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Smaller, cheaper, faster: Does Moore’s law apply to solar cells?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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The sun strikes every square meter of our planet with more than 1,360 watts of power. Half of that energy is absorbed by the atmosphere or reflected back into space. 700 watts of power, on average, reaches Earth’s surface. Summed across the half of the Earth that the sun is shining on, that is 89 petawatts of power. By comparison, all of human civilization uses around 15 terawatts of power, or one six-thousandth as much. In 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day.

The numbers are staggering and surprising. In 88 minutes, the sun provides 470 exajoules of energy, as much energy as humanity consumes in a year. In 112 hours – less than five days – it provides 36 zettajoules of energy – as much energy as is contained in all proven reserves of oil, coal, and natural gas on this planet.

If humanity could capture one tenth of one percent of the solar energy striking the earth – one part in one thousand – we would have access to six times as much energy as we consume in all forms today, with almost no greenhouse gas emissions. At the current rate of energy consumption increase – about 1 percent per year – we will not be using that much energy for another 180 years.

It’s small wonder, then, that scientists and entrepreneurs alike are investing in solar energy technologies to capture some of the abundant power around us. Yet solar power is still a miniscule fraction of all power generation capacity on the planet. There is at most 30 gigawatts of solar generating capacity deployed today, or about 0.2 percent of all energy production. Up until now, while solar energy has been abundant, the systems to capture it have been expensive and inefficient.

That is changing. Over the last 30 years, researchers have watched as the price of capturing solar energy has dropped exponentially. There’s now frequent talk of a “Moore’s law” in solar energy. In computing, Moore’s law dictates that the number of components that can be placed on a chip doubles every 18 months. More practically speaking, the amount of computing power you can buy for a dollar has roughly doubled every 18 months, for decades. That’s the reason that the phone in your pocket has thousands of times as much memory and ten times as much processing power as a famed Cray 1 supercomputer, while weighing ounces compared to the Cray’s 10,000 lb bulk, fitting in your pocket rather than a large room, and costing tens or hundreds of dollars rather than tens of millions.

If similar dynamics worked in solar power technology, then we would eventually have the solar equivalent of an iPhone – incredibly cheap, mass distributed energy technology that was many times more effective than the giant and centralized technologies it was born from.

So is there such a phenomenon? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy has watched solar photovoltaic price trends since 1980. They’ve seen the price per Watt of solar modules (not counting installation) drop from $22 dollars in 1980 down to under $3 today.

Is this really an exponential curve? And is it continuing to drop at the same rate, or is it leveling off in recent years? To know if a process is exponential, we plot it on a log scale.

And indeed, it follows a nearly straight line on a log scale. Some years the price changes more than others. Averaged over 30 years, the trend is for an annual 7 percent reduction in the dollars per watt of solar photovoltaic cells. While in the earlier part of this decade prices flattened for a few years, the sharp decline in 2009 made up for that and put the price reduction back on track. Data from 2010 (not included above) shows at least a 30 percent further price reduction, putting solar prices ahead of this trend.

If we look at this another way, in terms of the amount of power we can get for $100, we see a continual rise on a log scale.

What’s driving these changes? There are two factors. First, solar cell manufacturers are learning – much as computer chip manufacturers keep learning – how to reduce the cost to fabricate solar.

Second, the efficiency of solar cells – the fraction of the sun’s energy that strikes them that they capture – is continually improving. In the lab, researchers have achieved solar efficiencies of as high as 41 percent, an unheard of efficiency 30 years ago. Inexpensive thin-film methods have achieved laboratory efficiencies as high as 20 percent, still twice as high as most of the solar systems in deployment today.

What do these trends mean for the future? If the 7 percent decline in costs continues (and 2010 and 2011 both look likely to beat that number), then in 20 years the cost per watt of PV cells will be just over 50 cents.

Indications are that the projections above are actually too conservative. First Solar corporation has announced internal production costs (though not consumer prices) of 75 cents per watt, and expects to hit 50 cents per watt in production cost in 2016. If they hit their estimates, they’ll be beating the trend above by a considerable margin.

