September 10th, 2009

At work, Self portrait

Time for cautious optimism, I'd say

Thin-Film Solar Startup Debuts With $4 Billion in Contracts (Wired Science)

Despite the typical Wired angle, I'll assume the facts are correct, just cherry-picked. It fits with a running trend anyway. Photovoltaics are on the verge of competing head to head with fossil fuels. Unfortunately, I don't see them ever winning that competion on a large scale.

These technologies rely on rare elements that make up an unimaginably small fraction of the Earth's crust, unlike silicon which is literally as plentiful as sand in Sahara. It is lack of these rare elements that will choke the photovoltaic industry if it ever tries to grow beyond its role as a niche for enthusiasts and government-sponsored prestige projects.

Still, it is impressive to have come this far at a time when there was little feeling of urgency, well except for a few hot summer months last year. Together with many different other sources of renewable energy, photovoltaics can continue to chip away at the edges of the energy market with renewed vigor. It is probably not the wave of the future, but it has great symbolic value. It is something ordinary people can see and even own for themselves.