June 02, 2008
Expanding Silicon Crystal Production To Lower Photovoltaics Costs?

Here's yet another prognosticator saying finally solar photovoltaics prices might go down after a few years of plateauing prices.

Worldwide production capacity for silicon and thin film panels will jump from 3.14 gigawatts in 2007 to 12.36 gigawatts in 2010, Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute, said at a Greentech Media conference this week.

Suppose all that capacity got used because, say, oil available for export starts to seriously decline as the Export Land Model predicts (and really go read that). People desperate for energy start trying to shift lots of uses of oil toward electric powered devices. Well, solar panel demand might skyrocket.

But Mr. Bradford foresees a big cut in PV prices.

Prices for traditional silicon-based solar panels will fall from $3.66 per watt in 2007 to $2.14 per watt in 2010, he forecasted, while the average price of thin-film panels is expected to drop from $2.96 per watt in 2007 to $1.81 per watt in 2010.

Part of the reason for the anticipated drop is that Bradford expects the amount of silicon for the solar industry to quadruple from 30,070 tons in 2007 to 125,302 tons in 2012.

Hawaii will benefit in a big way. Almost all of its electricity comes from burning oil. In the comments of a a previous post I did on the expected decline in photovoltaics prices a fellow named Scott says he's paying 36.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh). That's over 3 times the US national average rate for electricity which in 2007 was 10.64 cents per kwh.

I see a curious effect of cheap solar: It will make air conditioning relatively cheaper than heating. During the summer we have lots of sunlight to drive solar cells to make electricity to run air conditioners. During the winter we lack the sunlight to make things warm. So rising oil prices combined with declining PV costs will cause migrations toward the equator.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 June 02 11:09 PM  Energy Solar

Allan said at June 3, 2008 4:52 AM:

I already plan to migrate towards the equator when I retire ... and I mean south of Florida!

We keep hearing the price will/is coming down. When it gets down to where it doesn't break my bank account to install it, I'll do.

I'm still waiting ...

Larry said at June 3, 2008 6:27 AM:

On Hawaii, I wonder why there hasn't been more effort to exploit geothermal energy. The Big Island at least should be able to get all of its electricity from that source.

Allan said at June 3, 2008 6:50 AM:

BTW, it takes a lot juice to run a/c. My friend who is off the grid has a generator she runs when the a/c kicks on.

David Govett said at June 3, 2008 1:32 PM:

Time for a Dyson sphere.

Fly said at June 3, 2008 5:55 PM:

Hawaii has long had a research program to generate electricity using ocean water temperature differentials. Capital and maintenance costs made the electricity produced too costly for commercial production. The program was looking for secondary industries such a mineral extraction that might make the process competitive. With the increase in oil prices the picture may have changed.


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