The UK Telegraph is reporting that, in ten years, solar power will be half as cheap as oil and gas. Their basing their estimate on reports from companies producing solar panels, who I'm sure aren't biased at all, specifically companies creating Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (cigs) panels.
These panels do have a lot of potential, but I worry about the feasibility of coping with the world's energy needs with indium and gallium, two elements that are quite rare. Currently, the solar boom is trying to overcome a global shortage in processed silicon. And that's silicon! One of the most common elements on Earth.
Indium is a fairly rare, and difficult to process element. In 2003 the price of indium was $90 per kg. Now, because demand in solar and LCD displays, indium costs over $900 per kilogram.
There's a future in CIGS solar, and I hope that it can bring the cost per watt of solar power down significantly, but assuming that the cost of indium is going to stay the same when CIGS solar plants ramp up for global supply is rather silly. Nonetheless, solar is taking off, and EcoGeek is going on record predicting that per watt solar power will be cost competitive in less than ten years. CIGS panels are one step on that journey, but there's no reason to get overly optimistic.
written by Hank, February 24, 2007
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