Is solar still viable?

Singapore, 10th September 2013

Today I read an interesting article about the state of solar panel production in China. Under the heading ”Darkness falls on China’s solar dream” the article explores how China’s global domination plan is collapsing with manufacturing over capacity and company’s in debt as a result. It is said that currently 70% of the world’s solar panels are manufactured in China, with 8 of the top 10 companies coming from China! China’s push to world domination was triggered in the mid 2000’s when countries like Germany, Japan, USA and Australia started to provide incentive schemes to encourage solar projects, which created massive demands for the solar panels. China subsequently started to build bigger and bigger, automating the process, backed by huge government financial support. This in turn made the prices tumble and today the article reports that the average solar panel price is about 40 US cents per watt when it was around US $3 per watt in 2004!

With economies shrinking, incentive schemes reduced or no longer available (note also this was also triggered in protection of energy companies!) the demand has dwindled down and China’s over capacity is having serious impact on the viability of solar applications. It was reported that China has currently 10 times the solar panel production capacity of the global need in 2004 and 60% more than was installed worldwide last year! In the process solar manufacturers in Germany, Japan and the US were seriously hurt and branding the Chinese government’s financial backing unfair advantage and if my memory serves me well some import restrictions were mooted at the time against China in response to protect the local manufacturing. I read that the Chinese government supported the local solar panel manufacturing financially to the tune of nearly US $50 billion! This now hangs as a huge debt over the remaining manufacturers, with many already having called it quits…

So is solar still viable? It seems like the economic forces driven by Chinese greed have damaged the industry for one. On the other hand the performance of the solar panels has certainly increased over the years making the solar option in terms of value for money more realistic. However if government subsidies to the manufacturing industry and to the end user are no longer in force does it still remain a viable option?…To be continued…

Light Watch 4-152: Solar applications…

 

 

 

 

10. September 2013 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: going green, light watch, lighting and sustainability, lighting and the economy, lighting applications, lighting of the future | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. Very interesting story indeed, new trend lately is the use of solar paneled facades as well, looks quite good too >>> http://www.designboom.com/architecture/impressive-solar-panel-facade-on-la-school-by-brooks-scarpa/ so maybe there is still a future for it still…

  2. Hi martin,
    very interesting to read from the other side of the world. Here in Germany 9 from 10 Solar panel manufacturers had closed down due to ruinose pricing from China. Governmental protection was too late. Now we have here another problem: we are overpowered by green energy! the big power companies have economic troubles with their established coal and gas plants running round the clock and cannot compete economically against the green power, but must be kept running for the green power sources are not constantly available all day round.
    Strange change of energy world!
    Thomas

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