Archive for the ‘Solar Energy’ Category

Japan’s richest man comes out swinging for solar

Japan’s Richest Man Challenges Nuclear Future

Masayoshi Son, CEO of Japan’s Softbank, has declared his intention to build 200 MW in total solar electric capacity with plants in at least 33 of Japan’s 47 perfectures if he can get agreements from Japanes utilities to buy his electricity. Shockingly, Japan has less than 20 megawatts of installed solar capacity installed today in spite of it being a leading manufacturer of solar cells. Japan is far behind the United States and Europe in the opening of its electric grid and the restructuring of regional electric utility monopolies.  Son might be able to galvanize a real move toward a non-nuclear future for Japan.

Solar Cheaper Than Fossil Fuel in 5 Yrs

Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co. (GE)

“If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office. The 2009 average U.S. retail rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity ranges from 6.1 cents in Wyoming to 18.1 cents in Connecticut, according to Energy Information Administration data released in April.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, announced in April that it had boosted the efficiency of thin-film solar panels to a record 12.8 percent. Improving efficiency, or the amount of sunlight converted to electricity, would help reduce the costs without relying on subsidies.

The thin-film panels will be manufactured at a plant that GE intends to open in 2013. The company said in April that the factory will have about 400 employees and make enough panels each year to power about 80,000 homes.

Solar-panel makers from Arizona to Shanghai are expanding factories to add more cost savings that analysts say will sustain the industry’s expansion. Installations may increase by as much as 50 percent in 2011, worth about $140 billion, as cheaper panels and thin film make developers less dependent on government subsidies, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast.

The cost of solar cells, the main component in standard panels, has fallen 21 percent so far this year, and the cost of solar power is now about the same as the rate utilities charge for conventional power in the sunniest parts of California, Italy and Turkey, the London-based research company said.

Utilities need to have incentives to put in place devices that save energy, and Congress needs to provide greater certainty on tax policy surrounding renewable energy, Little said.