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February 27, 2008



End in sight ...


Good news... :-)


Who are the 4 major silicon suppliers mentioned in this article? Thanks.

Charles Barton

The real problem of solar power is not the supply of polysilicon or the cost of producing PV modules. It is the cost of installing the things in massive solar arrays. And then, of course, once you get them installed, the only produce power for five and a half hours a day,


Good news and good prospects for the PV industry and market in an increasingly volatile environment. To answer Charles Barton's skepticism concerning PV cost and inadequecy: 1. film will solve that.
2. Not here mate in the Med!!

Tristan Wibberley

Attempting to turn off bold ...... Did it work?

Tristan Wibberley

One more by the looks of it. There :) that's better


it is going to be interesting to watch a possible further market consolidation among the poly suppliers over the next few years. with supply growing overproportionally, prices will drop and ultimately force some suppliers out of the market. this is assuming that TF can make further progress and seriously challenge traditional PV.

Paul Jorgensen

So what does this mean in terms of cost per watt a year from now. Will it be down to $1.00 as Nanosolar claims they can achieve?



My guess would be:


steve selverston

IF the photovoltaics get too expensive, people will probably move more towards solar thermal collectors, which they'll probably do anyway.
steve selverston


Thank you Mr. Barton. Detractors of PV have for many years pointed out that PV just costs too much. Now this is no longer the case, as you point out. I am pro-nuclear, but PV is going to beat Nuclear precisely because of lower installation costs. Building Integrated PV (BIPV) is already starting to be used by home builders in CA, AZ, and FL. Expect this trend to continue and the installation cost of PV to drop precipitously.

Answer to the energy problem: Nuclear AND PV
(...and CST, wind, waves, geothermal, clean coal, and conservation/efficiency)

Answer to oil/transport problem: E-REV

Answer to CO2 problem: Both

No real problems here, just a technological transition that needs to occur.

Kit P

mds, Charles said that solar does not produce energy when we need it. It also does not work very well especially on the roofs of houses. Therefore, the environmental impact of solar thermal is worse than coal.


Yes, Charles doesn't like solar. Clearly in the sunbelt of the USA, the most populated part of the most energy intensive country, PV produces power exactly when we need it most. My point is even solar detractors like Charles are starting to realize PV has dropped in price. When PV production catches up with demand it will drop radically. In the mean time, BIPV is also reducing installation costs. At 48% per year growth rate since 2002:
...PV will be one of the larger energy providers in 10 to 15 years when new nuclear plants are starting to come on line.
3.8 GW per year world production for 2007
2017 @ 48% per year = 3.8 x 50.4 = 191.6 GW
2021 @ 48% per year = 3.8 x 241.9 = 919.2 GW

191 GW per year PV production in 10 years
919 GW per year PV production in 14 years

Please don't tell me it's going to slow down. Why would it? Price of energy is high, PV prices are dropping, new PV technology already in production can support huge further drop in price, and BIPV (building integrated photo-voltaic) is increasingly being used. If that isn't enough the raw Si shortage is coming to an end this year:
(Can you imagine 48% growth rate DURING the raw Si shortage? Holy smoking techno-revolution batman!)

PV works fine on roofs of all kinds and in the future will more often BE THE ROOF, ...and the walls, ...and the windows. BIPV is here now.

CST worse than coal? What have you been smoking? ...deisel extract?


Sorry, didn't mean to reference back to the same site. Forgot where I was for a minute.


mds: good post. Of course technological revolutions go through an S curve. If you plot LOG of capability versus time, the curve reaches some rapid slope, which it sustains for a while before leveling off. There will be some level at which PV begins leveling off. This will likely be when it has reached some degree of saturation in the best markets, whereby the costs of intermittency begin to outweigh the benefits for an incremental increase in capacity.

