Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Personal Electricity System Uses Solar Energy and Mobile Phone Technology

What if you could tap into a personal electricity system that uses solar energy and mobile phone technology, rather than grid-based power? Recently, a UK company called Eight19 announced a solution called IndiGo, which is a pay-as-you-go, personal electricity system for the developing world. Combining solar power and mobile phone technology subscribers can light their homes and charge mobile phones using scratchcards.

Using solar energy, Eight19 believes it can increase access to electricity for over 1 billion people who are not connected to the grid. The project will not only help improve the lives of Third World residents by bringing light and refrigeration to the villages, but it also helps minimize the negative impacts of living with kerosene – both via the fumes and expense.

Steve Andrews, CEO of Solar Aid, commented:

“We are excited to be working with Eight19 on this revolutionary technology. Solar energy offers huge economic, health and social benefits to the world’s poorest people; for lighting and mobile phone charging. Eight19’s technology opens up these benefits to many more people. This is a major breakthrough”, said Steve Andrews, CEO of Solar Aid, a charity supporting product trials in Kenya.

Its easy to switch to solar power with the IndiGo system. Components include a low-cost solar panel, a battery unit with inbuilt mobile phone charger and a high efficiency light emitting diode (LED) lamp. Users can put credit on their IndiGo device using a scratchcard, validated over SMS using a standard mobile phone.

Simon Bransfeild-Garth, the CEO of Eight19 comments:

“We are very encouraged by this new way of delivering energy to off-grid applications in emerging markets. Indigo enables a new generation of solar power products that are affordable, providing customers with access, often for the first time, to clean low cost energy that eliminates the health risks and carbon emissions of kerosene.”

Source :

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rooftop solar prices fall 'precipitously'

The upside to the brutal global competition in the solar industry is a steady and sizable price drop for homeowners and utilities.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory yesterday released the latest figures in a multiyear study of price trends for solar photovoltaic equipment and installation. Overall, the study, commissioned by the Department of Energy and the Clean Energy States Alliances, paints a picture of a maturing industry and falling product prices.

From 2009 to 2010, the price of a residential solar electric system fell 17 percent to $6.20 per watt, or a $1.30 decline. Measured from 1998, the installed costs fell 43 percent. The data is garnered from more than 100,000 installations of commercial and grid-tied residential solar panels, which are usually under 10 kilowatts in capacity. The costs don't include a 30 percent federal tax rebate and state incentives.

"Wholesale PV module (panel) prices have fallen precipitously since about 2008, and those upstream cost reductions have made their way through to consumers," Galen Barbose of Berkeley Labs' Environmental Energy Technologies Division and report co-author said in a statement.

Related stories:
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• Falling solar costs: Good for buyers, bad for makers
• Solar industry shakeout leads to more large projects

The trend will continue this year as the average cost of systems has already fallen 70 cents per watt, or 11 percent in the first half of 2011, the study found. Larger systems, including commercial arrays and utility-scale plants, saw the lowest price declines. The average installed costs for systems over 500 kilowatts fell 26 percent from 2009 to 2010.
(Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

The data should not be a surprise to solar industry followers who have seen three U.S. solar companies declare bankruptcy in the past few weeks and ongoing industry consolidation. In another indication of tough times, solar industry analyst Jesse Pichel of Jefferies this morning cut his ratings for three Chinese solar manufacturers, citing questions over demand in Europe and "adrift" prices.

Another notable finding from Berkeley's data is that costs separate from the panels, or modules, are moving downward as well. About half of the cost of a solar installation is tied to other equipment, such as inverters, and the installation.

"The drop in non-module costs is especially important as those are the costs that can be most readily influenced by solar policies aimed at accelerating deployment and removing market barriers, as opposed to research and development programs that are also aimed at reducing module costs," report co-author Ryan Wiser said in a statement.

Systems prices can vary by state significantly and new homes have significantly lower installed costs compared to retrofits, the study found.

Analysts say that lower prices will help entice homeowners and businesses to buy panels, but the bigger impact may well be on solar leasing financing programs. Because solar installers have lower equipment costs, they can offer financing services, which avoid upfront costs, in more regions.

