Friday, October 19, 2007

From the Founder of RealGoods

From an email from the Solar Living Institute:
Solar Goes Mainstream!

The Solar Power 2007 Conference in Long Beach, California, in late September, was a real eye opener. This young conference has doubled in size every year for the last three years and this year there were nearly 9,000 paid attendees - the largest solar conference ever, unless of course you count SolFest and the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair, which are consistently larger. I've been going to solar conferences since the early 1980s, and most were noted for their rag tag conglomeration of mission passionate solar pioneers with stars in their eyes.

This year was different. It was the first time I felt underdressed at a solar conference with business suits being the attire of the day. Gone were the mom and pop garage solar businesses and in their place were billion dollar giant companies like SunPower, QCell, Sharp Solar, Kyocera, Conergy, and SunTech. Watching Whole Earth Catalog Founder Stewart Brand interview CNN maven Ted Turner on a plenary stage was a real treat for me and an especially unique juxtaposition of the last 40 years of innovation. Ted commented that we should be dropping solar panels on Iraq instead of bombs.

A few staggering facts and figures that I took away from the conference:

• PV has been growing 70% - 80% annually in the U.S.
• Solar hot water is growing 50% - 80% every year
• California has an RPS (renewable portfolio standard) of 20% by 2010, meaning we need to have 20% of our power coming from solar by then.
• Most CEOs estimate that by 2010 we the world market for PV will be about 15 GW (gigawatts or 15,000 megawatts). Compare this to our current level of a little over 2 GW.
• Today, worldwide, we get 1/10 of 1% of our power from solar
• By 2030 we will get 30% of our power from solar
• By 2100 we will get 70% of our power from solar

In the same "CEO Forum," most CEOs agreed that the solar economy would reach "grid parity" (where solar costs the same as utility company power) by 2011- 2012 in the U.S. At this point the market will break wide open as there will no longer be any barriers to solar entry whatsoever.

One of the biggest challenges in the solar industry today is the silicon shortage, which has caused the major PV manufacturers to limit the supply to its dealers for the last couple of years, which has wreaked havoc for many smaller installers. It is expected now that this silicon shortage will be gone in approximately two years and the solar floodgates will again become wide open. Many manufacturers are working on PV modules that use less silicon like thinner wafers, thin film technologies, concentrators, and metallurgic grade silicon.

Driving home from the conference my strong sense was that the PV market right now is where home computers were in the late 1970's and cell phones were in the late 1990's. It's both gratifying to be a pioneer in this industry having sold the first PV module in America back in 1978 and daunting to see the tidal wave of the solar economy washing up on our shores so quickly. In the long run it's just what we need if we're to have a chance to mitigate global warming.

For the Earth,

John Schaeffer

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Web Site Counters
Staples Coupons