I understand where Charles is coming from. I used to work in the high performance computer industry. When some new related paradigm comes along and captures nearly all of the public mindshare, but you KNOW that it is not a complete solution (i.e. your own solution is needed as well), you develop such a mindset. Such is the case for Nuclear. Needed for baseline power. Perhaps not everywhere, but in enough markets to make it a crucial component of the energy future. Having too much of the public mindset on any one power source is not healthy.

Kit P

People like mds have been telling me for 30 years about solar. Still waiting. I am not opposed to solar just those who waste resources in the name of protecting the environment.

First is is necessary to to define what 'need' is. You need energy to keep your pipes from freezing in winter. You do not need electricity to keep your hot tub or pool warm.

In the Southwest, solar peak precedes peak demand. The capacity factor for utility owned and maintained PV systems is between 10% and 19%. Most other systems with a capacity factor of systems between 0% and 5%. How stupid are those who brag about putting in solar systems that do not work.

The net result is the dieoff of solar equipment because it does not work and apparently no one cares.

For those who want to talk about how much solar capacity has been or will be built, I am waiting for them to start talking about how much electricity is produced. Right now the number is zero or very some small number that looks like zero to the grid operator.

Charles Barton

Charles doesn't like solar. - mds

It is not that I dislike Solar. I dislike the overhyping of PV and ST technology. I think solar hot water heating is a great ideal, with mature technology behind it. Solar space heating works too, at least in the Southwest.

PV point of sales prices are not dropping, and in fact have gone up during the last four years. (See
http://www.solarbuzz.com/moduleprices.htm) In the mean time the cost of materials used to build solar installations has doubled. The construction cost for PV and ST installations run higher per nameplate KW than nuclear construction costs. Comparison of capacity factors reveal that Nuclear power plants produce 3 to 5 times as much power per equivalent nameplate rated capacity as solar installations do. Solar advocates provide misleading information when they talk about the price of solar panels dropping, or how rapidly solar installations are increasing.

The truth is that per KWh of electricity generated, solar generating facilities are far more expensive than nuclear plants, and the rapid inflation of materials costs is making this increasingly so.


Charles - "Comparison of capacity factors reveal that Nuclear power plants produce 3 to 5 times as much power per equivalent nameplate rated capacity as solar installations do."

The problem is that that they produce most of this energy precisely when we do not need it. At this time electricity practically has to be given away because running a nuke at less than full capacity is less than economic.

Furthermore nuclear like thermal coal is baseload power which is difficult to integrate with renewables as it cannot be stopped and started quickly to make the most of the savings possible with renewables.

We need more flexible power generation sources and solar PV along with solar thermal and wind can provide this. Mind you all renewable operators should be forced to provide storage to get a license to generate. This could stimulate V2G as the renewable operators could add storage and provide transport at the same time.

Charles Barton

Ender, you appear to have little concept of the orgization of energy generation. Nucks are run at fule power, not because it is impossible to run them at lower rates, but the produce power at lower costs than other energy sources. It costs about $.02 per KWh. But given the price structure of the electrical industry, electricity from Nuks sells for $0.05 per KWh. The problem is not with nuks but with renewables, that produce power in erratic, unpredictable fashion. Renewables, with the possible exception of ST power, are unreliable. You need more reliable sources of power than renewables to keep power systems going.

Kit P

It is important to understand the order that power plants supply power to the grid in the US and Canada. Nukes and renewable energy supply electricity first but there is never enough. Fossil fuel plants come on line next depending on the incremental cost. Efficient coal plants supply power next. The last to come on line are inefficient oil, coal, and natural gas.

When considering the economics of new generation, renewable energy is competing with inefficient oil, coal, and natural gas. New nukes are competing with new coal. The farther a coal plant is from cheap Powder River Basin, the less econmical it is because of transportation cost.

The only power plants that can be built fast are natural gas which are being built not because it is a good economic choice but because they are the only choice when better projects are delayed in court.

What will a carbon tax do. It will change the order that inefficient oil, coal, and natural gas plants come on line. It will not reduce ghg emissions much.


