Monday, February 20, 2017

Like silicon through the hourglass, PV makes sense in these times.

When I began my exciting journey into the world of solar in 2009, there were a good handful of American solar manufacturing companies. Evergreen Solar for instance, was the proprietary producer of a string ribbon cell wafer at a plant in MA. Some other companies who had manufacturing plants in the US were BP (cells and modules in MD), Sharp Solar (modules in TN),  Solon America Corp (modules in AZ), Abound Solar (modules in CO), and Nanosolar (modules in CA) just to name a few. Solar is still going strong, even though these aforementioned companies have since moved production out of the US, or closed up shop.  

PV is still a booming industry and rightly so! Especially in California,  where energy rates are forecasted to potentially rise at 3.4% per year through 2040.  
How do we know that investing in current PV technology is going to pay off? For starters, the average PV investment pays off in 4-7 years depending on the cost of energy it is covering and whether or not the investment is purchased outright or financed.  But what if they come out with some new technology that is way better than traditional PV in the next few years? Cell phone and computer technology change by the year. The truth is, there are emerging technologies. Ones like cylindrical PV cells and spinning concentrated PV cells. These all sound like the next best thing when they come out. It is important to note though that the solar panel design popularly used today is the same design that was invented in the 1950’s by Bell Labs. The solar cells developed then were 6% efficient. Now we are developing solar cells with efficiencies up to 34.5%! This accompanied with a square ingot design allow for maximum efficiency per square foot. Most solar panels come with a 25 year power output warranty stating that the unit will be producing no less than 80% of the original output in 25 years!  
square solar cells Four Phase Energy install.JPG
Square Solar Cells Example Four Phase Energy Install
Even the first solar panels that were made are still putting out power! This means that unless the panel or conductors are physically damaged, we don’t really know when or if the cells will quit producing! Take these factors into account when considering investing in the current technology. There is a reason that PV is and has been used in the same way for over 50 years! It’s working.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingot , https://eec.ucdavis.edu/files/02-06-2014-The-Future-of-Electricity-Prices-in-California-Final-Draft-1.pdf , https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42509.pdf

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