11 percent in the last 3 years. That's a little higher than the overall rate of inflation. So we are not on a downward trend in solar photovoltaic prices. Government-engineered increase in demand (especially in Germany which accounts for half of all photovoltaic demand
Most of the decline in photovoltaics prices occurred before 1987. But this latest surge in demand for solar, especially in Germany, is driving a big increase in manufacturing capacity. Costs should drop once production capacity catches up with government-caused increases in demand.
If a photovoltaics manufacturer achieves a really big breakthrough in costs we should see a much more rapid increase in manufacturing capacity and a big drop in prices.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2007 October 06 09:05 PM Energy Solar|