Installing those photovoltaic (PV) panels of your ‘green' dreams may soon be cheaper thanks to coming relief from the current silicon shortage. Though silicon is made from ever-abundant sand, it is used in multiple fields, including the computer chip industry. The solar industry must then compete with the computer chip industry to access all available high-grade silicon, and because the computer chip industry has more money, it therefore has more access to the resource it needs.
Ironically, some of the trouble the solar industry has had meeting demand stems from increased interest in renewable energy. Because of increased demand in the solar industry, silicon manufacturers can't keep up. This has, in turn, slowed solar growth, according to a recent Reuters article. Though it may seem unfair that earth-conscious citizens are actually driving the cost of PV panels up, rest assured: Industry officials are confident that relief is in sight.
Individual predictions range from as early as 2008 to as late as 2010, but there seems to be some general consensus that starting next year, the silicon supply will increase to meet demand. As Russell Hasan, president of www.altenews.com, states in a recent report, it's not unreasonable to factor in the laws of economics: Increased demand leads to an increase in supply and a subsequent dip in price. Hasan also cites several international silicon producers that are increasing production in the coming years, including manufacturers in China and Wacker of Munich.
Between deliberate increased production and natural supply-and-demand shifts, the price of silicon—and therefore PV panels—should stabilize soon, allowing you to pursue your solar energy pursuits with ‘renew'ed vigor.