Specifically, renewables tehnology, which is a pity as he\’s an environmental correspondent.
These powered swimsuits presage the growing development of “thin-film” solar panels, which can be printed like a page rather than constructed from costly silicon. This promises to provide a host of new ways of generating electricity, and bring costs crashing down.
Mark Little, global research director for the GE conglomerate, predicted recently that within five years thin-film could make solar power cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels or atoms.
There\’s a bit of a mix and match here.
There are two different solar PV technologies and he\’s mixed them together. \”Thin film\” is what companies like First Solar have been churning out by the acre. Cadmium Telluride in their case. The \”thin film\” bit is that you use vapour deposition (ie, heat it all up to a gas then let it condense on the substrate) to get your Cd/Te onto a sheet of glass.
This is not, you\’ll note, akin to printing.
Then there is the idea of printing solar cells. Various people have shown, experimentally, that you can do this. One even uses normal ink-jet technology to do it.
Here you using metal based inks to print your circuits on the substrate. The dried strands of your metal based ink become the circuits.
This is not \”thin film\” at all, actually it\’s quite thick film. But the supposition (as yet unproven in manufacturing scale) is that by using a cheap and well understood technology we can overcome the costs of using more of the ink.
That solar PV will be cheaper than fossil derived, at the point of production/consumption, absent the costs of batteries or a storage system, I regard as a completely unremarkable achievement. Five years looks a little soon but I can believe even that.
Why would I believe such? Well, remember that Bjorn Lomborg that all the Greens like to shout at? He predicted 12 years ago that solar PV would be price competitive soon enough: 2020 I think was the date he gave. That he was right early is of course why the Greens all like to shout at him.
For if solar PV was always going to become price competitive then all the rest of the Green hysteria has been a waste. We\’ll wean ourselves off fossil fuels when we have a cheaper alternative, quite naturally, without subsidies or rules or regulations. And if that\’s true then we don\’t actually need the rules and regulations and what point in being a Green if you can\’t tell everyone what to do?