Can a new solar panel manufacturing process revolutionize the photovoltaic energy industry?
Bill Nye, widely known as “The Science Guy,” recently put his name behind an advanced solar technology that promises to drive down prices and create less waste. The goal is to make photovoltaic systems cost-competitive with other energy sources.
This technology is interesting, but will this innovation change the future of the U.S. photovoltaic solar panel market?
Silicon is the main component of photovoltaic panels, and it isn’t cheap. Plus, conventional manufacturing methods waste up to 50 percent of the silicon. The high cost of silicon and the waste ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers.
The new manufacturing technology proposes using a particle accelerator. This theoretically devises a cutting and handling technique that creates super-thin slices of high-grade silicon with little waste. Less silicon and less waste should translate to much lower costs, right? In fact, the company believes that their photovoltaic panel prices may be up to 60 percent cheaper.
The cherry on top? These solar modules are said to be 25 percent more efficient than the solar industry standard!
That all sounds appealing. But if we look at this situation more closely, much of the buzz about these solar panels is around Nye himself. After all, he’s a trusted expert in the scientific community. (You may remember a similar level of buzz around Elon Musk’s solar roofing technology, which has yet to pan out.)
But is that enough to justify waiting around for this new technology?
These photovoltaic panels are not yet in production — the company is still seeking investors — so at this stage, the technology is still unproven. The company is attempting to crowdfund its equity for research and development, a process they admit is only possible with Nye on board.
New technologies in any industry take years to reach the consumer market, and this one is coming from a startup. So while the manufacturing innovation sounds promising, it won’t be taking the photovoltaic industry by storm anytime soon.
Today, solar panel costs are at an all-time low. And many flexible financing arrangements are available to help any household afford a photovoltaic system installation.
At the same time, electricity rates have been steadily rising for the last several years. Signs point to this trend continuing. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that residential electricity costs for 2018 will average $13.16 per kilowatt hour, up from $12.51 in 2016.
Every day you wait to install a solar panel system is one more day of paying full price for home electricity instead of using free energy from the sun.
If you need another reason not to wait, financial incentives for installing a photovoltaic system are disappearing. The federal solar tax credit — offering 30 percent back on net system costs — will be gone by the end of 2021. Many state and local incentive programs have already expired or are scheduled to end this year.
The sooner you get started with your home photovoltaic system installation, the greater your savings will be. Intermountain Wind & Solar provides professional system installations in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada. Contact us today to learn about all of your options for installing affordable, effective solar panels and photovoltaic systems.
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