November 14, 2007
Spherical Solar Photovoltaics To Cut Costs In Half?

A Japanese spherical solar cell design promises a big photovoltaic power price drop.

A company in Japan has developed a novel way of making solar cells that cuts production costs by as much as 50 percent. The photovoltaic (PV) cells are made up of arrays of thousands of tiny silicon spheres surrounded by hexagonal reflectors.

The key advantage of the system is that it reduces the total amount of silicon required, says Mikio Murozono, president of Clean Venture 21 (CV21), based in Kyoto, Japan. "We use one-fifth of the raw silicon material compared with traditional PV cells," he says.

I am optimistic about cheaper photovoltaics for two reasons. First, it is a solvable problem. Second, many more teams in academia, government, and industry are trying to solve it.

A halving of photovoltaic prices would make photovoltaics competitive in much of the US southwest. So if this company achieves its goal photovoltaics sales will take off.

CV21 started production of its cells in October; the first of its 10-kilowatt modules go on sale this month. While these modules will initially cost about the same as the traditional variety, the price is set to drop by 30 percent in 2008, as production increases in May from 1,000 cells a day to 60,000 cells a day, says Murozono. The ultimate goal is to make them 50 percent cheaper than existing cells by 2010, he says.

Some people believe that once we pass the peak in world oil production we are at risk of deindustrialization. I don't see it. Sure some parts of the world are going to be very hard hit. Some oil emirates and less advanced countries are at risk. For fully industrialized countries I expect some deep recessions and a period of stagnant or declining living standards. But I do not think that the industrialized countries are at risk for total collapse. We have too many sharp scientists and technologists and too many ways to solve the problem of dwindling reserves of liquid hydrocarbons.

Our current high oil prices and this period of a world oil production plateau are actually fortunate for our prospects in a post-peak world. The higher prices are providing incentives for the development of substitutes. The post peak decline hasn't come on so suddenly that we lack time to adjust. People who want to feel total doom and gloom about the future should look elsewhere. Energy shortages aren't going to bring down industrial civilization.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 November 14 11:04 PM  Energy Solar

Vincent said at November 15, 2007 1:34 PM:

"The post peak decline hasn't come on so suddenly that we lack time to adjust."

Time will tell.

HellKaiserRyo said at November 15, 2007 7:14 PM:

Well, so many libertarians want decentralization. I guess solar power would reduce the demand for public utilities though. This is a case where the free-market provides solutions and supports innovation.

More importantly, government solutions might work in the first world (perhaps for health care), but I doubt they would work in the third world. Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen state that the people there do not have the innate intelligence to manage a successful government and its infrastructure in IQ and Global Inequality. Not to mention the factious tribalism. I suppose a decentralized solution for power would be a boon for third world development provided that it is cheaper that other alternatives.

Here is something interesting: (1:07:00)

I do not agree with the documentary's agenda, but I found that section informative.

aa2 said at November 15, 2007 11:56 PM:

Hi all..

Also solar power is good for things taht are non-time sensitive. For example I have a dream to refill all the world's aquifer's and lakes that are in trouble. The way is massive, massive desalination. When the sun is shining bright the desalination plants can operate, when its dark, the desalination plants can turn off.

I do have some concerns of solar.. mainly it may take a great amount of land devoted to solar to get enough energy. But they could definately be useful in the middle east areas. And hopefully to integrate onto buildings and rooftops if it becomes cheap enough. Another is clothing, to power the growing cornucopia of devices on us.

Reggie Rasmussen said at November 19, 2007 7:32 PM:

It may be a while before solar is truly 1/2 cost to the consumer. As the cost to manufacture becomes less expensive, the amount of government incentives will drop. This process has already begun. Until solar is less expensive than fossil fuels one option may be very attractive. Renting solar systems? A new business model intends to make solar affordable to every one. The plans are big and if the company can make it happens it could revolutionize the industry. I have written several articles about the company. Go to and click on Citizenre. Many articles will come up that describes the new rent solar option.

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