The Future of Solar Power:
So Bright We’ve Got
To Wear Shades

So you’re the kind of person who wants to learn about the future of solar power?

Let me guess…

You’re not a person who’s content to study history and let others decide your future.

You take the bull by the horns and take charge of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

Well, I’ve got two thoughts for you:

1. You’re awesome.

2.┬áLet’s begin.

This is an exciting time to be involved with solar power. Due to a number of factors including fuel prices, economies of scale, and interest in self-sustainability, the popularity of solar power is exploding. Solar power has entered the mainstream and there’s no looking back now.

Here are some of the things we have to look forward to in the future of solar power:

  • Lower Prices on Solar Panels
    One of the reasons for the drop in the cost of solar panels is the availability of silicon. In 2005, only 15,000 tons of silicon were available for use in the solar industry. By 2010 that had increased to an estimated 123,000 tons. Another reason for the drop is the “economy of scale” idea. This is due to the increase in solar production from approximately $1 billion in 2006 to more than $3 billion in 2010.
  • “Thin-Film” Technology
    Thin-film solar technologies usually use non-silicon materials including copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) to convert sunlight into electricity. Thin-film is not yet as efficient as a traditional solar panel but it’s cheaper, it can be easily integrated into building materials, and it can be printed from a roll like a newspaper.
  • Higher Efficiency
    There are a lot of announcements about how new solar panel efficiency records are set in laboratory conditions. Thankfully, these new levels of efficiency are becoming available in the real world. Sanyo has achieved over 20% efficiency with their HIT Double line which combines crystalline silicon with thin-film technology in a “bifacial” (two sided) photovoltaic panel. Mitsubishi recently announced that it has improved its conversion efficiency rate for multi-crystalline silicon cells to 18.9%. Also, the National Renewable Energy Lab has confirmed that SunPower has achieved 24.2% panel efficiency at its manufacturing plant in the Philippines.
  • Entry-Level Solar Power
    Solar power is going mainstream so you can expect to see more gadgets and small-scale solar options for people who want to jump on the bandwagon. IKEA has unveiled a line of solar powered lights and Veranda Solar has come up with a plug-and-play solar panel you can “hang out your window or clip to gutters and balconies”. You may not get “off-grid” with these new solar gadgets but they look cool and they will bring more people into the market.
  • Other Things to Look For…
    • Solar Power from Outer Space
      According to this idea, a satellite in high orbit (where sunshine is always present) would use microwave transmission to beam solar power to receiving stations on Earth.
    • Better Power Storage
      Different technologies could take the lead in this one but keep an eye on Sharp’s move toward developing large lithium-ion batteries.

This is an exciting time to be getting into the power of the sun and the future of solar power just keeps getting brighter.