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Renewable energy

The Solar Tree, Gleisdorf, Austria

The Solar Tree, Gleisdorf, Austria: Click to enlarge

Solar power: Photovoltaic systems

Photovoltaic (or PV) cells turn sunlight directly into electricity, without needing turbines. These are the same types of solar cells you may have seen on rooftops.

PV power stations have only recently become practical. One of the first is in Portugal:

PV has been a very expensive way to generate electricity. Though made from silicon, (a very common material), there is currently a worldwide shortage of the right quality of refined silicon. Thus PV systems have been very expensive to build. But new designs have been developed that use up to 80% less silicon. Other advances in solar cell efficiency mean that very soon the cost of electricity from solar will drop considerably.

PV in developing countries

In many poor countries, access to energy is a major problem. How well can you work after sunset if the only light is smokey dim kerosene lamps? In India, a new scheme aims to help rural workers to grow their businesses by using PV to light up their evenings.  Find out more

Next: solar power at night

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NOT RATED Brian 02-07-12 18:14
I think photovoltaic prices will be cheaper than traditional sources like coal. In the future you will not be able to buy windows or roof panels without photovoltaic cells. Right now I am considering a PV system that costs .2.05 per wp. In the future you will not be able to buy windows or roof panels without solar cells.

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Photovoltaic cells
Photo: Fernando Tomás


Cheap solar energy takes a huge step closer... New mass production method promises energy for the same price as coal... "You are talking about printing rolls of the stuff, printing it on garages, anywhere you want it."


Listen to this BBC World Service radio programme about Solar PV.
Length: 26 mins