Solar Is Serious Energy

Putting together a special issue like the Photovoltaics World Champions Issue is always a fun undertaking, for we get to sit back a little and ponder who is most deserving of some recognition in the exciting and evolving field of photovoltaics. It can be difficult as well, since there are so many people, companies and organizations that deserve recognition.

Personally, I get a small thrill when I do something as simple pay for parking using a PV-powered station, or see the PV installations on the top of the Logan airport. Those that opt to use PV over more conventional sources of energy are all champions.

Having enjoyed travel to Germany with an increasing frequency over the last five years, to attend Intersolar, EUPVSEC and visit companies, has given me a special insight into how much that country has done to advance solar power. It is truly a beacon of hope for the industry and the world.

The industry has certainly changed in the last 11 years.The world had around 100MW of manufacturing capacity in 2000. Today, it is better than 70,000 GW. The price has come down dramatically, and efficiencies have made steadied improvements. I have, however, lost track of many companies are claimed world records, one on top of the other! The good news is that there appears to be plenty of room for continued improvements, in both cost reduction and technology advancement. Analysts say PV in some parts of the world has already reached grid parity (where electricity costs are high and the sun is strong) and it will soon be below the $1/Watt cost target for most of the world, sometime next year.

We began the journey of selecting the 2011 Champions of Photovoltaics back in May when we issued an invitation to submit nominations in our various categories to our readers. It’s especially encouraging to see the amount and diversity of PV installations going in around the world.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners. As Champion Advocate Gabby Giffords notes, solar is serious energy!

Pete Singer

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