Solar panel installations continue to grow quickly, but the solar panel manufacturing industry is in the doldrums because supply far exceeds demand (see “Why We Need More Solar Companies to Fail”). The poor market may be slowing innovation, but advances continue; judging by the mood this week at the IEEE Photovoltaics Specialists Conference in Tampa, Florida, people in the industry remain optimistic about its long-term prospects.
The technology that’s surprised almost everyone is conventional crystalline silicon. A few years ago, silicon solar panels cost $4 per watt, and Martin Green, professor at the University of New South Wales and one of the leading silicon solar panel researchers, declared that they’d never go below $1 a watt. “Now it’s down to something like 50 cents of watt, and there’s talk of hitting 36 cents per watt,” he says.