Will the Cost of Silicon Keep PV Prices High?

I was wondering about the high cost of silicon and whether that will prevent the price drop in Solar residential systems that everyone is counting on. Given the high demand any significant price drop appears unlikely. Do you know of any research on material other than silicon that is promising? Jerry H South Carolina

Jerry, Today’s photovoltaics are made primarily from silicon, which in the 1990’s was derived only from the silicon waste that came from the silicon chip industry. In April, media reports surfaced from the biggest PV companies that solar-grade silicon leapt from $9 per kilo in 2000 to $25 last year, and $60 in 2005. These higher prices are a result of the fast growth rate of the global photovoltaics industry, which produced more than 1.2 Gigawatts in 2004, and the efficiencies in the traditional silicon chip industry, which leave less wastes from their process for solar-grade silicon. With the announcement of the Solar Energy Industry Association’s (SEIA) American Solar Power Industry Research and Investment in Technology collaborative the photovoltaics industry is working to build upon its earlier efforts for fair access to silicon. The industry-led collaborative is designed to reduce the cost, increase the efficiency, and improve the manufacturing of solar PV through novel breakthrough designs and processes, which should lead to low-cost manufacturing and new silicon production processes, among other goals. While there are some promising newer PV materials in the marketplace, such as thin films with Indium, Selenium and Gallium, and Cadmium Telluride, another emerging play will be through non-silicon nanotechnology, which uses light sensitive dyes. Konarka Technologies, a manufacturer of non-silicon nanotechnology, is setting up its pilot plant this year. With smart tactics for using traditional silicon efficiently, non-silicon materials already in the marketplace and soon-to-be others via nanotechnology, and other approaches – the silicon shortage issue should just be seen as growing pains in a fast-paced industry during its early adolescence. Scott
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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