I sure wish the businesses/lobbyists/government coalition/antagonists would stop getting in each others way, virtually insuring an outside-looking-in scenario regarding the forefront of what-is-next. My educated guess is that it ain't fossil fuel (although, lifting from the global warming vernacular to extend a metaphor, I think any true exit from fossil fuel will happen at a glacial pace).
Right now China is one of the high-fullutin' pollutin'-ist, raw coal burning placed in the world. No doubt. However, what incremental small steps are they taking to change that so they can achieve at least what we have here?...
In one city in China, they have a Solar cell making factory that manufactures more photovoltaic panels than is made in all of the U.S. And, 90% of it is exported to the U.S., U.K., Spain, and France. The handwriting is on the wall... they're looking to jump the chasm that we - in essence - are in. We're in it scratching to get to the other side.
Scary part is that while we bemoan the idea of relying on the Middle East for oil, we'll end up relying on outside sources for the tools for renewable energy, until we get up and running again. Heck, we invented PV cells, I just want to lead in the industry too.
Some info (with some stuff in bold; notice the growth of the solar industry and the U.S.'s businesses investment in it are couter-intuitively - and tragically - inversely proportional)...
January 10, 2008 Volume 15, No. 1
U.S. Is Virtually A Non-Player In The Solar Power Production Business
BY RICHARD A. McCORMACK firstname.lastname@example.org
The United States invented photovoltaics -- the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity -- but its industry is falling far behind the rest of the world in production and in installations, according to the Earth Policy Institute. In 2006, U.S. producers manufactured only 154 megawatts of PV systems, or 8 percent of total world production of 2,521 megawatts. That percentage is expected to decrease in 2007, as production throughout the world, especially in China, surged by more than 50 percent to 3,800 megawatts.
"Recent growth in China is astonishing," says the Earth Policy Institute. "After almost tripling its PV production in 2006, it is believed to have more than doubled output in 2007. With more than 400 PV companies, China's market share has exploded from 1 percent in 2003 to over 18 percent today. Having eclipsed Germany in 2007 to take the number two spot, China is now on track to become the number one PV producer in 2008. The United States, which gave the world the solar cell, has dropped from third to fifth place as a solar cell manufacturer since 2005, overtaken by China in 2006 and Taiwan in 2007."
The global market for PV systems is expected to be worth $12.9 billion in 2007, according to a market study from BCC Research. That should increase to more than $32 billion by 2012, a compound average annual growth rate of 15 percent. Shipments of PV systems should total 13,724 megawatts by 2013, says BCC.
China will export more than 90 percent of its production in 2007. It will install only 25 megawatts of PV, but it is planning to build a 100-megawatt-photovoltaics farm in Dunhaung City, "which would have five times the capacity of the largest PV power plant in the world today," says Earth Policy Institute.
Germany lays claim to being the world's largest market for installations, despite its cloudy skies. The country added 1,050 megawatts of capacity in 2006, becoming the first country in the world to install more than one gigawatt of solar power in one year. "Driven by a feed-in tariff that guarantees the price a utility must pay homeowners or private firms for PV-generated electricity, annual installations in Germany alone have exceeded those in all other countries combined since 2004," according to Earth Policy Institute. There are now more than 300,000 buildings in Germany with PV systems, triple the German government's goal of its 100,000 Roofs Program launched in 1998.
The United States is almost bereft of companies that produce photovoltaic panels. Only one of the top 10 companies worldwide in PV production is American owned: First Solar, which ranks in eighth place globally, with 61 megawatts of production during the first six months of 2007. First Solar's output of PV cells was about one-quarter of the production from world leader Sharp of Japan (225 megawatts). The other top 10 producers for the first half of 2007 were Q-Cells of Germany (160 megawatts) in second place; Suntech of China (145 megawatts); Kyocera of Japan (108 megawatts); Sanyo of Japan (87 megawatts); Motech of Taiwan (85 megawatts) Deutsche Solar/Shell of Germany (66 megawatts), Mitsubishi of Japan (55 megawatts) and, in tenth place, SunPower of the Philippines (54 megawatts).
[Silver lining alert] First Solar is capitalizing on the global shortage of silicon, which is used in both the making of PV panels and in semiconductor chips. First Solar is using cadmium telluride thin films for its PV panels, allowing it to "leap" into the top 10 list of global PV producers, says Earth Policy Institute. It is the fastest growing PV manufacturing company in the world.
"The average price for a PV module, excluding installation and other system costs, has dropped from almost $100 per watt in 1975 to less than $4 per watt at the end of 2006," says the Earth Policy Institute. "With expanding polysilicon supplies, average PV prices are projected to drop to $2 per watt in 2010. For thin-film PV, production costs are expected to reach $1 per watt in 2010, at which point, solar PV will become competitive with coal-fired electricity.
Germany is a heavily cloudy country and they are on top of solar...Japan, China,... something's wrong with this picture...