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The solar industry has to make changes if the cleantech market is to rebound

The cleantech revolution continues to be a popular catch phrase among politicians and eco-friendly folks, but recent trends indicate the growing industry faces stiff challenges as 2011 slowly winds down.

The solar industry faces a drastic problem after numerous companies jumped into the industry that wasn't mature enough to support all of the newcomers. To make matters worse, falling prices are forcing smaller and less prepared companies to sell out to their competitors, and that isn't expected to change in the near future, according to green experts.

"Weaker companies who did not get their product costs down to competitive levels are going to disappear," said Christopher Blansett, JP Morgan Securities analyst, in a statement to Bloomberg. "They'll be bought up. They'll go away. There is significantly more supply of solar modules than demand."

Along with economic issues, University of Tennessee researchers believe lead pollution from solar power creation could dramatically increase. Lead batteries are used to store solar power, and lead pollution could increase in developing nations.

Even with solar energy facing obvious hurdles, the US government still has high hopes for the future of domestic cleantech. However, with cleantech expected to help draw the economy out of a continued slump, lawmakers and the private sector need to work together to find a solution to help cleantech develop -- before these jobs and technology also go overseas to India, China, and other nations investing heavily in solar power.

Despite these problems, there are numerous bright sides to the solar industry as it continues to expand -- the International Energy Agency predicts solar power will produce most of the world's energy power by 2060, and hydropower, wind, and bioenergy fighting over the rest of the industry.

For home owners looking to increase their house values, making the initial investment to install solar panels can lead to higher resale values, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers.

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By macca007 on 9/6/2011 6:13:12 AM , Rating: 2
Popping solar panels on the roof is great but a half assed attempt. You could spend less by insulating your house properly and will cut down on your gas/electricity for heating/cooling.
If they truly wanted to cut coal fired electricity or save the planet,They should implement tougher laws on all new houses being built,Instead of this current cheap overpriced shit(houses) just to get everyone buying a home.
All walls/ceilings/floors fully insulated,extra thick double glazed windows,all houses facing north ready for solar,This should become standard,Yet houses have changed stuff all over last 50 odd years,In my view they are getting worse,Thinner materials to cut costs,Notice new houses seem to fall apart these days compared to a solid house decades ago. Solar is still not mainstream, Needs to be half price of what it is before it really kicks off,In the meantime money is better spent elsewhere on small house mods,And if your building a new house go all out and do it properly,Don't cut corners might save you short term but later on you will regret it!

RE: Upgrades
By MrTeal on 9/6/2011 11:45:10 AM , Rating: 3
Houses are built much better these days than they were in the past, at least where I am. The envelope around a new house is much tighter and they're much better insulated, to the point where they need air exchangers to bring fresh hair into the house. Even houses built 40 years ago like mine have so much air loss that an air-air exchanger isn't needed.

If I built a new house I'd probably end up spending 1/2 what I do now on heating, and this is after I've already blown in R50 into the roof, replacing the windows with triple glazed and the wood exterior doors with fiberglass slabs.

RE: Upgrades
By mindless1 on 9/7/2011 4:56:52 AM , Rating: 2
Houses are built cheaper now, less durable in general except a bit more is spent on nicer multi-pane windows which upgrade the look of the house and insulate better, just fit better in general due to improved manufacturing techniques.

While less durable, newer homes are generally better sealed, better insulated. Insulation is relatively cheap.

RE: Upgrades
By johnsmith9875 on 9/15/2011 4:46:42 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of that efficiency has been offset by the preponderance of square footage in newer houses. Mega domiciles and McMansions are just about the norm. In my neighborhood they won't even allow you to build any house smaller than 1800 square feet, and many are 3000-4000+ square feet.

RE: Upgrades
By AlbertE on 9/16/2011 8:57:01 AM , Rating: 2
Tell me about it. My sister has a modular house (probably 10 years old). The shingles were stapled on the roof!

RE: Upgrades
By Dr of crap on 9/13/2011 10:35:32 AM , Rating: 2
You must live in the warm part of the country.
Here in the north country, the insulation in the past 30 years has gotten way better, and as another post says it, the houses here are so tight you need an air exchange system to get the moisture out and let the house breath.
And we don't build here without double glaze windows. Again you must live where it's warm.

Also when there is snow on my roof mounted solar panels, I'll not generate to much power that way! And yes I know the sun does penetrate some, but there are times when a few feet of snow covers the roofs around here.

RE: Upgrades
By johnsmith9875 on 9/15/2011 4:49:47 PM , Rating: 2
Optimizing your house for efficiency is secondary to neighborhood covenants and restrictions. your lot faces a certain way, and you have to build your house facing the street. You only have flexibility if you are lucky enough to have purchased an acreage or are in a spread-out established neighborhood that does not impose building restrictions.

LOL !! thanks
By kattanna on 9/6/2011 11:55:56 AM , Rating: 3
the International Energy Agency predicts solar power will produce most of the world's energy power by 2060, and hydropower, wind, and bioenergy fighting over the rest of the industry.

I just LOVE stupid quotes like that. Always a good laugh they are.

RE: LOL !! thanks
By Boze on 9/6/2011 12:27:40 PM , Rating: 2
I hope by 2060, nuclear fusion will be the dominant energy source.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

RE: LOL !! thanks
By deadrock on 9/14/2011 1:42:09 PM , Rating: 2
No need to dream! Google or youtube "thorium molten salt reactor" and check it out. Fusion can then come somewhere in 1000 to 2000 years into the future. Plenty of thorium for a very long time.

RE: LOL !! thanks
By johnsmith9875 on 9/15/2011 4:44:20 PM , Rating: 2
If thorium is so great, why has it gone nowhere in 50 years? It seems to be the next Star Trek that elicits snickers when a person admits they're researching it.

Lead Batteries? Say what?
By MrBlastman on 9/6/2011 3:23:50 PM , Rating: 2
Along with economic issues, University of Tennessee researchers believe lead pollution from solar power creation could dramatically increase. Lead batteries are used to store solar power, and lead pollution could increase in developing nations.

Lead batteries to store power for nighttime/offtime makes me laugh. The very thought of us needing to rely on them is just a bad idea. There are _far_ better solutions to storing power over time in situations like this.

Things like mechanical batteries--i.e. flywheel batteries have been used by power companies for years. NASA uses them, Formula One cars use them, heck even theme parks use them. They don't wear out for decades (assuming you use magnetic bearings), are quick to charge and have high storage efficiencies and capacities.

The fact that most of these solar power systems don't recommend them or sell them to their customers befuddles me. Don't listen to the marketers, there is always something better out there to be had.

RE: Lead Batteries? Say what?
By StanO360 on 9/15/2011 5:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
I used to work in the back up power industry. Flywheels are not wide spread because they merely a bridge UPS, usually less than 5 minutes. While that is usually enough to switch to a gen set, it is riskier than batteries. As back-up power at a microwave or cell site? Batteries. Off the grid? Batteries and if you've got the money ni-cad (worse than lead).

Unless things have radically changed, this can not have changed much.

Supply vs Demand
By aguilpa1 on 9/16/2011 1:10:34 PM , Rating: 2
"There is significantly more supply of solar modules than demand."

Really? so why are existing modules still so expensive? Promises of innovation and efficiency have been rampant for years yet not much you can actually buy at a decent price. People don't want to amortize a big investment over years. They want a reasonable investment that starts yielding right away.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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