Kit P says "The net result is the dieoff of solar equipment because it does not work and apparently no one cares."

Hehe yeah that is exactly what we are seeing...oh wait...I haven't heard of anyone that returned a solar power system because it doesn't work. In case you haven't been paying attention solar market was 10 times bigger in 2007 than in 2001.

Perhaps people do care and solar actually works?


Charles - "Ender, you appear to have little concept of the orgization of energy generation. Nucks are run at fule power, not because it is impossible to run them at lower rates, but the produce power at lower costs than other energy sources."

So you are trying to say that you could run at a profit with a load following nuke plant? I don't think so. It fully realise that it is possible to run them at part load however would you make any money. Additionally can you quickly start them up and stop them in response to demand - again I do not think so.

"The problem is not with nuks but with renewables, that produce power in erratic, unpredictable fashion."

As do nuclear power plants. How often do they break down like in Florida? How often does the transmission line from the distant power station get interrupted? Renewable power is to a certain extent predictable as short term weather forcasts are getting better and better.

"Renewables, with the possible exception of ST power, are unreliable. You need more reliable sources of power than renewables to keep power systems going."

No you need advanced weather prediction and storage in electric cars to keep both the transport sector going and the electricity going when we start running short of oil. What runs the machinery that mines and transports uranium????


France's nuclear reactors comprise 90% of EdF's capacity and hence are used in load-following mode and are even sometimes closed over weekends, so their capacity factor is low by world standards, at 77.3%. However, availability is almost 84% and increasing.


Profit, you asked? From the same URL
"The cost of nuclear-generated electricity fell by 7% from 1998 to 2001 and is now about EUR 3 cents/kWh, which is very competitive in Europe. The back-end costs (reprocessing, wastes disposal, etc) are fairly small when compared to the total kWh cost, typically about 5%.

That would be about 4.6 cents/KWH in US currency. Which is competitive even here, even if it's not as cheap as if they were run at 90% capacity factor.


Agree on S curve but we're not near saturation yet. It should actually accelerate in near future. Wind was at 60% rate at one point. Solar does not have large installation limits that wind does.
Your mindset idea sounds spot on to me. Thanks.

Kit P,
I've been following solar for over 20 years. You're going to find the next ten years will be very different than the last thirty. It is less about efficiency and capacity factor than cost per kWh. High sales rate implies a few think solar can reduce their power costs. ...as energy costs continue to rise and PV costs come down. Yes, the electricity produced is negligible now, but solar is “world’s fastest-growing energy source” to quote from link given above.

Rising for three years due to over-demand and raw Si shortage. Dropping slightly over last year. The later is amazing considering the raw Si shortage is still not over and there is still over-demand. Don't think I'm over-hyping anything, just observing a clear trend. Current high cost of solar has nothing to do with material shortages. Raw Si shortage is completely a manufacturing (raw Si processing) scale-up problem. There is plenty of Si material available. Price per kWh is higher for PV than for nuke, but forecasting a future PV price drop is not hype. Nanosolar claims $0.99/Wp for CIGS, First Solar claims they will reach $1.19/Wp soon for CdTe, and several Si PV companies claim they will reach $1.00/Wp in the not-to-distant future. Claims are not the same as getting actual proof of production, but there's a reason Nanosolar is sold out for the next 18 months and there's a reason First Solar is growing so fast. Their product prices are lower. An end of transmission line consumer product like PV is going to take significant market share. The price is just starting down now.

A number of you are still arguing solar vs nuke.
Nuke dudes, solar is here. You can't argue with that growth curve ...or the lower cost technologies and BIPV available now ...or the newer stuff in the development pipeline.
Solar dudes, baseload when the sun don't shine ...with no CO2. Yes, solar energy storage will work for some applications (eg. ice makers for nighttime AC use), but this will not be cost effective for all applications and areas (N. USA in winter). Nukes or more coal?

