Anne L. Fischer, Senior Editor, email@example.com
Market research indicates that the trend toward sustainability will be growing even a brighter shade of green in the days ahead. One has only to look at the proliferation of LED backlighting in consumer goods, the falling cost and increased installation of photovoltaic systems, the adoption of LEDs in numerous lighting areas – and the optimism surrounding it all to understand that the green we’re seeing today is not about to fade away.
Bright prospect in lights
Cost has always been an issue with LEDs. Now costs have dropped to the point where LEDs are the way to go in general lighting, backlighting and more. Christopher Blansett, an equity analyst at JP Morgan in Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area, believes that we’ll see a new generation of LED lighting products in the next 12 months that will lower the ownership cost of LED lighting below that of mainstream fluorescent products for the first time. He noted that municipal, commercial and industrial users who “made the transition to fluorescent lighting 20 years ago” are most likely to be early adopters of LED-based lighting to reduce their operating costs further.
On the chip side, demand for LEDs for large-size backlight operations, general lighting, smart phones and other applications has been so strong that, according to Taiwanese research firm LEDinside, it’s caused a strain in the supply chain, but the market has also stabilized (and, in some cases, dropped) pricing for white LEDs. Naturally, with prices dropping, adoption is soaring. One LED manufacturer who is taking flight is Durham, N.C.-based Cree. The company announced that it will add 575 jobs in the next three years and will increase production in both its Durham and China plants.
The OLED niche
Organic LEDS (OLEDs) have been a technology waiting to take off. According to a market research report released by iSuppli in October 2009, OLEDs have found a home in high-end televisions – a niche market, but a strong one nonetheless. The report forecasts that OLED-TV revenue will increase by a factor of 200 through 2015, driven by consumers seeking incredible image quality as well as lower energy consumption compared with that of the television’s LCD counterpart.
Steady advance in solar
The solar business has been a roller coaster ride for most. Numerous factors contribute to the unsteadiness: the downturn in the global economy, the price of silicon, the crash of the market in Spain and increasing market saturation. According to Photon Consulting’s Solar Annual 2009 report, the supply chain will be completely saturated by 2010. This will lead to cost reductions and lower profit margins for module makers. In November, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Applied Materials, a maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, announced cuts of 10 percent or more of its workforce. CEO Mike Splinter indicated that the cuts are cost-saving measures in response to the consolidation they’re seeing among customers, loss of orders and the simple fact that supply is exceeding demand.
The good news is that while costs come down, installations – and thus manufacturing – go up. The falling cost of solar photovoltaics was the focus of a report (Tracking the Sun II) recently released by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which found that the average installed cost of a solar system declined by 30 percent from 1998 to 2008, with a 4 percent drop in 2009. In PV Manufacturing in the United States, by Greentech Media of Cambridge, Mass., analysts report that they expect the US will have 38 photovoltaic manufacturing plants by 2012, compared with 26 at the beginning of 2009. Consequently, solar component manufacturing will rise, creating as many as 20,000 new jobs over the next four years.