I have a rule of thumb. Whenever I read anything about alternative energy of any kind, I simply skip over everything and look for the one thing that matters: Is it cheaper than oil and coal? Nothing else matters, really. Burning coal and oil to make energy to produce goods and services to tax to redistribute as subsidies to alternative energy producers is a colossal waste of time. I've read thousands of articles about solar power over the years, all missing that essential ingredient. So no one was more surprised than I when I read the following in an article about Nanosolar, a startup in Silicon Valley that's pioneering an inexpensive manufacturing process for solar panels:
Nanosolar’s founder and chief executive, Martin Roscheisen, claims to be the first solar panel manufacturer to be able to profitably sell solar panels for less than $1 a watt. That is the price at which solar energy becomes less expensive than coal.
“With a $1-per-watt panel,” he said, “it is possible to build $2-per-watt systems.”
According to the Energy Department, building a new coal plant costs about $2.1 a watt, plus the cost of fuel and emissions, he said.
The first Nanosolar panels are destined for a one-megawatt solar plant to be installed in Germany on a former landfill owned by a waste management company. The plant, being developed by Beck Energy, is expected to initially supply electrical power for about 400 homes.
In an amusing turn of events for a company from Silicon Valley, the manufacturing process they use to fabricate inexpensive solar panels is so cheap partly because it avoids the use of silicon, and uses copper-indium-gallium-selenide instead. This is a profoundly big development for the future of supplying electricity to our Hot Hardware.