Kit P

“Nuke dudes, solar is here. You can't argue with that growth curve.”

Actually I can argue with that growth curve. In the same post, mds wrote, “Yes, the electricity produced is negligible now...”

Dude, zero times zero is still zero.

IIRC, Clee is the only one posting here who owns a PV system and provided a rational explanation of the performance and environmental benefits. Judging from hos last post discussing about nuclear load following cost in France, Clee must be arguing solar AND nuke. Which is also my position. If you consider my observations criticism, then you are missing the point. It is not that solar can not work, it is that solar does not work.


Mostly I'm arguing for real world data instead of speculation. I only found out last year about France doing load-following with nuclear plants. I almost went after Charles Barton's comment about nuclear power costing about $.02 per KWH, but it was vague enough that in context he could have meant the incremental (fuel, operation and maintenance) costs, and not the total costs which include the sunk cost of constructing the plants. Pro or con, I prefer facts to misinformation, and yes, you can use the same growth curve to argue both ways, with saturation point a key.


Kit P,
Dude, I obviously meant negligible compared to total power production world wide.

3.8 GW world PV production in 2007 is not 0.

48% growth per annum, over 15 years that's 1.48^15 = 358, again not 0.

3.8 GW times 358 is 1.36 TERAWATTS!

Even if the little cut on your finger only has a few bacteria in it you might want to wash it with soap or use Neosporin. Exponential growth of the wrong kind of bacteria can kill you.

0 x 0 = 0 for PV? No way.

I disagree. The PV growth curve is what it is and we are no where near saturation. PV is already cost effective in Japan, Hawaii, and close if not there in a little town called LA. Solarbuzz puts average price of 125 W+ modules at $4.82/Wp, but several PV companies claim they can sell for close to $1/Wp profitably. You can install PV with no storage in the places mentioned and save money during the day. Way more so when supply catches up with demand and PV prices drop signifcantly. In the mean time, high profit margins for some of these companies will mean more rapid expansion. General energy prices will increase in the near term. PV energy prices will be a better bargain. The PV growth rate will increase. You can only interpret the growth curve one way: Smoking hot exponential growth, with more to come.


I just realized. Price of oil and gasoline has gone up over the last half year or so, primarily due to the devaluation of the USA dollar. It has gone up relative to the $. The www.solarbuzz.com module price tracking shows PV prices have continued to go down relative to the USA $. The PV price drop in USA dollars is more in real terms than what shows up in that plot.


Yes, I agree, solar is no where near it's saturation point, but you can still argue it both ways. Saturation point for solar may be anywhere between 5% and 20% of our electricity usage without storage. Nuclear is already at 20% which means in terms of new installations solar easily beats nuclear in terms of having 50% annual growth rate. But electricity storage for PV (vs solar thermal) is terribly expensive, so I'd bet that PV will not reach 919.2 GW world production by 2021. It will have hit the bend in the S-curve by then. In the meantime I seem to be happier about the 50% growth rate than Kit P is.


" . Building Integrated PV (BIPV) is already starting to be used by home builders in CA, AZ, and FL. Expect this trend to continue and the installation cost of PV to drop precipitously. "

Has anybody calculated the cost of all the fatalities and quadriplegics created by people falling off their roofs while cleaning solar cells?

" The 91st richest man in the U.S., a roofing company billionaire, has died after falling through his home garage's roof, local authorities said Friday. "



Well argued Clee. Ice for AC use and longer life, lower cost, battery technology will take PV well past 20% in my opinion. That is speculative though.

He was checking his roof construction and fell through. Hire a professional if you're worried about it. I use climbing ropes on my roof. No problem. Coal power has way more fatalities associated with it than PV.

Cyril R.

I like nuclear because it can displace coal (if we build enough of them that is!)

The interesting thing about PV though, is that it dovetails some specific peaking loads. In particular, building cooling needs. Storage is hardly a problem for this need: ice or cooled water in big tanks take care of daily miscorrelations.