Waiting for prices to fall further, however, does not seem to be the best strategy. The Berkeley study notes that price declines were offset by changes to state incentives for renewable energy. Pre-incentive prices dropped $1 per watt for residential customers and $1.50 for commercial customers last year, but incentive changes resulted in net installed cost decreases of 40 cents per watt and 80 cents per watt.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jeremy Leggett

Green entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett advocates following China and Germany's move towards investment in solar power now that start-up costs are falling drastically.

Wall Street has developed an aversion to solar-company stocks. Yet in the USA, solar jobs now outnumber steel jobs and in Germany solar jobs outnumber nuclear jobs.

Most big energy companies and half of Whitehall profess that solar can never be a serious player in national energy plans. Yet the UN and others have recently concluded that solar could play a major role in a world mostly run on renewable energy.

Who to believe?

Follow the money” is a useful guide. The global average cost of manufacturing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has been falling 18% for every doubling of capacity in factories for many years now. As a consequence the average price for a solar PV power plant in the US was $7 per watt in 2007 and $3 per watt this year. In the 6 years it would take to build a new coal plant in America starting today, solar PV will be the cheaper option.

This inexorable fall of 18% in cost means that solar electricity ever nears costing the same as conventional electricity: "grid parity", as energy pundits call it. Grid parity is coming in every country. The timing varies with domestic electricity pricing, but there can be little doubt that solar electricity is going to be cheaper than conventional energy almost everywhere within the decade. Those who say “solar is more expensive than gas and coal” take a misleading snapshot in time: they make a one dimensional statement about a two dimensional phenomenon.

A nuclear plant takes more than ten years to install, a solar PV plant of similar output one year. As for rooftop solar, zero-emission solar homes can be built in a matter of months, as SSE and Solarcentury have shown in practice in the UK.

A revolution is unfolding. At least some investors appreciate this. A record $211 billion flowed into clean energy in 2010, driven in the main by Chinese wind power and European solar roofs.

British industry must not miss out on this revolution. Neither must our increasingly hard-pressed citizenry, few of whom will want to be paying ever rising Big 6 electricity prices based on coal, gas and nuclear, beyond the UK’s solar grid-parity crossing point.

It is no longer credible to say that solar can’t play a major role in a sustainable energy mix. Deutsche Bahn intends to run the entire German railway system on wind, solar and hydropower. The German economics ministry has collaborated with German companies to run a scaled model of the national economy on a real mix of renewables, including solar, and concluded that a healthy modern economy could be run on renewables, including baseload electricity. In a report due out later this year, the International Energy Agency will admit that solar can provide 60% of global electricity by 2060.

It is not good enough to say, as some do, that if a global mass market is inevitable, the UK should sit back and partake come the day, not before. This is a strategic miscalculation. We do not want to be importing every aspect of our energy infrastructure ad infinitum. National security considerations such as peak oil increasingly demand that we have domestic industries that are as stand-alone as humanly possible.

In this respect there should be many opportunities for the government. The prime minister has emphasised the Big Society idea as a flagship programme of his tenure, and he envisions many of the jobs that must countervail the austerity measures will come from British participation in the green industrial revolution that he says is unfoldling around the world. Solar is an important part of that. Ask the Chinese. In 2000 they had little solar. Now every second solar cell is made in China. The government would not have to do much to fashion a Big Society/green industrial revolution case-history worth boasting about.

Around the nation, as things stand, thousands of jobs are being created in the embryonic British solar industry. Tens of thousands of citizens are in the process of being empowered in community projects. The cause of this is a solar-energy feed-in tariff: a market-enablement process used by over 40 countries around the world that entails premium pricing for solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity funded by a small levy on all energy bills. With its feed-in tariff introduced in April last year, the UK has belatedly joining the party in one of the fastest growing markets of any kind globally.

The opportunities extend well beyond solar. Solar generation would soon be marriable at scale with the energy efficiency measures due to be stimulated by the government’s Green Deal. Innovative integrated energy-services financing would become possible, unleashing substantial net energy cost savings.

Feed-in tariffs are supposed to decrease annually, as solar prices fall. That is part of their inate attraction. Unlike nuclear, solar does not need subsidising forever. But the staged reductions in tariff, down to zero within the decade, have to match the market. It is no good introducing sudden deep cuts. That stalls a market, as a number of governments have discovered this year.