What does the continual reduction in solar price per watt mean for electricity prices and carbon emissions? Historically, the cost of PV modules (what we’ve been using above) is about half the total installed cost of systems. The rest of the cost is installation.  Fortunately, installation costs have also dropped at a similar pace to module costs. If we look at the price of electricity from solar systems in the U.S. and scale it for reductions in module cost, we get this:

The cost of solar, in the average location in the U.S., will cross the current average retail electricity price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour in around 2020, or 9 years from now. In fact, given that retail electricity prices are currently rising by a few percent per year, prices will probably cross earlier, around 2018 for the country as a whole, and as early as 2015 for the sunniest parts of America.

10 years later, in 2030, solar electricity is likely to cost half what coal electricity does today. Solar capacity is being built out at an exponential pace already. When the prices become so much more favorable than those of alternate energy sources, that pace will only accelerate.

We should always be careful of extrapolating trends out, of course. Natural processes have limits. Phenomena that look exponential eventually level off or become linear at a certain point. Yet physicists and engineers in the solar world are optimistic about their roadmaps for the coming decade. The cheapest solar modules, not yet on the market, have manufacturing costs under $1 per watt, making them contenders – when they reach the market – for breaking the 12 cents per Kwh mark.

The exponential trend in solar watts per dollar has been going on for at least 31 years now. If it continues for another 8-10, which looks extremely likely, we’ll have a power source which is as cheap as coal for electricity, with virtually no carbon emissions. If it continues for 20 years, which is also well within the realm of scientific and technical possibility, then we’ll have a green power source which is half the price of coal for electricity.

That’s good news for the world.

Sources and Further Reading:

Key World Energy Statistics 2010, International Energy Agency,

Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009, Barbose, G., N. Darghouth, R. Wiser., LBNL-4121E, December 2010,

2008 Solar Technologies Market Report: January 2010, (2010). 131 pp. NREL Report TP-6A2-46025; DOE/GO-102010-2867,

About the Author: Ramez Naam is a computer scientist and entrepreneur. He is the author of More Than Human (Broadway Books, 2005), which the LA Times called “a terrific survey of current work and future possibilities in gene therapy, neurotechnology, and other fields.” For More Than Human, Naam was awarded the 2005 H. G. Wells Award for Contributions to Transhumanism. Naam is a Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and blogs at Unbridled Speculation. He lives in Seattle, where he is currently working on his next book The Infinite Resource: Human Innovation and Overcoming the Challenges of a Finite Planet. You can see Naam speak at a special event at the World Future Society 2011 conference in Vancouver, B.C.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Comments 53 Comments

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  1. 1. tharriss 10:56 am 03/16/2011

    And Solar installations don’t irradiate huge areas and cost huge amounts of time/money/effort during disasters (resources better used on disaster recovery) like in Japan.

    Link to this
  2. 2. JamesDavis 11:27 am 03/16/2011

    It is a curiosity that the price of solar jumped exponentially during the Bush administration and then dropped the same amount after his administration ended. Is this jump in the price of solar, and other clean energy technologies, common in all the republican administrations throughout this thirty year cycle? If this is so, then we should carefully consider with whom we allow to sit on that throne.

    Solar can be the savior of the world in preventing the destruction of our land, water, air and fossil extraction related illnesses.

    I believe it was this magazine that I read that solar panels can even be made from carbon nanotubes. That would be something good to use carbon for.

    Link to this
  3. 3. lamorpa 12:09 pm 03/16/2011

    Obviously, the number of data points involved in a short period such as the ‘Bush administration’ and ‘after his administration’ are not enough to make any trend analysis; I guess just not obvious to everyone…

    Link to this
  4. 4. Soccerdad 12:25 pm 03/16/2011

    Count me as skeptical that the cost of solar cells is still dropping at an exponential rate. When I look at the charts, I would say that the cost is flat over the past decade, with some fluctuation probably due to the roller coaster ride of commodities (up leading up to the 2008 crash and down dramatically in 2009). Further I believe the cost per kwh chart assumes exponential reduction in installation cost as well as cell cost – this is extremely unlikely.

    Prospects for a further halving of installed cost in the next decade are extremely unlikely. Solar will be a loser for the forseeable future.

