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Cheap Solar Power Coming

Solar power is poised to undercut oil and gas by half, staff writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph.co.uk has reported.
Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, Mr Evans-Pritchard said. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half, he said.

Anil Sethi, the Chief Executive of the Swiss company Flison, says he looks forward to the day, not so far off, when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting, and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough power left over to feed a surplus back into the grid.
The secret? Mr Sethi cradles a piece of dark polymer material 200 times lighter than the normal glass-based solar materials. Traditional solar modules require expensive roof support. Indeed, the new material is so light it can be stuck to the sides of buildings.

Solar Power Below $1 Per Watt

Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, the material can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging in any color. The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet, the best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s Mr Sethi said.

Mr Sethi believes that his product will cost 80c per watt within five years and 50c in a decade. It will be ready commercially in late 2009.
"It will even work on a cold grey cloudy day in England which still produces 25% to 30% of the optimal light level. This is enough if you cover half the roof " he said. "We don't need subsidies, we just need Government to get out of the way and do no harm. They've spent $170B subsidizing nuclear power over the last thirty years" he said.
His ultra-light technology, based on a copper indium compound, can power mobile phones and laptop computers with a sliver of foil. "You won't have to get down on your knees ever again to hunt for a plug socket"he said.

Expert Predicts Solar To Grow Near To $40B By 2010

Michael Rogol, a solar expert at Credit Lyonnais, expects the solar industry to grow from $7B in 2004 to nearer $40B by 2010 with operating earnings of $3B. The sector is poised to outstrip wind power. It is a remarkable boom for a technology long dismissed by experts as hopelessly unviable.
Mr. Rogol said he was struck by the way solar use had increased dramatically in Japan and above all Germany where Berlin's green energy law passed in 2004, forces the grid to buy surplus electricity from households at a flat premium.

The "tipping point" in Germany and Japan came once households twigged that they could undercut their unloved utilities. Credit Lyonnais believes the rest of the world will soon join the stampede.
Mike Splinter, Chief Executive of the US semi-conductor group Allied Materials, said that his company is two years away from a solar product that reaches the magic level of $1 a watt.
Cell conversion efficiency and economies of scale are galloping ahead so fast that the cost will be down to US70c by 2010 with a target of US30c or US40c in a decade. "We think that solar power can provide 20% of all the incremental energy needed worldwide by 2040" he said. "The beauty of this is that you can use it in rural areas of India without having to lay down power lines or truck in fuel".

Africa And Asia May Soon Leapfrog Into The Solar Age

Villages across Asia and Africa that have never seen electricity may soon leapfrog directly into the solar age replicating the jump to mobile phones seen in countries that never had a network of fixed lines. As a by product, India's rural poor will stop blanketing the sub-continent with soot from tens of millions of open stoves.

Applied Materials is betting on both of the two rival solar technologies: thin film panels best used where there is plenty of room and the traditional crystalline (c-Si) wafer-based cells which are not as cheap but produce a higher yield better for tight spaces.
Needless to say, electricity utilities are watching the solar revolution with horror. Companies in Japan and Germany have already seen an erosion of profits because of an effect known as "peak shaving". In essence, the peak wattage of solar cells overlaps the daytime peak load demand of commerce and industry.

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