The first reductions for UK rooftop solar PV tariffs will begin in April 2012, and are under review right now. The government has to get this just right. Reductions in tariff have to be deep enough to fairly reflect falling solar prices, and not too deep to stall the development of a domestic UK solar industry.

Ministers like Greg Barker and Chris Huhne understand. Others do not. They listen to the calls of the nuclear and gas industries, who among others lobby to slow or kill the solar rollout in multiple countries by cutting feed-in tariffs to the bone. In France, for example, the nuclear industry has all but emasculated the French solar feed in tariff, and hence market.

Creating a Big Society/green-industrial-revolution case-history worth bragging about will involve the government creating a smooth glide path to solar grid parity in electricity markets. This in turn will involve not listening to many of the lobbyists working for the big energy companies, and many civil servants too. They are too wedded to the past, and cannot see what Silicon Valley investors, and the Chinese, see.

Source :

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Solar plants could be able to run at night with a new system developed by BrightSource

By Kevin Bullis

BrightSource Energy has become the latest solar thermal power company to develop a system for generating power when the sun isn't shining. The company says the technology can lower the cost of solar power and make it more reliable, helping it compete with conventional sources of electricity.

The company, based in Oakland, California, is building one of the world's largest solar thermal power plants. The 392-megawatt solar plant in Ivanpah, California, however, will not include the storage technology. Instead, BrightSource is working with utilities to determine which future projects could best benefit from storage.

Solar thermal systems use mirrors to focus sunlight, generating temperatures high enough to produce steam to drive a turbine. One of the advantages of the solar thermal approach, versus conventional photovoltaics that convert sunlight directly into electricity, is that heat can be stored cheaply and used when needed to generate electricity. In all solar thermal plants, some heat is stored in the fluids circulating through the system. This evens out any short fluctuations in sunlight and lets the plant generate electricity for some time after the sun goes down. But adding storage systems would let the plant ride out longer periods of cloud cover and generate power well into, or even throughout, the night. Such long-term storage could be needed if solar is to provide a large share of the total power supply.

BrightSource is using a variation on an approach to storage that's a decade old: heating up a molten salt—typically, a combination of sodium and potassium nitride—and then storing it in a tank. To generate electricity, the molten salt is pumped through a heat exchanger to generate steam. BrightSource CEO John Woolard says one big factor in making this technology economically attractive is the use of power towers—in which mirrors focus sunlight on a central tower—that generate higher temperatures than other solar thermal designs. That higher temperature makes it possible to store more energy using a smaller amount of molten salt. "It's a much more efficient system and much more cost effective, overall," he says. Source :

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beyond Capacity: Why Italy Changed Its PV Strategy

By Yoav Banin, Solergy
20 juillet 2011

Reducing costs is essential to achieving broad acceptance of solar energy and lessening dependence on fossil fuels. However, the latest episode in Italy's PV incentives drama has proven that grid parity alone is not enough to drive widespread adoption.

In addition to cost, both urban and rural Italians are carefully considering how to integrate PV into their environments in a way that is compatible with their daily lives and broader energy sourcing goals. In the short-term, they are prepared to pay higher incentives and accelerate permitting for certain PV configurations that reflect these goals, such as building integrated (BIPV), rooftop, and CPV.

The previous version of Conto Energia succeeded in driving record PV adoption but at an unforeseen price. The runaway success of Italy’s 3rd Conto Energia resulted in a boom of PV installations that far exceeded anyone’s expectations. Today, Italy has a total installed capacity more than 7.2 GW, enough to be considered a world leader alongside Germany. The nation also boasts some of the largest PV plants in the world.

However, the expected cost of the program raised alarms in the government and led to the suspension of the 3rd Conto Energia law only five months after it was enacted, far short of its intended three-year duration. Further concerns over land use, aesthetics, a loss of critical agricultural lands, and insufficient local content and job creation have led to a ‘pushback’ from regional governments, industry groups and consumers.

Even before the government got involved, individual regions were already fighting PV speculation by placing restrictions on the size and type of plants installed. For example, the Puglia region, the leader in total and per-capita PV installed in Italy, blocked many permits and authorization requests to limit the consumption of precious land, especially due to its rich tradition in olive orchards. Sicily resisted giving up its land to foreign speculators to install PV plants without a clear, long-term return on this investment.

