Japan's Sharp Corp., the world's biggest maker of solar cells, expects the cost of generating solar power to halve by 2010. "By the year 2010 we'll be able to halve generation costs," Katsuhiko Machida said in an interview on Thursday. The solar industry in general expects the cost of producing solar power to fall by about 5 per cent per year, on average. Machida said he expected that a shortage of solar-grade silicon, the raw material from which solar panels that harness the sun's energy are made, would ease by 2008 as silicon makers step up production to catch up with soaring demand.
"In the first half of 2007, supply capacity will be increased, so once we go into 2008, supply will be catching up," he said. Sharp has also been moving towards producing more so-called thin-film solar panels, which use less silicon but are less efficient than traditional solar panels.
Machida said the cost to produce solar energy from thin film was still around one-and-a-half times as high as making it from the normal, multicrystalline type.
"The mainstream will still be multicrystalline," Machida said, but he added that demand for thin-film would also continue to increase, for example, for specialist varieties such as see-through panels for window glass.
Machida said the sun could send enough energy to Earth in as little as an hour to provide for all the world's energy needs for one year.
"We're wasting a lot of energy," he said.
For more on the solar industry, see also: ::Video: Past, Present and Future of the Solar Industry