Technology Review – Chinese energy giant Hanergy bought Miasole, a Silicon Valley-based thin-film solar company, at less than a tenth the amount venture capitalists had invested in the firm. Thin-film solar panels cannot competing with conventional silicon ones under today’s market conditions. Thin film solar might still have a strong future.
The poor market conditions that have kept thin-film companies from competing may not last: when demand increases and it comes time to start building solar-panel factories again, the argument goes, the technology might have a significant advantage, because for comparably sized plants, it could cost far less to build a new thin-film factory than a conventional one.
A gigawatt-scale thin-film plant would cost $350 to 450 million, versus $1 billion for a conventional silicon plant.
If you add the cost of producing polysilicon the equivalent to the raw materials that thin-film solar plants use, the capital cost for a silicon plant goes up to $2 billion or more, he says. But most plants buy silicon from large suppliers.)
So far, the companies with the potentially cheapest thin-film technology have built only relatively small factories that cost far more per watt than large ones, and building larger plants doesn’t make sense in the current market.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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