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The promise of solar panels

  • by JW

Prices for solar panels have come down about 75% in the past decade.

As new-generation technologies come onto the market.


Before the promise, there are the pitfalls of solar panels, as revealed in very disturbing news from this week – and as reposted on the VGS social media from Forbes:

In recent years Chinese manufacturers have come to dominate world output in solar panels and components. The conventional wisdom within the renewable energy sector, until recently, was that China had taken over the market because its companies were more efficient, with better automation and more reliable supply chains.

But events over the last few months make clear that there have been some other factors working in China’s favor: cheap coal, heavy Chinese government subsidies allowing for the dumping of solar panels on foreign markets, and the use of forced labor in conditions described as “genocide” and “slavery.”

Prices for solar panels have come down about 75% in the past decade. Some of that is due to factory automation and know how. But cheaper labor makes a big difference as well. Goldman Sachs, in a report, emphasized lower capital costs from “cheaper labour” were a key factor in China’s ability to lower costs, and the Chinese government admits that it operates “surplus labor” programs relocating millions of people from their homes in Xinjiang. It simply denies that it uses coercion in such relocations.

China Helped Make Solar Power Cheap Through Subsidies, Coal And Allegedly, Forced Labor


With an update from the FT:

Xinjiang solar industry launches charm offensive as sanctions loom | Financial Times


Moreover, there are questions about how ‘green’ the current generation of solar panels really are:

Is Solar Energy Really Green, Zero Emissions And Sustainable?

If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?

Solar Panel Degradation and The Lifespan of Solar Panels


However, there are more alternative technologies being developed.


For example, transparent solar panels

These Transparent Solar Cells Can Generate Power Under Low-Light Conditions – Mercom India

Transparent solar panels for windows hit record 8 percent efficiency — ScienceDaily

Here are a couple of companies offering ‘stained glass windows’ – which could fit in any Sid Valley conservatory:

Solar Glass – Spirit Energy

Architectural Solar Glass for Your Home | Canopies, Carports and more

photo: BRE Smart Home


Other examples of new technologies include:

… municipal paving:

Barcelona installs Spain’s first solar energy pavement | Solar power | The Guardian

… flexible panels from Singapore:

Frameless solar panels can be stuck directly to rooftops

REC Group launches greener, more powerful pure black solar panels | One Step Off The Grid

… using a novel inkjet printing procedure:

Polish firm opens cutting-edge solar energy plant – France 24

And “the next-generation” of panels thanks to a greater fundamental understanding of the structure within a key component:

Sandwich Structure Improves Efficiency of Next-Generation Solar Panels


And there are plenty of new applications for the old technologies, including:

… airports:

Solar Panels on Airport Roofs | Solar Panels Near Airports

and trucks:

Customised solar panels for trucks |


It’s quite something to see how far the technology has come.

This is from 1992:

How solar cell is made – material, manufacture, making, used, parts, structure, procedure, steps

And this is from last month:

‘Insanely cheap energy’: how solar power continues to shock the world | Energy | The Guardian