By: Tim Smith is a former contractor who writes about home improvement and energy efficiency topics for Modernize.com. Tim loves spending time with his family and loves DIY projects.Via Modernize
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Right now, solar photovoltaics (PV) are the most commonly used solar technology in the world. The majority of commercial and residential solar energy use consists of silicon-based PV modules, which are manufactured to be efficient, safe, and reliable. At the moment, silicon-based solar panels cost less than they ever have before, as explained at Modernize.
But several factors have a say in whether the prices will continue to decrease, putting solar panels more within reach to would-be users who haven’t yet taken the leap. Taking into account the materials needed, the manufacturing process, and the products’ level of efficiency, the price of solar panels is not going to drop significantly as long as the technology remains relatively static or favors one of these three factors more than the others. But if the industry makes great progress in the following areas, we could be looking at even more affordable solar technology in the near future.
The journey toward more efficient PV modules is expected to be steady, but gradual. The efficiency ties into the materials used, Research and Development investments, and the manufacturing process. Down the road, higher-efficiency PV will mean less material usage—for example, a few solar modules may one day be able to do the work that currently takes an entire solar array.
A Streamlined Manufacturing Process
As of right now, manufacturing solar PV is costly and elaborate. This is the factor in solar production that needs urgent attention and investment if big change is going to occur. If industry minds and funds can find a way to streamline the manufacturing process and lower the costs of production, it will enable larger-scale use of PV. The challenges involve producing a product that is reliable, which can be efficiently yielded in great numbers.
Less Materials Usage
In the near future, solar manufacturing will require less of the same materials. Thinner glass, layers, and frames will reduce the cost. Currently, thin film PV modules (the primary alternative to silicon) use less materials, and could be the future of PV. However, as of right now, they are less efficient than their silicon counterparts. The potential for using entirely new materials, rather than using less of the current materials, could also be promising.
All of the photovoltaic technologies today have been in development for at least thirty years. It’s a slow yet sure road to solar technology that involves less material consumption, a simpler manufacturing process, and higher efficiency.