Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on the earth today, with the amount of energy reaching the surface equivalent to 7,500 times annual energy consumption. Solar PV cells are robust solid state devices that can operate under virtually all light conditions.
Solar PV cells rely on semiconductors to absorb light, and convert it into electricity. Each semiconductor is characterized by a bandwidth, and the optimum bandwidth for a solar collector is 1.4eV. The most popular material for solar cells is crystalline silicon, and the market is dominated by cells made from either single crystal or multicrystalline silicon (polycrystalline silicon) substrates. At its best silicon can achieve close to 25% energy conversion efficiency.
Solar PV cell costs have fallen rapidly over the past four to five years, and this has led to the technology becoming more competitive, in turn leading to cuts in subsidies for solar photovoltaic installations. With the cost and value of solar energy in flux, the US state of Minnesota has recently introduced a new, transparent approach to solar pricing that could for the benchmark for solar tariffs.
The market for solar cells has shifted away from Europe, the main driver for the past decade, towards Asia and the Asia Pacific region. However the market is also broadening and growth can be expected in many parts of the world – that have previously not shown a strong take up.
Key findings of this report
- By 2013 the aggregate global installed capacity was 136,700MW, and annual growth was 37,007MW, the highest annual growth yet recorded.
- In 2013, the largest capacity addition, 11,300MW, was in China, followed by Europe with 10,253MW.
- By far the largest US market was in California, with 2,621MW of solar PV added in 2013.
- The largest share of the market in 2013 was taken by multicrystalline silicon cells (polycrystalline silicon), with 64% of the total, followed by conventional single crystal silicon (monocrystalline silicon) with 19%.
- In March 2014, German modules were priced at 0.68/W and Japanese/Korean modules at 0.69/W. The continued price difference reflects a perception that Chinese modules are less robust and reliable than their competitors, but the margin is narrowing.
Key Topics Covered:
Chapter 1. Solar power, the solar resource and the growth of solar cells
Chapter 2. Solar cell technologies and technology trends .
Chapter 3. The economics of solar cells.
Chapter 4. Future market and economic prospects for solar cells.
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