Prices for photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are falling globally and soon generating your own electricity by putting a few panels on the roof of your house may become a reality for people even in the poorest parts of South Africa. Many reasons are contributing to the fact that these costs are dropping. First of all, demand is growing worldwide, in addition to production capacity. The efficiency of solar cells is also improving constantly through the use of novel technologies. Manufacturing processes are being improved, and the use of cheap and abundant new materials is increasing. The not too distant future promises major breakthroughs in solar technology, involving 3D printing, fancy substances like graphene and nanotechnology. We may see entire buildings clad in see-trough solar panels and floating solar arrays to rival offshore wind farms. We are seeing positive changes and advancements in the solar industry in areas around the world.
In India simple solar micro grids offer low-cost, life-improving electricity in some of the country’s poorest rural areas. Mera Gao Power, for instance, installs systems consisting of just four solar panels and four batteries to supply LED lighting and mobile phone charging points for villages of 100 households in rural parts of the province of Uttar Pradesh. By 2016, the company aims to service 100 000 households in this way. Even simpler gadgets such as solar-powered lights and phone chargers are proving to be beneficial to many people. For instance, the UK-based charity Solar Aid has become the biggest seller of solar lights in Africa, having distributed over 400,000 to date. Clearly the future of solar energy is bright on scales ranging from industrial-strength power plants and neighbourhood micro grids to individual household systems and hand-held devices.
Source: Solar power isn’t just for the rich anymore , by Andreas Spath, May 6, 2013