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By Robert Rapier on Apr 29, 2008 with no responses

A Bright Story from the Solar Sector

It’s no secret that I think the best hope we have for transitioning to a post-petroleum economy is through solar power. I am optimistic that the thin film solar crowd – led by companies like First Solar and Nanosolar – will be able to deliver cost-effective solar power to the masses. I have also lately been looking at the possibility of a solar hot water heater, as I think these will be very good investments if energy prices continue to rise – especially given that there is a tax credit on these systems through 2008.

USA Today just published a new story that suggests that one solar firm (not a thin-film producer) will be able to deliver solar power for 7 cents a kilowatt hour by mid-2009:

Start-up: Affordable solar power possible in a year

I always take these claims with a grain of salt. I am hopeful, but also recognize that the majority of these sorts of promises generally fail to materialize. Nevertheless, it sounds promising:

SUNRGI’s “concentrated photovoltaic” system relies on lenses to magnify sunlight 2,000 times, letting it produce as much electricity as standard panels with a far smaller system. Craig Goodman, head of the National Energy Marketers Association, is expected to announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

Under its plans, which experts call promising but highly ambitious, SUNRGI would initially target utilities and large industrial and commercial customers. The company — founded by veterans of computer, digital design, aerospace and solar industries — would market to homes within three years.

Executives of the year-old company say they’ll start producing solar panels by mid-2009 that will generate electricity for about 7 cents a kilowatt hour, including installation. That’s roughly the price of cheap coal-fired electricity. “We’re bringing the cost of solar electricity down to be competitive with” fossil fuels, says Bob Block, a co-founder of SUNRGI.

Of course there are still barriers to transitioning to a solar economy. We need energy storage solutions, better batteries, and the price needs to continue to come down. But as I argued before, the future still looks to me to be solar.