Solar Energy Industry Situation Analysis and Forecasts

Introduction

In October 2008, a Scientific Organization based in Germany released a report projecting the world energy production over the next century. The report has since been adapted as a priced piece of information by solar companies from Canberra in Australia to California in the United States. Data from the report shows that by 2060, solar energy will be the most popular source of energy. The report projects that most of the fossils fuels will be depleted by then, making solar power the most preferred alternative (CVTS, 2009) Currently, solar energy account for only 0.04% of the total energy produced in the world, producing less than 150,000 watts globally. The reports shows that solar energy industry will be a big industry in future, playing a big role in addressing the issue of global warming, creation of green jobs and reducing dependence on fossil fuel.

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Current products from the Solar Industry

The first photovoltaic (PV) cell was made in late 1950’s by Bell Laboratory in U.S., as a source of power for Space Probe. Since then, the solar industry has produced a wide range of products that utilize the solar energy that reaches the earth every day. Most of these products are based on PV technology, which is widely accepted as the most efficient way of harnessing the free energy from the sun while addressing the big issues of global warming and reducing dependence on fossil fuel. The most widely used solar product is the solar PV cell solar panel, made from crystalline silicon.

Limitation of Photovoltaic cell Panels

Although the number of PV cell solar panels produced around the world has increased eight folds in the past six year, the cost remains as the biggest challenge affecting the solar energy industry (CVTS, 2009). The current solar panels are made from highly purified crystalline Polysilicon. The process of manufacturing these panels requires clean facility free of airborne microorganism and dust. Building such facilities is expensive hence lowering the production rate. The short supply of Silicon also makes the cost of production to be way high, leading to high prices per watts of power produced. In places where daytime is shorter than nighttime, or where weather conditions is cloudy, PV cell panel are deemed to be unreliable and inefficient.

Alternative Product

As an alternative to the costly, unreliable and inefficient solar PV panels, I intend to introduce ‘Nanotechnology based Plastic panels, which harness the energy from the sun, to provide more efficient, cheaper source of energy than PV cell panels. Unlike the heavy, silicon based PV panel, the plastic panel is a thin roll of “highly efficient light collecting plastics spreads across roof tops or built into building materials” (Calstrom, 2008). The technology bypass the use of costly silicon by making use of miniature solar cells printed on a flexible, thin plastic. The plastic panels will provide energy at a lower price than PV cell panels but. Another interesting characteristic of nanotechnology based panel that set it apart from Photovoltaic cell is that the energy produced can be stored by the newly developed Nanoengineered fuel cells (Calstrom, 2008). Energy storage has always been a big issue when using PV cell solar panels.

Investment

The introduction of Nano Technology in the solar energy industry is a direct reflection of the growth of the solar energy market. Most of the funding for the new products comes from Venture capitalists who have invested capital to a tune of $38.5 million dollars. This gives us a competitive edge as we introduce the new product to the market. According to David Woodley, the Vice president of San Francisco Energy Foundation, major oil companies are also investing in the field as the Nano technology mature.

Target Market

According to Paul mint of Strategies Unlimited Company, 15,000 Photovoltaic megawatts were consumed globally in 2008. This represents a 59 percent growth of the solar energy market. This shows that the demand for solar energy is huge and the market is becoming bigger every day. As such, target customer for Nano Technology based solar panels range from residential housing facilities to commercial facilities that are currently using fossil fuels or PC cells panels. The plastic panels will utilize available rooftop space to produce energy without the need of costly installation.

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Competition in the Market

The huge global requirement of energy is mainly supplied by fossil fuel which includes natural gas, crude oil, uranium and coal. 90 percent of all energy consumed is supplied by coal, natural gas and oil, while nuclear energy, wind, solar, and geo thermal account for 10 percent (Steinberg, 2009). This shows that solar energy, like other renewable energy, industry is facing a huge competition from fossil fuel industry. As consumer realizes the need to address huge issues such as global warming, and the declining reserve of fossil fuel, there has been a continued shift toward renewable source of energy such as solar industry and wind energy. Nanotechnology solar panel also faces competition from wind and geothermal and hydro-energy industry.

Attractiveness and Growth Opportunity

Nanotechnology based solar panels makes the solar energy industry very healthy, attractive with a lot of growth potential and endless opportunities. As the technology continues to mature, major oil companies like Shell and BP have started investing in the solar energy industry because of the huge potential in the industry. Interestingly, non energy companies like Google have also made huge investments in the solar energy industry after introduction of Nanotechnology solar panels (Steinberg, 2009). Such investment will ultimately lead to more superior products in the future. The market for solar products is projected to experience a 50 percent annual growth.

Strategies to for profitability

The cost of installing the PV solar panels has been cited as the main factor behind high solar energy cost per watt. Current solar energy cost between $3.5 and $5.5 per watt. With the introduction of Nanotechnology based solar panels, the cost will go down to between $1.5 and $2 per watt. This is because nanotechnology bypasses the need for costly silicon and expensive production facilities by making use of miniature solar cells that are printed on a plastic material. Nanotechnology makes production to be faster and efficient, making the panels readily available in the market.

The use on nanotechnology based solar panel is a win-win situation for both the consumer and my company. Business and residential facilities will be able to generate their own power, thus cutting operation costs. The solar panels that I am introducing are flexible and easily conform to the shape of any roof. In future, consumer will have the options of buying building materials that integrate nanotechnology solar cells for producing energy. These feature give nanotechnology solar panel a competitive edge compared to PV solar panels.

Conclusion

As fossil fuel reserves continue to be depleted, and as the world continue to address the issue of global warming, solar energy will be the most preferred source of energy in the future. Currently, solar energy accounts for 0.04% of the global energy output. Solar photovoltaic is the most widely used solar product in the market today. The PV panels are made from crystalline silicon which is in short supply and require costly manufacturing facilities. As such, this product is expensive, inefficient and unreliable, making the solar industry less competitive in the energy market. As an alternative, I am introducing nanotechnology based solar panels that will address the limitations of PV cells solar panels. Nanotechnology solar panels are highly efficient and less costly than PV cells panels. My target market is both new and existing commercial and residential customers who are currently using PV cells solar panels or fossil fuel as source of energy. My products will most likely face competition from fossil fuels but it will definitely gain market share especially from those consumers who are looking for renewable energy.

Works Cited

Carlstrom, Paul. “As solar gets Smaller, its Future gets Brighter.” 2008. SF Gate. Web.

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Cilicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry. White Paper. California: CVTS, 2009.

Steinberg, Stephanie. “Our energy future: Solar.”2009. The Michigan Daily. Web.

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