New Light Cast on Photovoltaics


Skyrocketing energy prices, recent technological advances and a renewed interest in alternative energy sources have once again brought attention to photovoltaics (PV) or solar energy. Industrial gas producers are poised to capitalize on new manufacturing technologies, particularly thin film PV, which requires large amounts of bulk and specialty gases, as well as equipment and services. 

Currently, the global PV market has been showing growth around 30 percent and is anticipated to maintain that growth rate for the next 10 years. Besides energy costs and technological advances, another driver for PV is government money and regulations. Right now, the hot beds for PV installations are Germany and Spain, and to a lesser extent Japan and Portugal, due to government subsidies that help lower the total cost of electricity generated by PV modules.


The primary drawback to widespread adoption of solar power is the idea of grid parity, or the point at which solar electricity is equal to delivered electricity purchased from local power plants. For years, electricity produced via coal, natural gas or other methods was cheaper than equivalent power generated by PV, which limited PV’s growth potential. Now, however, newer, cheaper methods of manufacturing PV modules have brought electricity produced via PV much closer to grid parity.

PV first came on in the 1970s, when soaring energy prices led to higher electric bills and long lines at gas stations. However, the high cost of manufacture and installation and the subsequent decline in energy prices helped keep PV on the back burner except for the truly committed alternative energy convert.

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