    Link to this
  5. 5. lamorpa 12:33 pm 03/16/2011

    "we’ll have a power source which is as cheap as coal for electricity, with virtually no carbon emissions" other than the prodigious output from their development, manufacturing, installation and maintenance, while also not counting the enhanced industrial infrastructure and handling of the inherent toxic byproducts.

    Link to this
  6. 6. ramezn 12:57 pm 03/16/2011

    The roughly flat cost of solar modules from 2003 to 2009 or so was caused by a spike in the price of poly-silicon used to make solar cells. The solar industry now consumes more poly-silicon than the computer industry. Manufacturers were unprepared for this explosion of demand.

    Ironically, solar subsidies, particularly in Germany, may have exacerbated this, pushing demand for solar PV up faster than expected and having a ripple effect downstream.

    Solar manufacturers have adjusted by reducing the amount of silicon necessary in their solar cells. Simultaneously, poly-silicon manufacturers have brought more capacity online. The result is that poly-silicon prices have returned back to where they were before the price spike and that solar cell prices are once again dropping.

    Link to this
  7. 7. ramezn 1:03 pm 03/16/2011

    Soccerdad: You are correct that module prices were more or less flat from 2003 to 2008. See my other response for an explanation of that. That said, the drop in 2009 was large enough to make up for the stagnation over the previous few years. The drop in 2010 (which I have not included here) looks to have been around 30%, which would put the price reduction for modules significantly ahead of the 30-year trend. With manufacturers now claiming 75 cent per watt manufacturing costs and 50 cent per watt manufacturing costs on the horizon, consumer prices are likely to fall to the $1 / watt price, if not better, for modules.

    You’re also correct that module price is only part of the equation. Installation prices have made up a fairly steady half of total system prices for the last 20 years. Through the last decade, while module prices held flat, installation prices dropped. How low they can go is another issue. The exponential drop in them may very well level out long before module prices level out.

    That said, installation costs are dramatically lower at scale. Multi-megawatt installations have less than half of the per-watt installation cost that home installations have. If installation costs fail to drop, we may see more of a shift towards large scale solar projects at the expense of rooftop solar.

    Link to this
  8. 8. RamezNaam 1:25 pm 03/16/2011

    Lamorpa: It’s true that energy is required to manufacture solar cells. Current estimates are that a cell with a 20 year lifespan captures 7-10 times more energy than that which is required to manufacture it. As the amount of silicon in a cell drops, as we move to organic compounds to construct solar cells, and as efficiency rises, that number will improve.

    There are also proposals for "solar breeders". Essentially these would be solar power plants connected to solar cell manufacturing systems, placed in silicon rich areas (for example, the Sahara desert). There would be an energy and carbon startup cost to construct the first systems. From that point on, solar energy would be used to construct new solar power systems which would collect more energy to be used to manufacture more solar systems, and so on.

    As solar rises as a fraction of total energy production, the energy used to construct solar systems will be less and less carbon intense.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Soccerdad 1:50 pm 03/16/2011

    So, does the final graph assume continuing exponential drop in the installation cost as well as the module cost?

    Link to this
  10. 10. RamezNaam 1:55 pm 03/16/2011

    Soccerdad: Yes it does.

    Link to this
  11. 11. lamorpa 3:30 pm 03/16/2011

    By definition of this article itself, no solar installation would have a 20 year life span. In fact, it would be pointlessly obsolete in 3 years – and that’s for commercial applications. One of my worries is the installations that are just temporary toys for the rich wanting to look ‘green’ – efficient or not, they’ll be out of use in 1 to 2 years. The energy picture is so front loaded, I have serious questions whether any near term scale-up will result in accelerated carbon production for quite a while.

    Link to this
  12. 12. wittjeff 3:51 pm 03/16/2011

    I find no fault in the author’s reasoning, but I’m a bit disappointed that it doesn’t mention that the price of the charge controllers and power inverters used in home installations has been essentially unchanged for several years despite huge growth in the home market.

