Future Supply of Panels

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  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Future Supply of Panels

    For those of you that have strong feelings of saving energy, have you honestly looked at what could be done to save energy? Do you really need a home larger than a 30 foot 5th wheel? Most of us are critical of the waste of others, but justify our own waste. I could provide a very long list for ways to save energy, but really, who would be willing to sacrifice their pet wants to save the energy? :?

    When we consider the cost of fuel in Europe, you would think the fuel cost the retailers and wholesellers more. It does not. It is purchased from the same sources as the USA. Europe pays an exceptional amount of taxes :-o to their government for the fuel, and they always have. I think it is very shallow thinking to believe the USA is responsible for the high cost of fuel in Europe. :roll:

    I wonder just how much the oil industry has invested in solar? Why would Shell or BP want cheaper panels? Why would any solar panel manufacture want cheaper panels? If they could be made for a dollar and sold for one-hundred dollars, a new company would start up, and they would not sell their panels for fifty dollars, regardless of what it cost them.


    Wayne
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,793 admin
    Re: Future Supply of Panels

    In volume production and large scale resource extractions, there is not that much profit to be made.... For example (lots of cuts to keep article small):

    http://www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=16577&hed=Solar+Firms%E2%80%99+Profits+Shine&sector=Capital&subsector=PrivateMarkets

    Some companies do well, and some do not:
    Q-Cells and SunPower post better-than-expected profits reflecting booming solar market.
    April 20, 2006

    No. 2 solar-cell maker Q-Cells released preliminary figures showing its first-quarter profit jumped 129 percent, but its shares slid 6.7 percent Thursday after an investor sold his 20.5 percent stake in the company to diversify his investments.

    Another solar company, SunPower, also posted higher-than-expected profits on Thursday, reflecting a booming solar market.

    Excluding interest and taxes, Q-Cells’ profit rose to €24 million (about $29.5 million) from €52.8 million ($12.9 million) in the year-ago quarter, according to preliminary figures Q-Cells released Wednesday night.

    Iincluding interest and taxes, Q-Cells’ net income rose to €15.5 million ($19.1 million) in the first quarter from €6.5 million ($8 million) in the same period last year.

    Excluding one-time items and stock-based compensation, SunPower on Thursday posted first-quarter profit of $2.8 million, or $0.04 per share, compared to a next loss of $6.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

    Including special items, SunPower’s
    net income was $300,000, a break-even on a per share basis, compared with a loss of $7.2 million in the same period last year. Sales nearly quadrupled to $42 million from $11.1 million last year.

    The healthy earnings from SunPower and Q-Cells reflect a booming solar market. The global solar market grew 45 percent to $12 billion in 2005 from $8.3 billion in 2004, according to CLSA Asia-Pacific analyst Michael Rogol. He expects the market to top $16 billion this year and $40 billion in 2010.

    But growth has been limited by a worldwide shortage of polysilicon, solar-grade silicon, and that means companies with secure supplies of silicon have a significant advantage.

    The nature of doing high volume, international trade, is very much living on a knife edge... Make the correct guess about a market--you can do well. Make the wrong guess (or if somebody goofs in production), you can lose it all.

    When there are temporary market imbalances, hang on to your wallet, job and pray... For example, the 2000 dot.com bust and the great economy leading up to it was (hind sight is 20/20) was simply Y2K. People were willing to spend what ever it took to protect themselves against old software/hardware bugs, companies were willing to pay high salaries, and all those folks making money were spending it. Once Y2K went bye bye--every one had new computers, new networks, new phone gear, etc. Orders dropped to almost nothing--people went out of business--and there was more brand new hardware available used than anyone could use for years. We are just recovering from that now.

    Another tech pop is the Renewable Energy movement. Government are giving away tax and rate payer's money to people that now are willing to overpay for solar PV and other stuff, because it is free money. Companies will do well on the up swing, the easy installations/customers/government free money will be gone, and the market will probably collapse again.

    And that collapse will probably be caused by the crash in the futures market for oil/coal/gas and stuff (or by simple inflation raising everyone's costs, except the oil producers--as most commodities seem to lag significantly in inflationary times as people figure out how to do more with less) and the solar folks will find that the, again, have temporarily lost their price edge in the energy market. And some companies will go out of business, others will survive on slimmer margins and improvements in costs. And we will go through this ride again in another decade or so...

    If a large, well funded solar panel producer is just breaking even in this market (after costs, taxes, and stupid CEO stock incentives), they are certainly going to have difficulties in the next shake-out.

    And probably the government will try and come in and "punish" the oil companies for making too much money (in the US, the governments make 3x off a gallon of product when compared to the oil company) by raising energy taxes (windfall profits taxes) which will, without fail, increase the cost of gasoline, reduce R&D spending by the oil companies (on solar panels), reduce oil exploration, Katrina repairs, etc... Driving inflation, government spending (need new R&D tax breaks, need low income energy tax credits for all those poor folks in the north for winter, all those poor folks in the south for summer, all those poor folks that lost their jobs, etc.)... As government spending goes up, will need to collect more income taxes, more property taxes, talk about the need for a VAT/National Sales tax, States talk about collecting Internet Sales taxes again, raise income taxes on the "rich" because now, almost have of the people working in the US don't pay income taxes, and those that don't work or make much money actually get cash back...

    Been through too many of these cycles to think that anything else will happen.

