[ExI] [tt] Smaller, cheaper, faster: Does Moore's law apply to solar cells?

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Tue Mar 22 06:12:23 UTC 2011

On Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 8:00 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
> Moore's law isn't applicable to PVs for so many good reasons.  Even if we
> ignore the fact that Moore's law has been extended so far beyond what it was
> originally proposed to describe, it still isn't applicable to solar cells.

I talk about it only in terms of how the price (measured in KwHours/$)
of installed panels has changed over time.

> We are going to hit a wall soon with the cost of raw materials of solar
> cells.  In microprocessors, the magic was in finding new and clever ways to
> miniaturize integrated circuits, so more could be done with less raw
> material.

Silicon based PV is so last year spike... the new film based
approaches use different raw materials. New PV technologies may use
completely different raw materials. I've even seen proposals for using
bacteria to directly convert sunlight into electricity. Certainly the
raw materials for bacteria are cheap enough? Silicon is dirt cheap,
since it is dirt. Only pure silicon wafers are expensive.

> With PV, I would argue we are within a factor of about 2 of the lowest cost
> they will ever be.  That is good enough to make them worth having, but it
> creates a whole nuther set of challenges having to do with load leveling
> technology.

This is just wrong spike. It may be the case for wafer based silicon
PV, but that's a very small part of the ongoing equation.

> When I see articles extrapolating PV costs way down exponentially without
> reasonable justification, those immediately go into the bit bucket.
> It surprises me: Scientific American has historically been such a careful
> magazine.  They seem to have gone way down in their standards.

I haven't studied it as carefully as Scientific American, but I have
studied this area enough to believe that your objections are easily
overcome. When you start looking at less efficient PV technologies,
you can get REALLY low production costs. Building space worthy solar
panels is indeed very expensive. Building cheap PV for terrestrial use
is much more believably going down the price curve.

If you have data to support your position, I'm listening, but I think
you have a little tunnel vision on this one.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list