Instead, the regional government focused on programs whereby local jobs and factories are created as part of an overall package to promote both solar energy and local economic development. A successful example of this policy is the recent opening of the 3Sun factory in Catania, Italy’s largest PV panel factory with over €200 million investment and immediate creation of 280 jobs.

Changing priorities

To remedy the unintended problems with the previous statewide policy, the government approved the 4th Conto Energia law in May. While generally reducing incentives across the board, the revised law specifically discourages deployment of PV plants based on flat panels. Incentives for these plants are being reduced every month with cuts as high as 20 to 30 percent by the end of year, depending on plant size.

Additional size restrictions for large plants aim to reduce land consumption. ‘Large’ plants are defined as any ground-mounted plant greater than 200 kW and any rooftop installation greater than 1 MW. These large plants have an installation cap of 2,690 MW and an incentive budget of €580 million ($824 million) between now and the end of 2012. Further, there is a complex system of access restrictions to ensure that the expense budget for large plants is respected.

There are also restrictions on use of agricultural lands for PV. In order to be eligible to receive incentives, an installation must not exceed 1 MW, occupy more than 10 percent of the crop-producing land, and must be at least 2 km from another plant. This design not only avoids destruction of productive land but also prevents the visual destruction of Italy’s beautiful countryside. It is no secret that huge PV plants or wind towers can be quite an eyesore and destroy the panorama for miles.

In contrast to the above restrictions, incentives for CPV and innovative building-integrated PV have remained virtually untouched. The new law precisely promotes PV systems that are innovative and aesthetic in their design, installation and integration. Further, it encourages smaller plants that are harmonious with broader land use strategies.

Grid parity, Italian style

With the announcement of the 4th Conto Energia law, Italy has declared its intention to continue its drive to renewable and clean energy sources. It has re-affirmed its commitment to PV by targeting 23 GW of installations by 2016 and voting against nuclear power development in a recent national referendum. Further, the PV incentives have been maintained despite the passage of the recent austerity budget cuts.

Italy has evolved its tariff policy not only to help usher PV into the age of grid parity (estimated to take place by 2015/2016, the point after which all incentives will be phased out), but also to guide the manner in which PV is deployed. The tariff program encourages self-consumption of the energy at the point-of-use rather than just feeding electrons into the grid indiscriminately. It leverages the fact that the sun's energy is available everywhere and therefore lends itself to distributed generation as opposed to fossil fuels that must be transported to large, central power plants.

Italy’s new alternative energy vision reflects the fact that the country lacks the spare land or open deserts that can be carpeted with utility-scale PV like in the United States or Australia. Instead, it has a rich and varied terrain filled with precious agricultural lands, orchards, dense urban areas, tourist attractions, and archaeological treasures that must be preserved.

Despite the past construction of some of the world’s largest PV plants (often by foreign multinational developers), going forward, the integration of PV must better reflect the nations’ needs and available resources. This requires PV installations that maximize efficiency and energy output in constrained spaces and flexibly respond to the particular integration requirements of each location. Emerging technologies such as CPV and BIPV respond to these requirements and at the same time are quickly working their way down the cost curve toward grid parity.

Italy is still one of the most-lucrative markets in the world for PV developers. Now, they will have to adapt and align their offerings with the more mature and demanding specifications of this unique market.

Source :

Friday, July 15, 2011

Africa - Renewable Energy Rising Rapidly

"Global investment in renewable energy jumped 32% in 2010, to a record $211 billion. It was boosted in particular by wind farm development in China and small-scale solar PV installation on rooftops in Europe. ... Significant investment is also starting to be seen in Africa, which posted the highest percentage increase of all developing regions, if the emerging economies of Brazil, China and India are excluded. ... Total investment on the continent rose from $750 million [in 2009] to $3.6 billion [in 2010]." -- Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011

As noted in another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today and available on the web at, progress at global climate talks is painfully slow and inconsistent, with serious setbacks likely unless there is new momentum by the end of the year. But, as indicated by this new report on renewable energy, there is significant progress on some fronts away from the global negotiations. The new UNEP report on global trends in renewable energy investment, excerpted below, comments:

"There was a sense, in both the second half of 2010 and early 2011, that progress in renewable energy was taking place at a pace that public opinion and policymakers in many countries were simply failing to spot. This progress was both in investment levels and, even more, in costcompetitiveness with conventional power sources."

