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The Future of Solar Energy as a Result of Current Energy Crisis

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  • Bashir Syed
    Dear Friends: The future of RE energy based on Supply and Demand. As all of us know the Demand for Energy is increasing by leaps and bound all over the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2005
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      Dear Friends:
      The future of RE energy based on Supply and Demand. As all of us know the Demand for Energy is increasing by leaps and bound all over the globe.With recent disruptions caused by Katerina hurricane we already observe the climbing prices for Petroleum products, gasoline, and natural gas. 
      In Renewable Energy arena the big Hydro-Electric power projects are also in jeopardy in many parts of the developing world partly due to aging and partly due to increased demands due to population growth. The other three aras Wind, PV and Biomass certainly hold a promise but there are emerging problems in certain areas.
      All of the RE areas require infusion of money. Wind is the fastest growing sector of RE in the world. Installment of large Wind turbines require Wind studies, and can only be installed where plenty of wind exists and also require financial investments.  As a result of this supply and demand in Energy sector, the big industrial giants (SHELL, BP, and GE) watching the international needs were quick to sense the possibility of grabbing the companies involved in SOLAR -PV and associated technologies, thus creating virtual monopolies to the tune of more than 85% of the Renewable Energy market in their hands.
      Then, there is a problem for 90 % of PV industry from Silicon to final product PV Panels which is accomplished in following phases:
      1. Extraction of Silicon from sand (an energy intensive process) - feedstock. [There are about ten companies which produce Silicon in the world,
             and part of it is used by Electronics or IC indsustry]
      2. Making Silicon Ingots (mono-crystalline and polycrystalline) from raw Silicon feedstock material
      3. Sawing Crystal Ingots into Wafers
      4. Using Wafers to make Solar Cells
      5. The Cells are used to make Solar PV Panels. 
      Thus all these companies making final product PV-Panels have to depend on people or companies (which can be counted on the fingers of your hand) that extract Silicon from sand (an energy consuming metallurgical process) and also requires financial investments. According to the 2nd Solar Silicon Conference, the overall picture seems to be somewhat disturbing. During this conferencecertain facts were revealed. 
      • The annual Silicon production capacity worldwide was 27,000 tons which was increased to 31,000 tons in 2005. It's estimated that by 2010 it might increase to 50,000 tons
      • On the average 12 gm of Silicon is needed to produce 1 Watt (except Amorphous or Thin film) , and 89% of Solar Cells will be made from Silicon.
      • Better production processes would reduce Silicon usage from currently 13 g/W to less than 10 g/W just in a few years.
      • The total cell output during 2005 is estimated to be 1.53 GW. 
      • Total revenues to increase from ~ $11 million in 2005 to over $40 million in 2010, about 25% of this being earnings
      • Demand is likely to significantly outpaced supply through at least 2007 or 2008. 
      • The global Solar-Grade Silicon prices are expected to double from $24/kg to almost $50/kg and are estimated to decrease after 2008 and remain steady at $40/kg. But with unexpected hikes in Petroleum prices, RE prices may also increase due to crises in the world. 
      • As a result of this scientists are looking at other promising technologies with different pros and cons - Cadmium-Telluride, Copper-Indium-diSelenide, Sliver Cells (Australia) , Concentraor Cells (Fraunhofer Inst.) , Semiconductor painted rolls (Nanosolar, Inc.), Quantum Dots, and Composites made from Carbon-nanotubes with Conducting Polymers (Konarka, and Seimens).
      • Above all the emerging Conducting Polymer technology hold a great promise as most of Nobel Laureates who played a role in their discoveries (Richrad Smalley et al. - Rice University for Carbon Nano-tubes), and  Shirikawa - Japan, MacDiarmid - U of Penn, Heeger - U of Penn -for Conducting Polymers) are betting their horses to bring about cheaper cost effective and efficient PV Technologies for the good of common man.  
      • Konarka, Massachussets is already shipping its Plastic Solar Cells to U.S. DoD integrated in Tents, [when opened in the field are ready to provide power to operate military Lap-tops to communicate with the Command Centers and Pentagon immediately via Satellites.  
      • Sky is the limit for the uses of Conducting Polymers (Ref. my article published in EEE-Links, a NASA/GSFC Publication by EEE-Parts Group, 2002, and in English Language daily Dawn (Sc./Tech -Section), Sat. July 2, 2005, Karachi, Pakistan )].
      • Remember: As long as the Sun Shines and the Wind Blows, we still have hope in Renewable Energy. Man blessed with knowledge is innovative enough to invent or discover alternate means to survive on this planet. Thus there is hope that we can't be held hostage by OIL companies.
      Bashir A. Syed
      Vice President, R&D
      Member: APS, IEEE, ASES, ISES, UCS, New York Academy of Sciences
      EnerTech Enterprises, Inc.
      1120 NASA Parkway, Suite 220W
      Houston, TX 77058
      Ph: 281-333-9889/Direct: 281-286-3726/ Fax: 281-461-1150.
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