    Perhaps as solar cell / panel prices fall toward zero, the price for home installations will be competitive with coal-produced electricity despite less aggressive reductions in the price of installation and the less commodified components. However, as the author suggests, the price of installation may fall more aggressively as a percentage of total costs for larger installations. So looking out 15 years from now we may have a situation where "small solar" isn’t really cost-competitive (vs. the cheapest alternative — which will be "large solar"+"large wind"), just as "small wind" is feasible but not cost-effective today.

    Link to this
  13. 13. wittjeff 3:53 pm 03/16/2011

    By the way, you can find current industry prices for solar components at

    Link to this
  14. 14. suitti 4:11 pm 03/16/2011

    Solar cells have the feature that they can distribute the power grid. That makes it a less fragile power infrastructure. I’ve done the math for my house. My roof area should provide more than enough total energy for both my home and my cars. That’s even with [insert favorite explitive] Michigan weather. None of my cars can use it, as yet. Passive solar for heating the house is more efficient than cells. No problem to have a mix. And insulating the house better makes it more comfortable. I can justify considerable expense for my comfort. Else, i’d not watch movies, ever. My favorite battery tech at the moment is the flywheel. Vacuum and magnetic bearings to reduce friction. When it dies, there are no nasty chemicals. Melt it down to recycle it. I can self install. I’m starting the planning, but will wait for costs to come down.

    Link to this
  15. 15. jtdwyer 4:26 pm 03/16/2011

    That’s a really acute case of cute curve fitting you’ve got there! Regression by Excel?

    Notice that Moore’s law says nothing about the cost of computing – it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy of circuit density improvements over time – an improvement based on technological advancements. Dramatically improved circuit density increased the processing capacity produced for a somewhat fixed manufacturing cost.

    An analogous condition would exist in the solar power if a similar rate of improvement could be achieved for the efficiency of electrical power generated by a given area of solar cell – if the density of solar cells were doubling every 18 months, for example. In that case, the power produced for a generally fixed manufacturing cost would be dramatically increasing. As I understand, it is not.

    Why not try your hand at forecasting oil prices – that’d be more closely associated with PV pricing than Moore’s law.

    Link to this
  16. 16. RamezNaam 4:39 pm 03/16/2011

    Moore’s law is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy, yet it is also dependent upon characteristics of the physics of integrated circuits and their manufacturing processes.

    Similar advantages accrue for solar PV. While power per unit area can only rise so much (you can’t ever break 100%, or even hit it), it can rise for another factor of 5 or so (compared to the popular cells on the market).

    More importantly, manufacturers are making solar PV modules ever thinner, with less and less silicon. The reduced material costs allow the overall module cost to drop.

    As I state in the article, no exponential process lasts forever, but for the next 10 years the roadmap looks fairly solid. For the 10 years beyond that, it is harder to speculate if the trend of the last 30 years will continue, but systems that cost 6 cents per kwh are very much within the realm of what’s allowed by physics.

    Link to this
  17. 17. jtdwyer 7:37 pm 03/16/2011

    Thanks. I agree that Moore’s law pertains to a prediction based on engineering enhancements allowing increased miniaturization circuit components – increasing circuit density.

    While there are several factors involved in circuit density developments, forecasts of solar cell pricing involves a myriad of unrelated factors. Do you include any government subsidies or in your pricing estimates?

    There is no direct technological basis for predicting the consumer price of solar power or even computing & networking. Even Moore’s ‘law’ collapses if the cost of software and network subscriptions are included!

    Link to this
  18. 18. RamezNaam 7:48 pm 03/16/2011

    jtdwyer: I did not include any government cost subsidies in the prices in the article. With subsidies, prices are lower, but that doesn’t reflect the actual cost of the technology.

    On the other hand, the estimate of coal-electrical do not include the externalities of CO2 emissions or the likelihood of an eventual carbon price and the need to add carbon capture and sequestration, which will lift those prices.

    I agree we can’t be certain of the continued progress of any exponential price trend. I would say the predictions are higher confidence for nearer term progress (the next 5-10 years) and lower after that. The near term progress confidence is lifted by the presence of more concrete roadmaps inside the solar industry for the next few generations of products.

    After that, we’ll see. The trend has gone on for 31 years. I think it would be imprudent to suggest that it will go on for another 60 years, for example. But the next 10 years do look quite good, and the 10 beyond those look at least doable.

