Solar energy: a bright spot in renewables

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - Solar energy is gaining market share, as interesting new technologies are being developed to drive this renewable energy source forward.

The oil price fluctuations and global warming concerns have sparked a concentrated interest in promoting solar energy applications. In fact, the outlook for the global solar energy market is projected to more than double to reach $70 billion by 2013.

SRI Consulting (SRIC) published its new Materials and Technologies for Solar Energy report that details the solar materials and technologies used in first through fourth generation photovoltaic applications, including an overview of solar thermal.

Solar power, like so many new energy processes, makes demands of chemicals during equipment manufacturing or operations. The first- and second-generation photovoltaic cells require different forms of silicon, rare transition metals and metalloid elements. As a result of increased silicon costs, the third and fourth generation technologies are focusing on organic polymers or nanomaterials and the lower manufacturing costs they offer.

Bob Davenport, Director of the Safe and Sustainable Chemicals series at SRIC commented, “Developments in organic photovoltaic technology have made significant improvements in recent years, with cell efficiencies reaching over 5%. However, silicon based cells in the commercial photovoltaic industry are still the predominant technology because of higher efficiencies reaching over 25%.”

The Materials and Technologies for Solar Energy report explores new applications where solar energy is being applied. Many opportunities exist for companies in the solar energy area from material research to manufacturing where breakthrough developments are being made at a surprising rate. The developments in organic manufacturing pose promising synergies with the printed electronics industry.

The number of specific technologies for producing photovoltaic solar cells is almost as numerous as the number of companies participating in the industry, especially with newer generation technologies. In addition, manufacturers are coming together and establishing standards. The Materials and Technologies for Solar Energy report includes information on key manufacturers and major technologies.


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