Another sign of increased momentum on the renewable energy front was the launch of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), with headquarters in Abu Dhabi. An initial consultation earlier this month resulted in the "Abu Dhabi Communiqué on Renewable Energy for Accelerating Africa's Development," also included in this AfricaFocus Bulletin. While the language of the declaration echoes all too familiar conference boilerplate commitments, it indicates a growing consensus that renewable energy must take higher priority in Africa's development plans. As prices drop, and renewable energy becomes more competitive, private investors as well as policy makers are taking the sector more seriously.

Source :

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Japan's Richest Man Challenges Nuclear Future with Nationwide Solar Plans

Solar energy is going to be a driving force in rebuilding of Japan's energy sector after the devastating earthquake that caused much destruction earlier this year.

Billionaire Masayoshi Son has a track record in taking on monopolies after building a business that opened up the nation’s telecommunications industry. Now he aims to shake up Japan’s power utilities after the worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

Son, the 53-year-old chief executive officer of Softbank Corp. (9984), plans to build solar farms to generate electricity with support from at least 33 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. In return, he’s asking for access to transmission networks owned by the 10 regional utilities and an agreement they buy his electricity.

Radiation has spread across at least 600 square kilometers (230 square miles) in northeastern Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in May he will rethink a plan to increase atomic power to 50 percent of the nation’s total from 30 percent. Renewable energy accounts for 10 percent, according to Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, and Son wants that ratio to be tripled by 2020.

“The question is how this nation is going to survive after cutting nuclear power,” Son said at a government panel meeting June 12. “A framework should be designed in a way to make the power business open for anyone who has the will to start it.”

Sunny Farms

Solar plants using 20 percent of unused agricultural land in Japan can have the generation capacity of about 50 gigawatts, almost matching that of Tokyo Electric, Son said.

“We can probably invite more companies to invest in our solar projects once a business model is set up,” said Yukiko Kada, governor of Shiga prefecture, who is one of Son’s partners.

The Japanese government may break up utilities’ regional monopolies and separate their power-generation businesses from distribution operations, Kyodo News reported May 31, without saying where it obtained the information. A panel will begin discussing the issue from June as the government seeks to reform the power industry by 2020, Kyodo said.

Any move to separate power distribution from utilities “should have a national discussion after careful analysis on the merits and demerits as well as the impact on the stability of power supply and electricity fees,” Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Keidanren, Japan’s biggest business lobby, said on June 6.

“It’s an extremely important issue that can impact the international competitiveness of Japanese industries,” he said

Article Source: posted on The Asia-Pacific Journal

A scientific advance promises a revolution in the ease and cost of using solar cells

A scientific advance in renewable energy which promises a revolution in the ease and cost of using solar cells, has been announced on July 4, 2011. A new study shows that even when using very simple and inexpensive manufacturing methods -- where flexible layers of material are deposited over large areas like cling-film -- efficient solar cell structures can be made

The study, published in the journalAdvanced Energy Materials, paves the way for new solar cell manufacturing techniques and the promise of developments in renewable solar energy. Scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge used the ISIS Neutron Source and Diamond Light Source at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire to carry out the research.

Plastic (polymer) solar cells are much cheaper to produce than conventional silicon solar cells and have the potential to be produced in large quantities. The study showed that when complex mixtures of molecules in solution are spread onto a surface, like varnishing a table-top, the different molecules separate to the top and bottom of the layer in a way that maximises the efficiency of the resulting solar cell.

Dr Andrew Parnell of the University of Sheffield said, "Our results give important insights into how ultra-cheap solar energy panels for domestic and industrial use can be manufactured on a large scale. Rather than using complex and expensive fabrication methods to create a specific semiconductor nanostructure, high volume printing could be used to produce nano-scale (60 nano-meters) films of solar cells that are over a thousand times thinner than the width of a human hair. These films could then be used to make cost-effective, light and easily transportable plastic solar cell devices such as solar panels."

