Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Australia may miss solar power boom

AAP, The Age
Australia faces missing out on a booming solar energy industry in the next three years unless it regulates to create the environment for business to invest in it, a visiting Greenpeace campaigner says.

Dutch engineer Sven Teske, who has specialised in solar photovoltaics (PV) for 10 years, says the technology worldwide is now in a transition phase between a niche market and mainstream.

“Basically, within the next two or three years, it will be decided if and who is leader of that industry,” Mr Teske said.

“Right now, it’s a competition between Japan, Germany and the US.”

Mr Teske, who works mostly in Amsterdam and Berlin but has also been involved in campaigns in China and Israel, will release a Greenpeace and European PV Industry Association report which says the market in PV cells and modules is booming, with a sustained growth rate of almost 40 per cent over the past 10 years.
(14 Sep 2006)

Solar energy: A new day dawning?: Silicon Valley sunrise
Oliver Morton, Nature
Sunlight is a ubiquitous form of energy, but not as yet an economic one. In the first of two features, Oliver Morton looks at how interest in photovoltaic research is heating up in California’s Silicon Valley.
Reconciling the solar-cell industry’s optimism with global indifference is basically a matter of perspective. Seen from the viewpoint of a small industry, solar’s recent decade of expansion is indeed extraordinary. But even heady growth is not enough to spur a radical overhaul of energy infrastructure when you start such a long way behind your competitors. So, although no one doubts that solar electricity will become cheaper in the future, few expect it to do so fast enough to force radical change.

Few worldwide, that is. In California’s Silicon Valley, the corridor of land along the southwest side of San Francisco Bay, the outlook is more optimistic. Home first to the semiconductor boom and then to the Internet boom, the valley is perhaps the most fertile environment for new technologies in the world. As well as an extraordinary density of successful technology-based companies, it boasts world-class research universities, abundant capital, and a cultural fixation on getting to the future first and making money from it. The dotcom bust of 2000 did relatively little to dent the valley’s fundamental strengths and attitudes; instead, it left the area’s entrepreneurs and venture capitalists looking for somewhere else to put their millions.

‘Cleantech’ of all sorts, from water purification to biofuels, is currently the place they want to be. ..
Oliver Morton is Nature’s chief news and features editor.
(7 Sep 2006)
The article is the prominent science journal, Nature. The recemtly posted “Web Focus” is dedicated to Energy for a cool planet.

Solar World: Desperately seeking silicon

Leah Krauss, UPI
TEL AVIV, Israel — In a world of silicon scarcity, many solar energy companies are trying to find ways to stretch, cut back on, or even cut out the traditional photovoltaic panel’s main ingredient.

Solar companies from around the world met in Dresden, Germany, this week at the 21st annual European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition, where several announced innovations that would allow panel makers to increase their production capacity.

… Silicon scarcity is one of the major reasons detractors say solar energy costs too much. Worldwide demand for solar energy stands at 5 gigawatts, but silicon constraints mean the market can only supply just under half that amount, according to “The Gun Has Gone Off,” a recent survey of the solar energy industry by analyst Michael Rogol.

…Thorsen added that there is no immediate way to ramp up high-grade silicon purification, because “it takes two to three years to build a plant like that.”

And although everyone is working to increase silicon and silicon-substitute production, no one is worried that solar supply will someday exceed demand.

“From the reports of the previous five years, the solar market has grown 40 percent annually. We expect the solar industry will continue to grow,” Dow Corning’s Mayeda said.

Not only that, but “(silicon supply) could be a long-term problem because things like global warming and peak oil (prices) may force more PV use, and that would put silicon into a catch up mode even over the long-term,” J. Peter Lynch, a financial consultant and an expert on the renewable energy industry, told UPI.
(7 Sept 2006)