Wednesday, March 18, 2009

U.S. Lags in Solar PV

Gotta do some bad news occasionally to "keep it real." While America has been kicking ass and taking names as the world's new "wind king," sadly, it can't say the same for solar. Here's some sobering statistics from Ecogeek:

  • The world’s demand for PV power grew about 110% last year. The world now demands just under 6 GW of PV power. Spain’s share of that 6 GW is 2.46 GW. Our share? A measly 0.36 GW.

  • In the last year, China and Taiwan’s market share of solar cell production has risen from 35% to 44%. Meanwhile, our own market share – which was about 45%
    in the mid-90’s – has dropped to about 10%.

  • Of the top ten largest PV production plants in the world, guess how many are in the US? Zero, that’s how many.

And eyeball down to the chart and you'll see where where America at. The good news is it's ahead of other industrial powers, Japan and South Korea, but getting lambasted by Germany and Spain - plus, Taiwan and China are burying its star-spangled ass in the PV production department. America is the country that invented PV, for Pete's sake!!

Some other bits from Ecogeek:

So why are we lagging behind? Some might claim that sunny countries like Spain have an easier time capitalizing on sunlight. I would have a hard time believing that Spain has that much more sunlight than the entire Southwest, though.

Others would point out that PV just isn’t our weapon of choice when it comes to utility-scale solar electricity production, compared to solar thermal technologies. As long as you have ample land resources and workable land usage laws, solar thermal can deliver lower cost per watt. So maybe we’re just more of a solar thermal country than a solar PV country.

Really, though, it boils down to policy. European countries like Spain, Germany and Italy are no sunnier than the US, but their policies are. They have been pouring funds into subsidies for renewable power generation – that’s why so many GW were installed. And you know what? Now that the fixed costs are taken care of, these countries have energy-producing assets that run on free fuel. What could be a sounder investment in today’s economic climate?

Ecogeek does make a point on America's embracement of solar thermal. A deal for 1.3 gigawatts of solar thermal projects was recently inked for California. Also, it wasn't that long ago when America lagged in the wind department; now we're the king in wind-produced energy (though Germany still leads in wind energy generated per capita). Like wind, the U.S. has splendid solar potential. Let's get crackin'.

- Brewskie

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