Dr. Robert Dalgliesh, one of the ISIS scientists involved in the work, said, "This work clearly illustrates the importance of the combined use of neutron and X-ray scattering sources such as ISIS and Diamond in solving modern challenges for society. Using neutron beams at ISIS and Diamond's bright X-rays, we were able to probe the internal structure and properties of the solar cell materials non-destructively. By studying the layers in the materials which convert sunlight into electricity, we are learning how different processing steps change the overall efficiency and affect the overall polymer solar cell performance. "

"Over the next fifty years society is going to need to supply the growing energy demands of the world's population without using fossil fuels, and the only renewable energy source that can do this is the Sun," said Professor Richard Jones of the University of Sheffield. " In a couple of hours enough energy from sunlight falls on the Earth to satisfy the energy needs of the Earth for a whole year, but we need to be able to harness this on a much bigger scale than we can do now. Cheap and efficient polymer solar cells that can cover huge areas could help move us into a new age of renewable energy."

Source : ScienceDaily (July 4, 2011)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Find out how much green energy you could generate and install your solar panels in the right place

Power predictor from Better Generation

Before spending a lot of money installing a PV solar (1) or wind turbine (2) generating system, it is vital to survey the planned site to ensure that the prevailing weather conditions are suitable.

The Power Predictor not only logs wind speed and direction data, but also counts the number of hours of sunshine. The Power Predictor (6) from Better Generation Ltd (7) includes a solar radiation sensor, wind direction vane, and wind speed measuring anemometer. This is connected via a rugged 5 metre cable to a self-contained waterproof recorder unit with LCD (display) which when powered by a 9 Volt battery will provide up to one year of continuous monitoring. It retails (price last checked on 11th March 2010) at £152.75 (including a twelve month software license for the analysis software on the Power Predictor website).

Power Predictor from Better Generation

Power Predictor was invented by Toby Hammond, a managing director of Better Generation, and is the result of 2 years of research and development. He said,
"For most people, micro power generation is a step into the unknown. No one should spend thousands of pounds on renewable energy equipment without knowing the payback time based on the amount of energy they could generate at their premises. Our intention has been take the guesswork out of micro generation by creating a device that is not based on modelled data, which is often inaccurate, but on site specific data that shows anyone at home or at work, how much they could save by generating solar or wind energy."

Collected data are written to a removable 512MB memory card which can be read by a PC or Mac via USB (using included USB adapter), and uploaded to the Power Predictor website once you have collected more than 30 days of data. With a constantly updated database of the many solar panels and wind turbines on the market, different generation options can be compared to see which will offer the biggest financial and carbon (8) savings, and the fastest payback periods at the tested site.

The Power Predictor is powered with a 9V (PP3) battery (included) and should last 6 months in normal conditions.

Web Link References


Source :

Friday, June 17, 2011

Top 10 Myths Surrounding Solar Energy: Interview with Edwin Koot

'Solar energy in the UK? You are joking right!' Ever heard that phrase? Edwin Koot, CEO of Solarplaza addresses the 10 major myths surrounding solar energy.

1. Generating solar energy is only possible in countries with an abundance of sunshine   

The fact is, the sun's energy is the most evenly-spread source of energy in the world. In any part of the world where there is light, solar panels will work. The world’s largest market for solar energy is Germany, a country not particularly blessed with long sun-filled days, but a country with a smart government nonetheless. In the summer, almost 10% of the household electricity in the south of Germany is generated by solar panels.  Of course, when you’re developing systems in the Sahara region, your return on investment (ROI) will be higher - but many other factors come into play, such as the presence of a grid, the local consumer price for electricity, your energy usage pattern, the political stability in your country, your need for independence from external sources of energy, and much more. As an example, in Northern Alaska it is smarter to invest in solar energy than to pull a cable from a far-away power plant or grid connection point.  

2. Solar panels are only attractive in niche markets   

Solar energy is an attractive product in any place in which people need electricity - which nowadays is anywhere in the civilised world, globally. That is a much larger market than just large-scale solar plants in desert areas, which are very competitive markets because they require the creation of new grids, are competing with wholesale electricity prices and are crowded with many other power-generating enterprises.  When you focus on solar panels that can be mounted on a rooftop, for household or entrepreneurial use, you can compete against the local consumer and corporate rates for electricity. You can compare this with the market for compact fluorescent lamps, where the consumer saves money on a longer term by investing a small sum of money. The ROI is made at the end-consumer level: the cost of the electricity bill. The investments are very simple, and no new grids or other types of costly infrastructure are needed.

