In the following, we tell the story of silicon sourcing back to it’s bust in the early 1990s, define the different types of solar cells, and highlight (briefly) the new solar technologies emerging today (thin film and nano-solar).
The following topics will be explained in varying levels of detail; how a solar cell converts sunlight energy via the use of different types of silicon, the use of silicon and where it comes from, and a little about the history of silicon sourcing over the past 18 years.
The Future Solar Panel and Home Solar Manufacturing
As the residential solar power industry has matured silicone blocks and showed a steady growth of about 40 percent a year, the silicon industry is now responding with new production and caches of raw materials. Many silicon refineries and new silicon sourcing companies are getting the funding and moving towards rapid production in the next dozen or so months. There are plans and announcements by several companies such as GE, BP, and others about launching new facilities that produce silicon at a fraction of the cost we may be experiencing today. This is all exciting news for home solar power enthusiasts and for those wishing to upgrade to residential solar generated electricity.
The silicon industry is or has been slow to increase overall manufacturing capabilities because of the large growth during the early 1990s that eventually when stale. The extreme growth expectations were hyped and many industry experts expected much expansion in the early 1990s. This just did not happen 18 years ago. Fortunately, we are now experience much more accepting market, social expectations of our movement to renewable technologies, and governmental support to make the switch to home solar power.
In the past, the solar silicon refining industry made solar panel manufacturers sign long-term contracts at extremely high prices to secure any silicon at all. For example, a solar manufacturing plant had to slow production to a trickle because of a lack of silicon. The economics have now changed since 2006 making massive silicon contracts viable at better prices.
We are now at the dawn of a home solar energy revolution. The solar power manufacturers invented and are beginning to manufacture new solar modules that do not use silicon at all. There are alternative materials using nano-technology that are and will continue to radically change the consumption and production of solar generated electricity.
Some of these materials are still experimental but tried and true solar technologies are now available on rental basis so homeowners can avoid the large upfront purchase expenses. Because there are now large sources of silicon, homeowners now have the choice to upgrade to solar on a large scale across many markets in the United States that were once thought too expensive to install residential solar systems.