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Jonathan Maddox

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  • China Installed More Solar Power in 2013 than the US has in its Whole History
    • Jonathan Maddox 01/27/2014 at 6:56 am

      Joe from Lowell, solar thermal power has a history going back to Archimedes.

      "One must not believe, despite the silence of modern writings, that the idea of using solar heat for mechanical operations is recent. On the contrary, one must recognize that this idea is very ancient and its slow development across the centuries it has given birth to various curious devices."

      — Augustin Bernard Mouchot, solar power engineer, at the Universal Exposition, Paris, France (1878).

      The photovoltaic effect was discovered as early as 1839, also in France, and various experiments and developments were made in the century that followed, but these were rightly in the realm of "pure science". Solar cells actually useful for power purposes (that is, toys and eventually satellites) had to wait until 1954.

      For the purposes of electricity generation, solar thermal power was hands-down less expensive than PV until about five years ago when major deployment and manufacturing subsidies, particularly in Germany and China, brought down the cost of solar-grade silicon. This unexpected development ruined the careful business plans of solar entrepreneurs relying on solar thermal technologies and those banking on other semiconductor chemistries for solar PV.

      There is no question that the sudden and unforeseen low cost of silicon PV has changed the solar game for all non-silicon players.

      This may not remain the case forever. Solar thermal power may come into its own again.

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