The production of solar cells called photovoltaics has gone up 50 percent in 2007. Scientists have said that the production has increased to 3,800 megawatts.
According to a report in ENN, photovoltaics, which directly convert sunlight into electricity, include both traditional, polysilicon-based solar cell technologies and new thin-film technologies.
Thin-film manufacturing involves depositing extremely thin layers of photosensitive materials on glass, metal, or plastics.
It is the advancement of these thin-film technologies in 2006 that scientists attribute as to causing this phenomenonal rise in the production of solar cells.
While thin films are not as efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, they currently cost less, and their physical flexibility makes them more versatile than traditional solar cells.
The top five PV-producing countries are Japan, China, Germany, Taiwan, and the United States.
Though the increase in production of PVs in these countries is remarkable, the recent growth in China is the most astonishing. That's because after almost tripling its PV production in 2006, it is believed to have more than doubled the output in 2007. Having eclipsed Germany in 2007 to take the number two spot, China is now on track to become the number one PV producer in 2008.
Japan, the United States, and Spain round out the top four markets with 350, 141, and 70 megawatts installed in 2006, respectively. In fact, thanks to a residential PV incentive program, Japan now has over 250,000 homes with PV systems.
The report also states that the growth in installations in the United States increased from 20 percent in 2005 to 31 percent in 2006, primarily driven by California and New Jersey. Initial estimates for the United States as a whole indicate that PV incentives helped to achieve an incredible 83-percent growth in installations in 2007.
Also, the average price for a PV module, excluding installation and other system costs, has dropped from almost $100 per watt in 1975 to less than $4 per watt at the end of 2006. With expanding polysilicon supplies, average PV prices are projected to drop to $2 per watt in 2010.
For thin-film PV, production costs are expected to reach $1 per watt in 2010, at which point solar PV will become competitive with coal-fired electricity.