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Solar Energy: The Will of the People

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Where there’s citizen will, there’s a way.

That was the central message behind the “Industry Perspectives on Hot Markets in Photonics: Solar Energy” talk at Photonics West 2009, delivered by Eric Wesoff of Cambridge, Mass.-based Greentech Media.

Wesoff showed the audience, members of which were lined up along the walls as the room filled beyond capacity, a picture of a grand solar panel installation, and he asked where the audience thought it was located. People murmured, but no one guessed correctly.

“It’s Germany,” he said. “You can tell by the fog.”

He went on to explain that, despite its often foggy weather, Germany makes up 52 percent of the global solar market. It’s not because of the weather – it’s because of public policy and citizen will. The people want solar energy, Wesoff said, and so they’ve made it happen through government initiatives and simple demand.

“Germany has the same solar resources as Alaska,” he said, “but it owns the solar market.”

The first phase of photovoltaics, Wesoff noted, was when PV was used for space applications only, and price was no object; the second phase was when PV was adopted by “hippies and survivalists,” people making lifestyle choices to live off the grid; and the more recent third phase has seen technical innovation, product scale-up, commoditization and the approach of grid parity, which is the point at which solar energy is equal in cost to – or cheaper than – grid elecricity.

The next phase will involve a favorable public policy and tax policy, a continuous cost curve and more innovation – the technology will become ubiquitous in the United States, he said.

“It’s about politics more than it’s about cadmium telluride quantum dots,” he added.

Laura S. Marshall               
Jan 2009
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
ar panel instalationcadmium telluride quantum dotsenergyEric WesoffGerman solar marketgreen photonicsGreentech MediaIndustry Perspectives on Hot Markets in Photonics: Solar EnergyphotonicsphotovoltaicsPVSoSolar EnergySPIE Photonics West 2009

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