3. Solar energy needs a lot of public financial support and could never become competitive   

“People will never buy laptops.” “Flat-screen televisions are too expensive for the general consumer market.” “Mobile communication is too expensive in comparison with landlines.” These are some of the opinions that we have heard in the past - and how untrue they are! Laptops, flat-screen televisions and mobile phones are now everywhere, because people wanted them and were willing to pay for them - with the result that in the end prices fell due to mass production methods that could be applied for these innovative products. The same is now happening with solar energy systems.In the past three years, the prices of solar panels have dropped by half, as a result of the introduction of large-scale production methods. Market research shows that innovative consumers want solar energy now. In five years’ time the masses will also switch over, as throughout Europe solar energy will have become cheaper than the polluting electricity from the grid.
Public funding was created in the past to accelerate this process of acceptance by the general consumer. In the largest markets, subsidies are now in the process of being terminated. By next year, Italy and Germany will see their non-subsidised solar energy already proving cheaper than electricity from the grid. The other European countries will soon follow this trend.
And further countries will follow worldwide, for the simple reason that the global market is growing bigger and solar systems are being produced on a larger scale, resulting in cheaper modules. That is one thing that’s for sure. The other side is that nobody knows what the costs for traditional energy will be 10 years from now. Today, new nuclear plants are not even being built without substantial government funding because their future is so insecure.  

4. The efficiency of solar panels is still too low

True, there’s room for improvement. Like cars getting more economical every year, solar panels are getting more efficient every year. Does this mean that the current panels aren’t good enough? No, the technology is mature. What is at stake now is not the efficiency of panels, but the price per generated kilowatt-hour. Just as it is no longer about the type of motor in a car, but rather about how much fuel the motor consumes per mile.There will still be new types of solar panel developed, with improved efficiency, but the real success of solar energy in the future will lie in large-scale production and the growth of the global market. A low purchasing price for a solar panel will be the determining factor for low-cost generation of solar energy for the consumer.Are you waiting before buying a car because the models will be better, faster and greener in two years' time? Not if you need a car right now… In the same way, people need solar panels right now and buy them now, because they help them realise certain goals, such as independency from the grid, lower electricity costs and a carbon footprint shift. No new technologies are needed to create a breakthrough for solar panels. Solar panels are the breakthrough.  

5. Solar panels have a high carbon footprint and are not sustainable

Solar panels are usually made from silicon. Silicon is found in sand, one of the most widespread natural elements on earth. The ovens used to transform the sand into silicon use a lot of energy - that is true. But the payback time for the energy used to produce a solar panel is only one to two years. This means that in this time the panel generates the total amount of energy that has been used in its entire production.All power generated after the payback time is pure green profit, while solar panels can last 25 to 40 years! Other sources of energy have much longer payback times. Specifically, nuclear power plants have extremely long payback times - so long in fact that it is questionable whether all the power that generated during their lifetime is enough to pay for the energy used to build and disassemble them.

6. Solar panels are unreliable because they do not work on cloudy days or during the night   

Right now, the wind energy market is (still) bigger than the solar energy market, although the sun is a more reliable source of energy than the wind. But solar energy will soon surpass wind energy - firstly because solar panels can be used anywhere, and secondly because they can be implemented in a modular way. This means that it is very easy to expand the solar energy system over the course of months or years.The combination of solar and wind energy is a nice option, but the future lies in the combination of solar energy with energy storage at both the local and central levels, especially now that the market for transport of electricity is set to develop further.The market for decentralised energy storage is also going to be a phenomenal growth market. Decentralised energy storage in batteries makes it possible to store the power generated during the day and use it in the night. An example is charging your electric car at night. Energy storage is already a hot item - you only have to think of laptops, iPods, iPads and electric scooters and bicycles - but solar energy will give this market a massive boost. The combination solar power generation and energy storage for later use is a perfect one.  The central energy storage market and solar energy systems market will stimulate each other mutually because when storage gets cheaper, it becomes cheaper to generate solar energy with the purpose of storing it and using it at a later stage.

