Solar Cells are expensive, but are they becoming competitive?

The cost of traditional solar cells has been driven upwards by an increase in the price of pure silicon. In “Solar Power Lightens Up with Thin-Film Technology”, David Biello, Scientific American discusses the thin-film technology which requires less silicon.

Cheap, durable, efficient devices are needed to generate a significant amount of electricity from the sun. So-called thin-film photovoltaic cells may be just the ticket
The sun blasts Earth with enough energy in one hour—4.3 x 1020 joules—to provide all of humanity’s energy needs for a year (4.1 x 1020 joules), according to physicist Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The question is how to most effectively harness it. Thin-film solar cells may be the answer: One recently converted 19.9 percent of the sunlight that hit it into electricity, surpassing the amount converted into power by mass-produced traditional silicon photovoltaics and offering the potential to unleash this renewable energy source.

Install it Yourself?

I am not recommending this, as the technology is still new. However I find it very encouraging that people are aleady using it. The SciTech Blog has a post Installing Thin Film Solar On Metal Roof - Easier Than Falling Off A Log. Click on the below image to see an article and video on installing the peel and stick thin film solar panels:

One of the big problems with solar cells is storing electricity. The cells in the video are hooked up to your electric meter. On a sunny day, if you are producing more than you are using, your electric meter would run backwards earning credit for your future energy consumption. It is more likely is that you will be using more than you produce, but your electric bill will be reduced.

One of the latest innovations is thin-film photovoltaic (PV) laminate. Rather than requiring the heavy glass and unwieldy racks of previous systems, the peel-and-stick laminate simply adheres right onto the panels of a standing-seam metal roof. Requiring about 5-10 minutes installation time per panel, this solution is lightweight, quick and easy and demands considerably less labor than its predecessors.


Solar Cells may be futuristic, but solar water heaters are economically viable

Here is some information on solar water heaters in Barbados. The price of oil may rise even higher, but the sunlight is free. Government will also help. “Since 1996, the government of Barbados has allowed tax deductions on the purchase of a solar water heater. It is tax deductible to a maximum of $3,500.” link

Additional reading: Temas Blog - A Sustainable Energy Plan for Barbados?