Thursday, September 9, 2010

3 Facts from EUPVSEC

The one and only driving factor in the photovoltaics industry is cost per Watt. This is primarily a function of efficiency – how much of the sun’s power is converted to electricity -- and the cost of manufacturing and installation. The ultimate goal of course is to achieve grid parity, where the cost of producing power with PV is the same or better than that achieved by traditional means (coal, hydro, nuclear, natural gas, etc.). That’s Fact #1 (with the obvious exceptions of odd applications such as PV in outerspace and on ladies’ handbags).

Fact #2 is that today’s PV boon is artificially driven by feed in tariffs, tax incentives, politics, unlike “real” market boons such as high brightness LED lighting. It is ironic that the 25th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference (EUPVSEC) is being held in Spain, which just recently renounced FiTs after accruing billions of euros of debt (too much subsidized PV was brought on-line too quickly).

Fact #2 is of little long term significance, however, since billions of dollars (and euros) are being spent to advance PV technology, ultimately bringing about grid parity. This creates a real market for PV and eliminates CO2 emissions, thereby saving the world.

Fact #3 is that China is dominating the photovoltaics manufacturing business. Companies in China are able to manufacture photovoltaics more cost effectively than anywhere in the world, and by all accounts are also implementing new technologies very quickly and effectively. Never mind that their costs are low because they are able to feed energy-hungry manufacturing operations with cheap CO2-belching coal-fired power plants. Surely the CO2 reductions in Europe made possible by PV more than offset the increase in CO2 from China!? No? Well, I said never mind.

1 comment:

Wayne H said...

I liked the save the world part. Excellent parody.
I agree that we expend more energy surrounding making the product than is returned on it's own merit.
It still makes sense for places where no power is available, like boats, and backup for emergency, like public lighting, etc. That option comes with it's own price, which is sometimes justified. Trying to get cheaper than nuclear, or coal, seems like a lost cause.

Thanks for the article,