7. The major energy corporations do not believe in solar energy and thus it cannot be good

Shell has ended their engagement with solar energy. Exxon does nothing with solar energy. Many of the large energy corporations prefer to invest in coal power plants. But, don’t expect a wholesale slaughterhouse to specialise in gourmet green meat products. Shell has oil in its blood and their business is based on it. Large multinationals are like large tankers on the ocean: they are very difficult to manoeuvre and cannot make quick changes in their course.  Solar energy is a sport for fast and flexible entrepreneurs, with a preference for innovation and sustainability. The market is volatile and ever-changing, like the wind in the sails of an elegant and fast-sailing ship. An entrepreneur in solar energy has to be like the shipper of such a sailing ship, sometimes tacking in headwind, sometimes sailing with ease down the wind - but never windless…And in this light, the electronics market giant Sharp, a worldwide market leader in solar panels, has shown us that some large companies do believe in solar panels. Sharp has understood that the mass production of solar panels would lower their price, and that ‘mass = cash’. The mass market for solar panels is about to enter the playing field – and not just in Japan.  Shell has predicted that in 2040, 50% of worldwide energy will be generated by sustainable sources. Chances are big that sooner or later Shell will buy one of the consolidated winners in the solar energy market. Some of the ‘small’ solar panel-producing companies have already grown into large corporations, with thousands of employees and turnarounds of a few billion dollars per year.Google grew in ten years to become one of the largest companies worldwide - so why not a company in solar energy systems?

8. Solar energy has no role in global energy generation   

Today, solar energy provides only 1% of the worldwide energy needs. But this contribution could be growing surprisingly fast. Germany is the guiding country, where it is expected that in five years' time, 10% of all energy used will come from solar panels.And what Germany can do, other countries can do too. For emerging economies, building large coal or nuclear power plants has already become redundant, as solar panels are becoming so cheap so quickly. You can compare this with the introduction of the mobile phone in India and other countries that didn’t even have a mature landline grid. Those grids were never further developed and never will be, because they were made redundant by the introduction of the mobile technology. The same thing could happen with the introduction of solar energy in emerging countries' markets. The building of new, large power plants will become redundant, because individual, decentralised power generation is cheaper, more efficient and much more flexible.  The photovoltaic world market has grown by over 100% in 2010, compared to 2009, and it already started to grow in this way in 2009. If this logarithmic growth percentage of 100% continues, then solar energy will cover the entire global energy needs in less than ten years' time!  

9. Solar panels are unsightly and take up a lot of space

That really depends on personal taste. Of course, there will always be people who believe a smoking chimney of a coal power plant is the apex of industrial technology and aesthetics. Other people don’t mind showing that they are generating their own electricity and therefore have solar panels on their roofs. Anyway, there will always be enough space on earth for all the solar panels ever needed.Mind you, only a relatively small desert area of 200 by 250 kilometres (125 by 155 miles) filled with today's solar panel technology would be needed to fulfil Europe's entire electricity requirements. But, luckily, we don’t have to enter into those beautiful desert landscapes because there is enough roof area available in Europe to realise this supply. And on a lot of roofs, the panels won’t even be visible.Also, more attractive panels will be introduced on the market as production methods and innovations progress. Compare this with modern-day cars, which are so beautiful, compared to the vintage cars of the ‘sixties and seventies… or not?

10. Solar energy systems are unreliable and require maintenance

Solar energy systems do not have moving parts and therefore require no or hardly any maintenance. The most fragile part in a grid-connected solar energy system is the inverter, which converts the DC from the solar panels into AC equal to the voltage of the grid.An inverter costs about 10% of your total energy system cost. It consists of some pieces of micro-electronics, can last about ten years, and can easily be replaced - and by then probably at an even lower price.Only in dry and dusty climates can it become necessary to clean the panels regularly with a little water. If you live in an environment where it rains often, you don’t even need to do that.  A solar panel recycling programme has already been implemented in many countries, so if, after 25 years of loyal service you need to replace your solar panel, the solar energy sector has processes to recycle all panels 100%. And no coal power plant can beat that.