Letter sent to NYT on March 31, 2022, in response to an op-ed article by Thomas Friedmann, NYT from 29.2.2022 (“How to Defeat Putin and Save the Planet”).
Thomas Friedmann is right on target: we urgently need to speed up the roll-out of renewable energy on all levels, starting with solar and wind wherever we can install it. Increasing RE standards for utilities, annually plus 10% is very good, removing finally the red tape for PV installations another effective move, as solar energy can be harvested by everybody at less than 5 ct/kWh!
However, he misses to mention one important factor: the PV delivery chain! First Solar is the only large PV Producer in the US, but their modules are not really competitive with today‘s crystalline Silicon technology, they can sell solar electricity at favorable prices compared to fossil electricity. Going to solar cells, 95% of the global PV market, the US is producing (2020) only 0.3% of the global PV production, Europe only 0.4%, but tiny Vietnam alone 1.1%! Do we really want to exchange our dependency from Putin‘s oil and gas into dependency from Xi Ping‘s Solar cells?
In Europe this problem starts to get recognition, we started a ‚European Solar Initiative‘, at least 5 serious projects have been started to establish GW-scale competitive PV production in Europe. We need a US Solar Initiative that can team up with our ESI, as the problems are identical to promote Gigawatt-scale PV production in the US!
One key problem is the innovation craziness of investors in the US, just look at Bill Gates, looking just for breakthrough innovations: We are Talking here about proven existing technologies! I would propose to go directly to third-generation Silicon PV technology, after the old standard Al-BSF and the current PERC technologies we have Heterojunction technology (HjT) and Topcon. HjT is ready for GW-scale deployment, Sunpreme in Sunnyvale sold great HjT modules (produced in China!) for a decade, but failed to find investors to go for the GW-scale!
We now need investors who recognize that the PV market, that just hit the 1Terawatt of installed PV power this month, will go for 10TW installations by 2030, 30-60 TW by 2040, an enormous opportunity for any investor ready to grab this gigantic opportunity to develop the General Motors of PV!
PV is where the global automotive Industry was in 1915: there is already a sizable market, but it is 1/10 of what it can be within a decade as we experience a disruption, as Tony Seba describes so well! It would be great if Thomas Friedmann would pick up this call!