    Link to this
  19. 19. jtdwyer 10:51 pm 03/16/2011

    Sorry to be so persistent, but your analysis of solar PV pricing is an extrapolation of unexplained historical trends. There is no real basis for future expectations other than past performance.

    While the price per Watt for solar modules (not counting installation) may have dropped from $22 dollars in 1980 down to under $3 today, the number of transistors per integrated circuit chip has increased from about 80,000 in 1980 to more than 2 billion during the same period – an improvement factor of 25,000.

    There’s no real technological basis for comparing advancements in micro-electronics to those in photovoltaics.

    Link to this
  20. 20. RamezNaam 2:49 pm 03/17/2011

    jtdwyer: No problem. The dialog is helpful to us all.

    You’re right that solar progress is far slower than computing progress. Microprocessors have improved historically at about 60% per year. Solar has improved over the last 30 years at 7.5% per year. Yet that rate of improvement, if sustained, will get it below the price of coal, natural gas, and nuclear for electricity.

    In terms of future expectations: I agree those are powerful drivers of Moore’s Law, and of the similar phenomenon in solar PV.

    I’ve posted a longer reply at my home blog:
    Is Moore’s Law Really a Fair Comparison for Solar?

    Link to this
  21. 21. lwebb82 4:43 pm 03/18/2011

    Solar and wind have problems, too — nothing like uranium nuclear, but we need more energy than solar and wind combined could ever supply. Consider LFTRs (Liquid Floride Thorium Reactors). They’re much safer and cheaper than LWRs (uranium fueld Light Water Reactors) or even Seed- and Blanket Reactors. Read for details. The world is finally ready for the untimate power source — the answer to our future energy dilemma.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Rob Honeycutt 12:00 pm 03/20/2011

    "Count me as skeptical that the cost of solar cells is still dropping at an exponential rate. When I look at the charts, I would say that the cost is flat over the past decade…"

    It’s only flat over the past decade if you ignore that last data point. The advances are going to come here in fits and starts. But the incredible prospects that this holds is going to drive a lot of innovation.

    What you can’t ignore is that the costs of solar are falling while the costs of fossil fuels is rising. At some point in the not-so-distant future these two are going to intersect and then the whole market dynamics of energy generation is going to change.

    Link to this
  23. 23. bucketofsquid 10:24 am 03/24/2011

    I work for an electrical utility that isn’t quite in the exact center of the USA but we are just a bit north of there. We do periodic surveys of the different sources of electricity to determine cost per kWh. Coal prices have been fairly static for years but have crept up recently due to increased rail transport costs. Nuclear was very cheap but long term storage of spent rods eats away at the price levels and over time adds quite a bit to the cost. Natural gas is fairly expensive compared to coal and the price fluctuates wildly. Wind is more expensive than coal by about a power of ten and has much higher maintenance costs. A turbine on the ground is quite accessable but a turbine 200 feet in the air isn’t.

    We haven’t looked at solar for a few years but when we last did it was so far out of cost/benefit range that we decided to look at it again ten years later. We are about five years into that decade so in about five more we will review it again.

    Personally, I’ve wanted to go solar since I was a kid back in the 1970s. I’m still not able to afford it.

    Link to this
  24. 24. R.Blakely 1:19 am 04/2/2011

    Moore’s law is mainly due to improving technology. New technology will continue to lower the cost of solar. Grid-tied inverters are making installations cheaper, and energy is now easier to share with the grid.
    A big technology jump will occur when practical heat-to-electricity-type panels are developed. We need solar panels that harness heat instead of only light. Such panels could use stored heat, so that stored power could be available at night.

    Link to this
  25. 25. Solar Photovoltaik 12:01 pm 07/19/2011

    True words. Its a shame that a lot of countries still stuck in nuclear power thinking. Here in Germany we have a lot of companies who support privates (e.g. ) to get a good imagination how much does it cost and so on. Companies like that one should be in every country or at least the government should support it!

    Link to this
  26. 26. Solar Photovoltaik 12:05 pm 07/19/2011

    addition that the link works for you guys: <a href="">The good german company</a>

    Link to this
  27. 27. GordonMoore 3:49 pm 10/10/2011

    Nice article, thanks for the time that must have gone into it.

