ironphoenix (ironphoenix) wrote,

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Ganked from theweaselking

Solar energy at "$1 per Watt".

If it's not another Fleischman & Pons, this may be pretty damn important!

Of course, it's hard to know just what "<$1/W" means, because Watts don't really cost, but Joules do (for convenience, they're often expressed as kilowatt-hours (1 kWh = 3 600 000 J) or other such large units, of course). The total expected energy output of a solar cell is given by efficiency times area times average incident solar power density times average lifetime; the cost of the cell divided by this total energy is the actual energy cost, and I would like to know how it stacks up against what the power companies are pricing energy at right now, both at the supply end and at the load (i.e., customer) end.

Solar is very different from coal/hydro/nuclear in that it makes sense to produce it in a distributed, rather than a centralized, way. This means that energy production can be situated closer to loads, improving efficiency by eliminating distribution system losses, but some users (generally heavy industry) will still have to draw large amounts of energy from the grid. The need for distributed generation has been known for some time, and the cost of energy generation has been cited as one of the significant barriers to this (see page 16 of this paper by the Ontario Ministry of Energy from almost exactly 3 years ago), but it's not the only barrier. Hopefully, some of the other barriers will also be taken down; technology can't help us as much there, though.
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