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Solar had a bright year in 2010, outlook sunny for 2011

January 11, 2011

Despite the slow global economy, 2010 was an overall good year for the solar power industry with exciting sector growth and technological developments.

Globally, solar power installations are projected to have doubled from 7.2 GW in 2009 up to 15.7 GW in 2010.  Continued growth is expected in 2011 with global installations topping 19 GW. 

As for the cost of photovoltaics, a recent report released by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab that has been tracking their total installed cost since 1998, called Tracking the Sun III, shows that wholesale module costs dropped dramatically in 2010 and preliminary reporting shows a corresponding steep drop in average installed cost.  They are planning on releasing another edition of the report that will continue to analyze trends in module cost. 

On the technology side of things polycrystalline silicon is still the leading technology with almost 90% of total photovoltaic installations, but thin film semiconductor based solar cells are catching up.  In December, California based MiaSole had a 1 square meter area copper – indium – gallium – selenide (CIGS) solar cell tested at the National Renewable Energy Lab that showed a 15.7% efficiency.  That is a record for a commercial scale cell made with a CIGS absorber layer.  And in manufacturing, leading cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cell maker First Solar, reduced their module manufacturing costs to $0.76/Watt by continuing to increase their manufactured module efficiency to 11.2%.  That’s down by almost 50% from $1.59/Watt in 2005!

This is all just a small snapshot of all the activity in 2010, it was truly a busy year in the solar industry and there’s lots of exciting developments on the horizon for 2011.