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First Solar: Quest for the $1 Watt

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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 01:57 PM
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First Solar: Quest for the $1 Watt
Published: 11:48 EST, July 23, 2008

First Solar: Quest for the $1 Watt

Technology / Energy

Photovoltaic cells, once so costly they could be used only to power million-dollar satellites, are today turning up even on humble parking meters. Now a brash Tempe, Ariz., company called First Solar plans to take the technology to the next level by making it cost-effective enough to compete with coal-fired generation.

Achieving grid parity--selling power to the nation's electric grid at a competitive price--has long been a holy grail of the photovoltaic industry and other suppliers of alternative energy. Yet despite the company's soaring price share and its multimilliion-dollar order book, First Solar declines to speak to journalists.

In the August issue of IEEE Spectrum, British writer Richard Stevenson combines a journalist's knack for investigation with the expertise of a solid-state physicist to piece together how First Solar has cracked the problem. He concludes that the secret involves not the photovoltaic cell itself but the way in which it is manufactured. Instead of the familiar silicon, the design uses a compound of cadmium and tellurium.

Not long ago it was little more than a laboratory curiosity, largely because nobody had found a practical way to make the cells much larger than a postage stamp. First Solar has now refined the manufacturing procedure to blow up the cells to poster size.

Already the firm has been able to make a profit selling the panels to utilities in a number of countries--particularly Germany--that subsidize alternative energy sources for environmental reasons. Available figures suggest that the manufacturing cost per watt delivered is still too high to compete with that of power delivered on the grid, but First Solar has told investors that it expects to be able to lower the cost substantially.

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On the Road Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 02:48 PM
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1. Good Luck to Them
some of the cost numbers from the solar people themselves look pretty hopeless. Maybe this company can turn it around.
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ElectricGrid Donating Member (211 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 05:30 PM
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2. grid parity will happen eventually...
either current costs will go up or somone will crack the barrier.
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