By 2010, a booming demand for solar energy will increase worldwide investments in the production of photovoltaic (PV) cells to the same level as those for semiconductor manufacturing, according to iSuppli. The market research group predicts global production of PV cells will rise to as much as 12 GW by 2010, up from 3.5 GW in 2007. By 2010, up to 400 production lines will be in place, representing a four-fold increase from about 90 to 100 production lines in 2007.
Dr. Henning Wicht, an iSuppli senior director and principal analyst, estimates the market for PV cells will grow by 40% annually until 2010, and 20% beyond that. Heavy investments will be required to finance the expansion of PV cell production. Each PV factory will require an investment of roughly $500 million, will employ as many as 1000 workers per site, and will generate annual revenue of about $1 billion per year or more, putting them into the size, cost and employment range of semiconductor fabs.
Manufacturers contend that PV cell production will become cheaper in time. PV cell makers Q-Cells AG and REC Group said they expect 40% reduction in PV system costs from 2006 to 2010. As a result, many regions throughout the world will soon reach grid parity—a point at which PV electricity costs the same or less than power derived from the electrical grid. PV grid parity is expected by 2012 in nations where sunshine is plentiful and constant, and by 2018 in areas of the world with adequate or medium sun exposure.