A Solar Glimmer of Hope

It puts a little glimmer of hope in my heart to hear that the Department of Energy is following up on a potentially very good development in solar power. From the Boston Herald:

A Massachusetts company has won a conditional $150 million federal loan guarantee to develop a dramatically cheaper way to produce the silicon wafers that are the key component of solar panels.

The U.S. has a small but growing 5 to 7 percent market share of the world’s solar energy industry, according to a report for the Solar Energy Industries Association. China and Germany are leading players in the market.

The price of solar energy is a major competitive disadvantage, even compared to other renewable sources of electricity.

A U.S. Energy Information Administration projection of the cost of electricity from new plants coming on line in 2016 puts the cost of solar at 21.1 cents per kilowatt hour. It’s cheaper than offshore wind (24.3 cents) but much more expensive than land wind (9.6 cents) and conventional coal (9.5 cents), for instance.

But 1366 Technologies says its manufacturing process can chop the price of solar electricity down to about 4 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020.

It has been so disheartening and depressing to watch the market forces that be keep solar and wind priced prohibitively expensive by subsidizing oil, coal and gas and depriving clean energy of investment. If Germany can commit to getting rid of nuclear energy and China can take the lead in developing renewable, non-polluting energy, so can the U.S. It’s just a decision.