    I’m currently reading a lot about Gordon Moore’s Law and am building a new site to educate others about Moore’s Law.

    My site is still new but does have some video and room for future discussion about the sustainability of Moore’s Law.

    More About Moore’s Law

    Link to this
  28. 28. ArtKleiner 9:22 am 11/7/2011

    The Moore’s Law comparison is apt when you consider that the expectations of lower cost have driven continued innovation in the semiconductor industry. In that sense, I agree that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. One challenge is that the energy industry isn’t organized to profit from technological innovation in the same way; they do a lot of innovation, but with a different profit model.

    Andrew McKeon explained this for strategy+business at

    Link to this
  29. 29. MaggieZ 10:06 pm 11/7/2011

    Solar panel manufacturing emits Nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, a greenhouse gas 17,000 times more potent than CO2, and extremely long lived. It’s growing rapidly in the atmosphere with the lack of any govt restrictions. It is dangerous that articles reporting about technologies seem always to focus solely on their technological aspects, and with the mentality of seeking “silver bullets” to our many converging crisis, without considering their impacts on the planet as a whole.

    There is also the issue of rare earth minerals needed in these technologies, the mining of which is very environmentally destructive, and the scarcity is a source of obvious international conflict.

    By disregarding the HUGE environmental impacts of the electronic industry, including electronic waste disposal problem, we have trashed our planet in a large sense.

    Same with plastic and other petro-chemical industries, pesticides, same with urbanization, auto industry, explosion of highways and paved surfaces that destroyed 1/3rd of the precious top soil of our planet, same with unlimited air and sea travel that spews carbon and pollutants day and night, same with genetically modified (and now synthetic biology) species…

    By obsessing with our clever technologies without any prudent caution, we are in the midst of destroying our planet completely. We need to stop burning fossil fuels, but not by simply replacing our huge and wasteful energy consumption with solar, or another technology without thorough examination, and then go merrily on with our consumption driven, endless growth economy.

    Reducing energy demand by saving energy and re-imagining our way of life is the most crucial.

    Link to this
  30. 30. blueroo 9:09 am 11/8/2011

    Great future predictions also bring in funding – so they can’t be trusted. Nanosolar had the world convinced that they had reached 10 cent price point over a year ago. Could the recent solar panel price drop be a case of dumping as some have claimed?

    Link to this
  31. 31. timetraveler 5:01 pm 11/9/2011

    There is no Moore’s Law for solar. Ok, there would be if the earth were moving ever closer to the sun. The maximum amount (noon on a sunny day) of energy incident on a solar panel is constant. It can’t get better and better. A little problem with conservation of energy. One can only hope to capture increased efficiency (converting what is incident into usable energy). The limit is not 100% (see the Shockley–Queisser limit for a pn junction). Unfortunately guys, we’re not that far away. Maybe a 2x improvement can be achieved. Most of the recent large declines in PV costs are from economies of scale. The cost of oil from a well falls as you pump more barrels (increasing the denominator in the cost per barrel calculation). The cost per barrel falls, but that’s not Moore’s Law either. Finally, if you don’t believe the physical argument, look at it this way. If solar (which has been used on spacecraft since the early 60s) followed Moore’s Law, then solar arrays for spacecraft would be tiny today. Sorry, they are not.

    Why don’t those researchers working on solar technology correct the misunderstanding of the progress on solar. I believe it it parallels the military-industrial complex. Ask a defense worker about the cold war and chances are he/she was all for fighting it. It was his/her livlihood and many of the problems were quite interesting. Why spoil the party. Same thing for govt dollars spent on solar. Get them while you can and don’t tell the real story. We will have to cover an environmentally unacceptable amount of land to make a dent in power production, all while raising utility bills to equally unacceptable levels. Call it the NSF-DOE-University-Industrial complex. Well, as can be seen with the meltdown of governments in Greece, now Italy, and soon Spain, et al. These countries have run out of other people’s money and no longer can afford the subsidies. Please read First Solar’s third-quarter earnings release to get a feel for future life without subsidies…not pretty.

