For those who haven't yet put up panels
and can wait till 2009 for their upgrade there is very good news, companies such as nanosolar have developed a process that is lowering the cost of the product to about $1 per watt (reducting costs by around 80%). Most of the improvements for the last 30 years have been either improving the growing process for silicon solar
cells which still are expensive, or flexible film solar panels
which are relatively inefficient. Nanosolar has developed CIGS panels
printing process which can be produced through a constant roll of panels (think of a newspaper printing press producing solar
panels). Bottomline is instead of paying $800 for a Kyocera
175 you could get one from Nanosolar for around $175.
The conversion efficiency will be around 12-15% (a little bit below monocrystalline panels but multiples better than any thin film) and should be a much physically lighter panel as well with 20 year plus life expectancy. By the way, the cost of coal is $2 per watt so this is the first green technology to become cheaper than coal. Miasolar is doing a similar printing involving silicon panels at also a dirt cheap price
. Both are based in the US. Nanosolars production capacity which is starting now is the equivalent of every other solar manufacturer in the US combined (430 megawatts). The only bad news is demand is so huge that they are sold out through 2008 but I believe are taking orders for 2009.
I'm thinking 5 years from now we will start seeing lots of boats which have vast sections of their decks as solar panels
as standard options from the factory. Ah, one more piece of bad news, they are private. If there were any way in the world to buy a piece of their stock I would but their process is so efficient (in terms of return on capital) that they don't need the start up funding
that other solar manufacturers need.