Thin-Film Solar Technology Could Be Seriously Clobbering Fossil Fuels in Ten Years


Everyone loves solar power. The notion of making electricity from the Earth's solar income is pretty much irresistible. But the harsh reality of our current state of PV (photovoltaic) technology, a reality that not many choose to acknowledge, is that without government subsides, solar power just doesn't pay for itself in any timely way—certainly not the kind of way that would make the profit-minded jump. But that may only be because our days of silicon-based solar cells are numbered. In an article from the Telegraph this week, Ambrose Evans-Prichard talks to Anil Sethi of Flisom, a Swiss firm making thin-film solar cells. Sethi confidently expects his company's products be giving fossil-fuel generated power a run for their money within five years, and that within ten years, solar will undercut coal, natural gas, and nuclear by 50%. That's what is technically referred to as clobbering. The crucial tipping point, says Evans-Prichard, is the $1 per watt point: the current price of most non-renewable energy sources. Current solar technology puts the price of solar power at about $3 to $4 per watt. Anil Sethi of Flisom foresees his thin-film solar panels (commercially available in late 2009) reaching $.80/watt in five years, and $.50/watt within ten.Thin film solar modules don't use the costly, and limited, silicon that we are used to. The technology is based on CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) arranged on a flexible backing, suitable for not only the tops, but also the sides of buildings, tinted windows, cell phones, notebook computers, cars, and even clothing. Thin film solar panels are "printed" onto the rolled backing, eliminating many of the highly energy and chemical intensive processes that are typical in convention PV manufacture. Oil Giant Shell is placing its chip on thin-film, and in the US, Nanosolar is positioning itself to be a leader in the thin-revolution. With the investment dollars of Google's founders, Nanosolar is building a plant in California the capacity of which would catapult it into the top solar makers in the world. ::Telegraph

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