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February 07, 2006



I am no expert on the issue, but I worry that the PV supply constraints currently in the US and elsewhere are only going to be further exacerbated by large scale PV projects like these. If PV costs continue to go up, will the average homeowner lose the potential to invest in a system? Will small businesses still be able to afford the technology, or will the big players indirectly price out mom and pop. I would feel much better about this announcement if it involved solar concentrators instead of PV. Any thoughts?

Jim from The Energy Blog

Halvo- I see a good portion of the future of PV solar using technologies that use much less silicon and those using no silicon. Daystar is expanding rapidly in the non-silicon market. Shell who was the largest US manufacturer of PV silicon just sold off all of its silicon PV facilities in order to concentrate on non-silicon technologies. Honda has entered the market with a non-silicon product. Mitsubishi, Kyocera, Sanyo and Ovonics, are thin film silicon suppliers that use much less silicon than traditional mono- or multi-crystalline manufacturers and most are expanding their production. Q-cells and Evergreen are making solar cells from thin ribbons and have a supply of silicon under contract. Sharp, the worlds largest manufacturer of solar cells introduced thin-film cells in 2005. It claims that prices for its solar cells will drop in half by 2010, which must mean that less silicon will be used. All this does not mean that the shortage of PV panels will be alliviated immediately, but in will be in a few years.

Should we be installing more solar concentrators now? Most are not suitable for the home market. Of those that are suitable the Sunball is on sale now with delieries promised for next month in Australia with worldwide sales to start the second half of this year. Dawn Solar is now selling thermal systems that are built into the house. IAS and Sunflower have solar concentrators that could be used for small applications, but not on a sloped roof. IAS is shipping commercial units now and Sunflower is planning to ship commercial units in 2006.

Could more concentrator units be sold now for large commercial markets to free up the home market? The suppliers all have a large backlog for a couple of years, so there probably couldn't be much relief in that time period. They have some large installations under construction in Spain and Portugal as well as those in the US. I am sure they are trying to sell units for such a time that they have production capacity.

So I see all solar as being pretty tight for the next 3-4 years.


First off, with 300-900 MW solar dish stirling plants being constructed by Stirling Energy Systems and even the 64 MW Nevada Solar One solar thermal system being build, these "large" PV farms are pretty blah to me.

Second, why would you build these large PV farms when solar thermal concentrator systems are significantly cheaper and more competitive compared to PVs? SES claims that their solar dish-stirling installation for SoCal Edison in California will be competitive with traditional load-following/peaking generation without any incentives. I doubt the owners of this PV farm can say anything like that.

Third, and building on the above, it sure seems like PVs are much better suited to distributed generation and solar concentrators are the way to go for large solar farms like this. It seems like a waste to me to build an 18 MW PV plant when you could build a dish-stirling plant for much cheaper (and it would actually output more energy: SES's system efficiency ~35%, PVs probably only ~12%) and save this PV production capacity for rooftop installations where solar concentrators can't go (excepting the Sunball which could be revolutionary!).

Jim from The Energy Blog

The following, from a new press release, gives the amount of the incentives that the builders of this project are receiving from the state, which amounts to $0.72/watt, combined with the low price the builders are able to buy their panels for, probably puts the installed cost at about $4/watt which is in the neighborhood of most large thermal solar installations without incentives, but not competitive with thermal solar with incentives for the thermal solar.

CARSON CITY, Nev., Feb. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Nevada Commission on Economic Development (NCED) has unanimously granted more than $13 million in business incentives over the next 10 years to SunEdison of Maryland for an 18 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant to be constructed in southern Nevada.
Michael Storer

All of this is good!

It means that the big companies are getting heavily involved in investing in PV. Which will direct more funds into PV development.

The worries about it pushing the costs up for home users is partially valid.

But looking at other sllicon technologies (computer chips of different types) the long term market is an unstable place - with one type of chip being expensive for a bit - then someone builds a new factory and the market gluts for a bit and prices drop dramatically.

There have also been some recent developments in Australia (last month) that look like dropping the cost of manufacture of the basic cells by half. Even if the Australians haven't done it, the production process is so immature that someone WILL.


Michael Storer

Here is a link to the new Australian Technology.

"Sliver" Technology - gets many more cells out of one lump of silicon. 30 times the area out of one lump.

The pilot plant is built and was funded by the same people that send us our electricity bills every month.



solar thermal installers

Useful information on solar power, but we can’t fully rely on home solar power for now, most of the implementations are still not efficient enough. I tried to install a solar systems at home, but doesn't workout quite well. Thanks for sharing

Sara swain

has anyone seen the Spanish solar power unit, it uses mirrors to create steam and drive generators. From what evidence i have seen over the web this is much more efficient use of space compared to normal Solar PV cell fields. I do not know why Nevada have not invested in this technology instead.

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