Solar power set to shine brightly, say environment groups

The solar industry is poised for a rapid decline in costs that will make it a mainstream power option in the next few years, according to a new report.
Global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, has risen sixfold since 2000 and grew 41% in 2006 alone, says a new assessment by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Prometheus Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Although grid-connected solar capacity still provides less than 1% of the world’s electricity, it increased nearly 50% in 2006, propelled by booming markets in Germany and Japan.
This growth has so far been constrained by a shortage of manufacturing capacity for the material purified polysilicon, says the report. But the situation will be reversed in the next two years as more than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan and the United States bring on unprecedented levels of production capacity.
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