    In the end, I really don't care if somebody chooses to live in a big house with $200-$500 per month utility bills, or pay $200+ to go to a Madonna concert and driving a Hummer to get there--while I have a $6.00 per month electric bill and get DVD's for free from the library or purchase my own on sale... I would not like the government to make my choices for me.

    In fact, in the US, Oregon, California and, I am sure others, are trying to bring GPS tracking over the last several years and taxing to their subjects because the smaller, more fuel efficient cars are cutting into state tax collections. Their first plans, basically want to collect the same road tax per mile for that 60 MPG Prius as that 10 MPG Hummer.

    As a little thought experiment. Gas vs Electric Vehicle. One in California, One in Britain. 30 mpg vs 333 watt per mile for 4 passenger around town driving. $3/gal US gas. $6.50/gal UK gas. Roughly $0.50 per gallon CA and USA gov. taxes. Roughly $4.00 per gallon UK taxes. 10,000 miles of driving (probably a reasonable amount of electric driving in US).

    Gas Car taxes USA = 10,000m * $0.5/g / 30mpg = $167 taxes in one year of driving (even a 10mpg Hummer would be $500)
    Gas Car taxes UK = 10,000m * $4.0/g / 30mpg = $1,333 taxes in one year of driving (10mpg Hummer = $4,000 in taxes)

    In the US, there are, currently, no fuel taxes in the US for electric cars (are not many electric cars). But for US governments, they would only lose $167 per year in road taxes (or charge me $14 per month "road use" fees)--I would be willing to do that. In Europe, they would lose about 8x the amount of taxes--the European governments could not afford to lose it, and would UK folks be willing to fork out another another $110 per month in taxes for going electric p?

    Cost to drive USA = 10,000m * $3/g / 30mpg = $1,000 in fuel+taxes
    Cost to drive UK = 10,000m * $6.50/g / 30mpg = $2,167 in fuel+taxes
    Cost to drive Elect = 10,000m * $0.10 per kWhr * .333kwhr/mile = $333 in electricity

    And, if I generated that energy through solar, nobody even sees the power (to be taxed) except me and my solar panels. That is 277 kWhrs per month (or about $28 / month if I pay for the power in California).

    In Europe, the oil companies could give away their product for free, and Europeans would still be paying more than the USA price for gasoline. As I have said in other forums, it is not the consumer (US or European) that is hooked on high priced fuel. It is the governments.

    I guess that this is the end of the rant for me... :-P

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Future Supply of Panels

    wow, :-o did you say you shortenned that? :?
    in general i find recent improvements made to pvs don't lower prices, but give rise to higher priced new and improved ones. now if you want to compare to the early '80s i'll agree, but that's when they just started taking off for consumers to use. the first ones are always very high priced and without big sales like vcrs and plasma tvs had in the beginning it came down slower for the pv industry. my guess is pvs have already hit their lowpoints in the late '90s to maybe 2004.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,793 admin
    Re: Future Supply of Panels

    I just shortened the quote about the two companies profits and loss statements... Obviously I went overboard in my rant section--but I feel much better now... :mrgreen:

    I agree that the panel costs and efficiencies have probably plateaued for now. The costs for the basic materials (silicon, glass, metals, labor to assemble) don't have a lot of room for Moore's law type changes:
    Moore's law is the empirical observation that the complexity of integrated circuits, with respect to minimum component cost, doubles every 24 months.

    There is no circuit complexity where getting features smaller or process changes can get more transistors on a piece of silicon wafer that will help a solar panel be cheaper or much more efficient.The physics of the current solar cell processes are well known and to be exposed to sun to generate power, need a certain minimum amount of structure to be embedded in...

    I still remember this from Texas Instruments:

    http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/silicon/index.html?offset=10&s=oldest&
    Tech Notes; A Cheap Cell for Electricity

    Texas Instruments and Southern California Edison are working on developing a new type of photovoltaic device that uses thousands of tiny silicon spheres embedded in a sheet of aluminum foil to convert sunlight into electricity. The first cells for field tests are expected to be ready before the end of the year. Although the efficiency with which solar cells convert sunlight to electricity has been rising in recent years and the cost of manufacturing the cells has been dropping, their cost has still been too high for widespread use in competition with traditional sources of electricity. Executives at Texas Instruments and Southern California Edison believe the inexpensive silicon spheres should cut costs significantly.

    May 12, 1991

    Whatever happened... another technology that apparently not ready for prime time.

    Perhaps one of the other compeating technologies that doesn't need silicon wafers but can be manufactured/environmentally sealed at high speed will win out... Or, maybe the old brute force of large reflectors and sterling engines/generator fields will be the long term answer.

    Don't know, but one thing that has bugged me is why are states like California paying me to, basically, buy and install retail solar panels/inverters on my home, when they could probably get 4+x more bang for the buck by just having me "invest" my money in Solar Power R Us in the Mojave desert using whole sale purchasing and mass installations...

    The only positive reason to install solar on my home is that this is at the point of use, so there are savings in electrical distribution costs (PG&E basically lists the cost of generating residential E-1 rate power as about 1/3 of the cost, and distribution as another 1/3, and transmission and a bunch of other stuff as the last 1/3 of the costs at baseline rates).

    Does that mean the commercial solar just can't generate positive cash flow at $0.03614 per kWhr (my retail generation charge)? I know my cost to generate (30 year life) is at least $0.14-$0.17 per kilowatt*Hour (after my $3.something per watt rebates and tax credits).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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