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Hi All -

Solar is quite viable given the advances in thin-film cells. These aren't pie-in-the-sky, but will be available in the market in 2007/2008.

Some background.

Several years ago I purchases a standard PV array producing 2.5KW taking advantage of the various incentives available in California. The list price was 21K with my out of pocket being 13K.

Since installing this system, our electric bill has gone from an average of $80-$100 a month to $5 a month, which is the cost to be attached to the grid.

I look at this as purchasing a 13K bond yielding $960 a year or just over 7%. But wait, this is a post-tax return. To get the some return, I would (at my marginal rate of approximately 40%) have to get a return of approximately 11%. Given that this investment is 1) probably as safe as a T-Bill and 2) liking to increase its yield, it is one of the best investments I have ever made.

Now, here is the kicker: the system which cost me 13K and which had a list price of 21K will be available in 2007/2008 for 4-5K. This is a 4-5 fold improvement in price.

The company delivering this solution is called Nanosolar - - and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California (aka. Silicon Valley).

Nanosolar is in the site selection process for their first factory, which they are locating in the Bay Area and which will be capable of producing cells equivalent to producing 430MW per year and 1 million panels a year.

A megawatt (MW) is the electricity required to service 500-750 hours (use to be 1000, but people are using a lot more electricity these days). This plant will be able to - in one year - produce cells sufficient to provide for the electric needs of 215,000 to 322,500 houses.

Again, this is a pipe dream or a wish. Nanosolar has secured $100M in funding from top tier funding sources (>. To build a plant of this scale for traditional cells would cost $1B ($1,000,000,000). As they noted in the press release, they are able to build their factory for the annual deprecation of a similar scale plan using the silicon cell technology.

The system on my roof - which to be honest is ideal for a PV array - is only using maybe 20% of the available space. I could easily upgrade using Nanosolar technology and build a system which would generate 12.5 KW for the same cost of my original system!

If I had such a system, I could easily run my own electrolysis system during peak production periods that would allow me to run my car on hydrogen or charge a electric car.

Take all of the roofs in North America, and you probably have an area greater than the area of Connecticut. The things is that it is a distributed system rather than a centralized system. Yes, there would still be a role for centralized fuel - hydrogen stations - and traditional power plants, but it would be dramatically reduced.

With the advent of the printable, thin-film solar cells from folks like Nanosolar, we are going to see Moore's Law kick-in with a vengeance and the price per watt of solar electricity drop significantly. It is no feasible to mandate the installation of solar array on new houses with a negligible increase in cost (below 5% for even the least expensive homes out there).

As my friend above said: "This will be affordable soon enough. Economies of scale and new technologies are very close." Amen! And with a vengeance!


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