Solar power industry seen heating up

The solar power industry is making great strides in efficiency and cost, according to the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, with global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells increasing 51% in 2007, to 3,733 megawatts.

More than 2,935 megawatts of solar modules were installed in 2007, according to early estimates, bringing cumulative global installations of PVs since 1996 to more than 9,740 MW — enough to meet the annual electricity demand of more than 3 million homes in Europe.

"Thanks to strong, smart policies in countries like Germany and Spain, the PV industry is making great strides in efficiency and cost, bringing solar power closer to price parity with fossil fuels," said Janet Sawin, a senior researcher at Worldwatch.

"Germany remains the world leader in solar PV installations, accounting for almost half the world total in 2007. About 40,000 people are now employed in the PV industry in Germany. Spain ranked second after Germany for total installations in 2007, but accounts for only an estimated 3% of global production.

China now ranks second only to Japan for national production of PV cells. China’s production has increased more than sixfold in the last two years, to 820 MW in 2007. However, the domestic market remains small and most PV cells made in China are exported to Europe.

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