Saturday, September 20, 2014

Solar Energy is Growing Well

I read an article this week that worldwide 40 gigawatts of solar power from photovoltaic systems will be installed in 2014.  This could grow to as high as 50 gigawatts next year.   China followed by Japan are the largest markets for solar farms.

The article below is from Digitimes a Taiwanese site

“Global solar cell demand in 2014 estimated at 40GWp, say Taiwan makers
Nuying Huang, Taipei; Adam Hwang, DIGITIMES [Friday 19 September 2014]
Global demand for crystalline silicon solar cells in 2014 is estimated at 40GWp, mainly consisting of 11GWp in China, 8GWp in Europe, 7GWp in Japan, 5GWp in the US and 1.3GWp in India, according to Taiwan-based makers.
China-based solar cell makers have a total annual production capacity of 30-32GWp in 2014 and Taiwan-based ones 9-10GWp, the sources said. China- and Taiwan-based makers together have a total annual capacity of 39-42GWp in 2014, enough to meet global demand, the sources indicated.
Global demand in 2015 may increase to 50GWp, the sources noted.”

When I wrote my book in 2003 Solar was a miniscule market, but I dedicated a chapter as to how this was going to be a technology that would proliferate.   The other markets I forecast to have good growth were LCD TVs and LEDs.  The book explained that the Hydrogen Highway was a myth and that focus on sustainability should be around solar energy, and mostly on efficiency.   Back in 2003 Arne was still a Hummer Fanatic and people were buying massive SUVs not small cars.  This has also changed.

This week I had a debate with a prof who told me it takes 9 years for the solar modules to pay back the electricity that it took to manufacture them from raw sand and other components.   I did the math and told the prof that this was impossible and the cells are fabricated on wafers that are 180 micrometers thick not the 4,000 micrometers he had used in his calculation.   There also was a math error in his calculation and I reached my own conclusion that the energy input to fabricate solar cells is now paid back in less than 4 months if the cells are placed in California and that these cells will generate electricity for more than 20 years.  This is a very useful technology.   The prof was willing to admit three year payback as he believed the 180 micrometer cells will die and thicker wafers are needed.   My research showed all leading PV cell manufacturers uses cells of approximately 200 micrometer thickness.  200 micrometers is approximately 0.0078 inches.   These wafers are now very thin and much thinner than when I wrote my book.

PVINSIGHTS is a very interesting site that reports the weekly average cost of PV wafers, cells, and modules.  Pricing this week is at an all-time low but pretty much the same as 2 years ago.  Manufacturers of PV system (Chinese and Taiwanese dominate the market) work on ultrathin margins for their ultrathin wafers and cells.  

AvgChg %
Silicon Solar Module
Negative Change Sign-0.002
Negative Change Sign-0.33%
ThinFilm Solar Module
Negative Change Sign-0.001
Negative Change Sign-0.15%
US Multi Solar Module
Unit: USD / Watt
Last Update: 2014-09-17
All Spot Prices are Tax excluded and updated on Wednesday

The price of 61 cents a watt for silicon modules accounts for between 20 to 25% of the total installed cost of a solar farm at utility scale (20,000,000 watts or greater).  Home rooftop systems (3,000 to 5,000 watts) will cost about $4 per watt on a fully installed basis, and systems on large warehouse buildings (100,000 watts) will cost about $3 per watt fully installed.  PV solar will continue to grow and we can thank the Chinese for having made the systems affordable.  It is pretty dumb for the US and Europeans to impose tariffs on these systems.   We simply should reap the benefits of the Chinese selling systems below cost and make electrons while the sun shines.  We should note it is pretty dumb to place PV systems in places where the sun hardly shines but the folks in New York and North Carolina are doing this.


  1. If you want foolish use of solar PV look at Germany. In 2013 they had 36 GW solar PV that produced 29 TWH. This gives a capacity factor of 0.092. No wonder the residential electricity rate is 35 cents per kw-hr.

    James H. Rust

  2. The capacity factor in NYC is 0.125 Solar needs to be sited where the sun shines. Not Hamburg not the Bronx.

  3. Lindsay your book is on my Kindle - will read again

  4. شركة نقل عفش بمكة شركة نقل عفش بينبع شركة نقل عفش بنجران شركة نقل عفش بخميس مشيط شركة نقل عفش بابها شركة نقل عفش ببريدة