Sunday, May 27, 2007

Global Solar Industry May Soon Experience Decline In Costs

According to a new assessment by Worldwatch Institute of Washington, D.C., and Prometheus Institute of Cambridge, Mass., the solar industry is poised for a rapid decline in costs that will make it a mainstream power option in the next few years.

Worldwatch and Prometheus Institute's statistics reveal that the global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells has grown sixfold since 2001 - the market grew 41% in 2006 alone, the organizations say. This growth has been constrained by a shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon - the same material that goes into semiconductor chips. But the situation will likely be reversed in the next two years, the organizations say, as more than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan and the U.S. plan to increase production capacity.

"Solar energy is the world's most plentiful energy resource - the challenge has been tapping it cost-effectively and efficiently," says Janet Sawin, a senior researcher at Worldwatch. "We are now seeing two major trends that will accelerate the growth of PV: the development of advanced technologies and the emergence of China as a low-cost producer."

In the meantime, supply shortages have led manufacturers to find ways to use polysilicon more efficiently and have accelerated the introduction of new technologies that do not rely on purified silicon and are less expensive to manufacture, Worldwatch and Prometheus Institute add.

Awakening: China Promoting Solar Water Heaters for a Cleaner Country

China, one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases, is working hard to cut its emission rates. So it's now promoting solar energy powered solar heaters but cost is still a challenge.

NEW DELHI, INDIA, May 25, 2007 - In the past few years, China has posted an impressive growth in the production of solar cells. In a span of just 2-3 years (nearly form 2003 to 2005), China fortified its position in the worldwide solar cell production market by moving from nearly 1.05% to about 7.8%, according to a recent report "China Energy Sector Analysis" by RNCOS.

The country houses some of the most polluted cities of the world and is likely to leave US behind as the largest producer of greenhouse gases by the end of this decade. While the image of 'dirty-dragon' is well deserved for China, Beijing officials are extremely serious about developing solar power capacity domestically and becoming a major player in this fast-emerging and pollution-free technology.

Following a recent strategy to foster nationwide use of solar energy, the government of China is encouraging new constructions (like buildings) and key users of heated water (like schools, restaurants, hospitals, and swimming pools) to install solar water heaters.

"It is time for China to scale up use of solar water heaters as the technology has become mature and cost-effective", said a top official with the NDRC (National Development Reform Commission), the premier economic planning wing of China, at the International Solar Thermal Utilization Conference in Jinan in April 2007, reported Worldwatch Institute on May 8, 2007.

Solar water heaters, with around one in every ten household owning one, have firmed their place as one of the most commercialized pollution-free energy technologies in China. In 2006, the solar water heater industry showed a turnover of over US$ 2.5 Billion (around 19.9 Billion Yuan) in China. Consumption of solar power in China during 2006 accounted for less than 10 MW in the total electricity consumption of around 2.78 Billion MW. However, by 2010, China believes to produce and consume around 300 MW of solar energy, nearly equal to Japan's figures last year, the world's second largest solar energy consumer.

According to the RNCOS report "China Energy Sector Analysis", for energy supply diversity, China has aimed to cut its reliance on oil and gas that will open-up opportunities for renewable sources. But price factor will play a crucial role, as renewables are dearer than coal. Apart from economic benefits, China has rich deposits of coal. But with the advancement in technology, it's projected that renewables can become competitive with coal at value front.