There are some ways to deal with peaking loads like that with nuclear power:

* Peaker nuke. Too expensive IMHO.
* Thermal storage + additional turbine on baseload nuke. Requires oversized reactor.
* Same, but with electrical storage. Too expensive IMHO untill breakthroughs occur (Eestor?). Doesn't need an oversized reactor though.
* Same, but with hydrogen. Ahem.
* Same, but with CAES. Non-combustible (AACEAS?) in the future maybe.
* Same, but with pumped storage. Suitable locations are getting rare so something new like inverse hydro dams in the sea/ocean would have to be developed. The Dutch are seriously considering building it.
* Hybrid fuel production/peaker nuke (fuel production during low demand, electrical during high demand).

The last option is very promising as it can deal with oil problems.

However, no one is seriously working on these developments, so I think PV might be invaluable here. With Te, Ga, In, etc. in short supply, and other concepts still in the laboratory, solving the silicon production shortage is crucial.

Kit P

How much electricity is produced by PV? There is confusion between selling solar panels and making electricity.

It is interesting that mds mentions bacteria and the PV growth curve. Introduce bacteria to a new food supply and they grow exponentially but the population levels out at a steady state when die off equals new cell production.

The “3.8 GW world PV production in 2007” will only make electricity with a 20% capacity factor under idea conditions when the electricity is not needed. Over the years I have document a number of systems that do not work. Some never produced electricity and were paid for with your tax dollars for the sole purpose of being politically correct.


Perhaps your past experience is poor predictor of future PV installs.

Producing power when it is not needed is not correct based on peak power loads in sunbelt and ability to use chilled water or ice to reduce power needed for cooling (AC) later in the day.

Solar Solutions

Let's hope that the silicon shortage isn't long term. Solar energy demand is going to explode soon. Thermal and other solar alternatives may have to be further developed.


The U.S. Geological Service issued a report in April ('08) that only scientists and oilmen knew was coming, but man was it big. It was a revised report (hadn't been updated since '95) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota; western South Dakota; and extreme eastern Montana ... check THIS out:

The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels.

Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable... at $107 a barrel, we're looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.

'When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea.' says Terry Johnson, the Montana
Legislature's financial analyst.

'This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years,' reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It's a formation known as the Williston Basin, but is more commonly referred to as the 'Bakken.' And it stretches from Northern Montana, through North Dakota and into Canada. For years, U.S.oil exploration has been considered a dead end. Even the 'Big Oil' companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough ha s opened up the Bakken's massive reserves... and we now have access of up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!

That's enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 41 years straight.

[And if THAT didn't throw you on the floor, then this next one should - because it's from TWO YEARS AGO, people!]

U.S.Oil Discovery- Largest Reserve in the World! Stansberry Report Online - 4/20/2006 Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world is more than 2 TRILLION barrels. On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction.

They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth. Here are the official estimates:

-8-times as much oil as Saudi Arabia

-18-times as much oil a s Iraq

-21-times as much oil as Kuwait

-22-times as much oil as Iran

-500-times as much oil as Yemen- and it's all right here in the Western United States.

HOW can this BE? HOW can we NOT BE extracting this!? Because the democrats,? ?environmentalists?and left wing republicans have blocked all efforts to help America become independent of foreign oil.

James Bartis, lead researcher with the study says we've got more oil in this very compact area than the entire Middle East -more than 2 TRILLION barrels.
Untapped. That's more than all the proven oil reserves of crude oil in the world today, reports The Denver Post.

Don't think 'OPEC' will drop its price - even with this find? Think again! It's all about the competitive marketplace, - it has to.

[Got your attention/ire up yet? ?Hope so! ?Now, while you're thinking about it
. and hopefully P.O'd, do this:

Forward this to? ?all your thinking friends. If you don't take a little time to do this, then you should stifle yourself the next time you want to
complain about gas prices .. because by doing NOTHING, you've forfeited your right to complain!