    Link to this
  32. 32. Amoeba 4:41 am 11/10/2011

    5. lamorpa 12:33 pm 03/16/2011
    ‘virtually no carbon emissions” other than the prodigious output from their development, manufacturing, installation and maintenance, while also not counting the enhanced industrial infrastructure and handling of the inherent toxic byproducts.’

    You seem to be ignoring the continuing toxic by-products of the coal industry – mercury, radioactive pollution etc. Plus the destruction of water courses, numerous toxic sludge disasters. Plug these into your favourite search engine.
    tva coal ash spill
    michigan coal ash spill

    Link to this
  33. 33. cls42 4:44 am 05/19/2012

    The Chinese are accused of dumping solar panels below manufacturing cost. The dominant labor relation in mainland Chinese electronic manufacturing is indefinite indentured servitude, a modern form of slavery. Moore’s Law applies to microprocessors and memory, whose manufacture is almost entirely automated. I wonder whether Moore’s law applies to products with higher labor content like today’s solar panels, or whether their manufacture can also be fully automated.

    Link to this
  34. 34. mcnakamura 2:19 am 07/30/2012

    Solar power is the poster child of the green energy movement. And why wouldn’t it be? Fuel that is entirely free, will be around for billions of years no matter what we as humans do, and doesn’t pump out nasty pollutants when used. Also, as a bonus, there is more solar power available than the world could conceivably use, roughly 89 petawatts of power [1], that’s 89,000,000,000 megawatts.

    Electrical sydney

    Link to this
  35. 35. Gnarum 5:23 am 08/13/2012

    Wow… This is really an optimistic view. I would really like we could have “the solar equivalent of an iPhone” and access for cheap energy for everyone.
    The issue is… Are we able to make accurate forecasts for renewable energies? As
    energy forecasts are becoming more important every day.

    Link to this
  36. 36. JNPorritt 10:49 am 01/21/2013

    This is all brilliant and the UK has a brilliant incentive programme. Briliant brilliant. But solar panels are just plain ugly and I hate to see them on a new house never mind one that was built in 1790 (mine). What are the chances of getting PV panels made to look like clay tiles?

    Link to this
  37. 37. Paul Cubbage 10:15 pm 03/5/2013

    As the density of computer chips goes up computing power increase as the square of the area. As the density of solar chips goes up, efficience increase with the area i.e. it’s linear. Solar panels have a theoretical efficiency of about 80% and are at 41%, so the maximum output is double what it is now. Beyond that, efficiency must come in manufacturing costs (linear) and packaging for better installation (linear). I doubt that new computer chip technology will ever capture more than 80% of the sunlight falling on it. There is a general statement of Moore’s law that applies to all technology.

    If computing’s stament is “the amount of computing power you can buy for a dollar has roughly doubled every 18 months, for decades” solar’s is more like the amount of watts you can buy for a dollar will double in the next 18 to 48 months and begin to flatten to something like every 5-15 years and track manufacturing in general.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Paul Cubbage 10:25 pm 03/5/2013

    An unstated issue is that solar system’s maintenance cast are very high compared to computers. It’s not practical either, to throw away a solar system and buy another as we do with computers, laptops, pads, and phones.

    Link to this
  39. 39. pengfield 6:26 am 08/22/2013

    Very true! Its a shame that a lot of countries still stuck in nuclear power thinking, China is creating dozens of new powerplants every year.

    Jürgen Klanert

    Link to this
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  49. 49. BillG123 2:57 pm 07/7/2014

    Some commentators are saying solar prices will not drop but they also said no one will need a computer in their home. If you look at the situation in Queensland Australia even without Govt subsidy enough solar panels are being installed that the grid may not be needed within less than 5 years.

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  50. 50. BillG123 3:05 pm 07/7/2014

    I doubt that new computer chip technology will ever capture more than 80% of the sunlight falling on it……

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  52. 52. bengillott 11:34 am 10/14/2014

    Having been working in the renewable energy sector with for over 10 years I would have to say yes the panels have got more efficient over time but nothing like the progress seen in PC memory. Whereas the efficiency of Solar PV may have near doubled over ten years, the average PC storage capacity has gone from about 40GB to over 1TB.

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