ENERGY: Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half
Telegraph online - UK
Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.j ... view19.xml
Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with
carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper
Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that
solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to
half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about
Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom
http://www.flisom.ch , says he looks forward to the day - not so far
off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their
heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on
buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid.
The secret? Mr Sethi lovingly cradles a piece of dark polymer foil,
as thin a sheet of paper. It is 200 times lighter than the normal
glass-based solar materials, which require expensive substrates and
roof support. Indeed, it is so light it can be stuck to the sides of
Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, it can be
mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour.
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 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 com pound that
absorbs light by freeing electrons. This is then embedded on the
polymer base. It will be ready commercially in late 2009.
"It'll even work on a cold, grey, cloudy day in England, which still
produces 25pc to 30pc of the optimal light level. That is enough, if
you cover half the roof," he said.
"We don't need subsidies, we just need governments to get out of the
way and do no harm. They've spent $170bn subsidising nuclear power
over the last thirty years," he said.
His ultra-light technology, based on a copper indium compound, can
power mobile phones and laptop computers with a sliver of foil.
"You won't have to get down on your knees ever again to hunt for plug
socket," he said
Michael Rogol, a solar expert at Credit Lyonnais
http://tinyurl.com/32ysv8 , expects the solar industry to grow from
$7bn in 2004 to nearer $40bn by 2010, with operating earning s of
The sector is poised to outstrip wind power. It is a remarkable boom
for a technology long dismissed by experts as hopelessly unviable.
Mr Rogol said he was struck by the way solar use had increased
dramatically in Japan and above all Germany, where Berlin's green
energy law passed in 2004 forces the grid to buy surplus electricity
from households at a fat premium. (In Britain, utilities may refuse
to buy the surplus. They typically pay half the customer price of
The change in Germany's law catapulted the share price of the German
flagship company SolarWorld www.solarworld-usa.com/ from ?1.38 (67p)
in February 2004 to over ?60 by early 2006.
The tipping point in Germany and Japan came once households twigged
that they could undercut their unloved utilities. Credit Lyonnais
believes the rest of the world will soon join the stampede.
Mike Splinter, c h ief executive of the US semiconductor group , told
me his company is two years away from a solar product that reaches
the magic level of $1 a watt.
Cell conversion efficiency and economies of scale are galloping ahead
so fast that the cost will be down to 70 US cents by 2010, with a
target of 30 or 40 cents in a decade.
"We think solar power can provide 20pc of all the incremental energy
needed worldwide by 2040," he said.
"This is a very powerful technology and we're seeing dramatic
improvements all the time. It can be used across the entire range
from small houses to big buildings and power plants," he said.
"The beauty of this is that you can use it in rural areas of India
without having to lay down power lines or truck in fuel."
Villages across Asia and Africa that have never seen electricity may
soon leapfrog directly into the solar age, replicating the jump to
mobile phones seen in countries that never had a network of fixed
lines. As a by -p roduct, India's rural poor will stop blanketing the
subcontinent with soot from tens of millions of open stoves.
Applied Materials http://tinyurl.com/2fxblo is betting on both of the
two rival solar technologies: thin film panels best used where there
is plenty of room and the traditional crystalline (c-Si) wafer-based
cells, which are not as cheap but produce a higher yield - better for
Needless to say, electricity utilities are watching the solar
revolution with horror. Companies in Japan and Germany have already
seen an erosion of profits because of an effect known "peak shaving".
In essence, the peak wattage of solar cells overlaps with hours of
peak demand and peak prices for electricity in the middle of the day,
As for the oil companies, they are still treating solar power as a
fringe curiosity. "There is no silver bullet," said Jeroen V an der
Veer, Shell's chief executive.
"We have invested a bit in all forms of renewable energy ourselves
and maybe we'll find a winner one day. But the reality is that in
twenty years time we'll still be using more oil than now," he said.
Might he be wrong?
Anything that can help free yourself from the grid...
Solar, Wind, Water, Free Energy
Solar, Wind, Water, Free Energy
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