The old law of supply and demand at work to keep prices up. Hopefully now the end of the so called shortage will eventually bring prices down and allow more people to venture into the solar arena.


Sascha, by the time the polysuppliers are all consolidated, there will be newer, better cutting-edge materials that make polysilicon obsolete. Not so good for those currently scrambling to get an edge on the latest technologies, but very good for us...the consumer.

Robert Hodgson

On Developing Solar Power as a Significant National Energy Source

To lower our dependence on foreign oil
To provide economic stimulus in a frightening economic environment
To alleviate stress on a segment of our nations physical infrastructure
To reduce the generation of greenhouse gases by a huge percentage

Subsidize Home Solar Installations

At present, the retail cost of a 3kw home solar installation is about $15,000. At this price an investment by the homeowner would pay off in about about 10 years (assumes an electric rate of $.12/kWH and 360 hours per month of operation at capacity). They have a life span of 25 years. So today the investment in home photo-voltaic solar panels makes sense. On the downside there is also a significant fear of the unknown because almost no one has them.

But suppose as a part of the Obama stimulus package that $150 billion were committed over 4 years to subsidize and encourage home installations. With an advertised commitment of that amount and a total cost to the homeowner of $3700 financed by the government, the popularity of the program would be immediate and oversubscribed. At this point the cost of this $15,000 installation would drop to $7500 on the basis of volume and manufacturing efficiency alone. Within the four year life of the program the cost of this $15,000 system will have dropped to $3700. This because of the predictable technological advances in the science of the design and production of photo-voltaic solar cells. This is blue-skying somewhat but it is in fact our experience with a significant public demand for technologically based products. Most dramatically this has been true of silicon wafer technology

Now of course it would make sense to have a solar panel installation coincide with a new roof but at a cost of $3700 and a payout of 2 ½ years people would do it regardless of the life cycle of the roof. Certainly no new home would be built without a solar panel installation.

Within 10 years the demand for power from the electric company would be limited to about 25% of residential demand, office buildings, electrical powered cars, and the public miscellany. Carbon based fuels for electrical power generation will have been phased out completely.

The program would directly result in 20 million installations. In short order these systems would be universal in the United States and soon spread to China, India, Russia and more and without diplomatic pressure in the slightest. It represents a promise of the whole nine yards into the end zone.

Robert Hodgson

Playing with the numbers

20 Million home solar installations would replace 60 -1000 megawatt nuclear plants. If line losses and system costs including transmission lines, transformers,and local distribution system costs were included these installations would replace 80 nuclear plants.

80 nuclear plants would cost $320 billion dollars

Of the $150 billion commitment $75 billion would be an outright grant and $75, billion would be repaid by the homeowner. Recall that Mr. Bushes' checks to the taxpayer was a $170 billion package, all of which was a direct grant. Recall also the long lasting benefit to us all that it provided. That is if you can.

A 3kW system operating at capacity half time or 360 hours/mo. Represents 1080 kWH/mo of power. At the national average of $.12/kWH that is 1080 x $.12 = $130/mo = $1555/yr.

The system payback to the homeowner is $3700/$1555 = 2.4 years

The Promise of carbon free energy could be realized easily within the 10 years advocated by Al Gore.

The Government may have to participate in ramping up polysilicon production to the levels required by the scope of this program

oilfield equipment

i think this is great that there is big demand for this. I am behind it all the way.

buy oilfield equipment products

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Right on the button!

Yuasa Batteries

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informative post on solar industry

hot water heater systems

Solar energy is a blessings to us, to fight with the problem of scare resources.


This is not a good sign. We need to seek alternatives to silicon to stop solar industry from dying.


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It will be interesting to see any further consolidation among suppliers poly over the next few years. over proportionally with the increasing supply, prices will drop and eventually force some suppliers out of business.

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