I have written beffore about the reduction in price of solar energy, and how each succcessive price decline would deliver a new generation of adoption. Now, we can examine some of the specfic technologies that are driving the race to affordability, and will enable solar energy to be one of the only candidate technologies to lead an economic recovery from the present downturn.
Popular Mechanics has a roundup of five new areas of innovation in harnessing energy from the Sun. All five promise to make solar energy competitive with the cheapest sources of fossil-fuel energy, and many of these five technologies could work in combination with each other. The five technologies are the following :
Now, many of these technologies were invented before 2008, so this roundup does not alter the fact that 2008 was a year of very low technological innovation. However, all these innovations bode very well for a tremendous boom in solar power starting around 2010. Each technology has one or more startup companies mentioned in each section. The industry consensus is that solar power becomes competitive with conventional sources of power generation by around 2011, varying by the local cost of electricity and the solar intensity of a particular region (i.e Arizona becomes cost-competitive for solar before British Columbia does).
The greatest benefits, however, will accrue to emerging markets. Many poorer countries not only have electricity rates that are much more expensive than in the US, but these countries, being in more southern latitudes, receive greater solar intensity to begin with. Breakeven in these markets arrives even sooner than it does for the wealthy countries at more northern latitudes. Many villages in India, VietNam, Iraq, Egypt, and Indonesia will go from having no electricity to having photovoltaic electricity.