Solar panels that will be more efficient and a whole lot cheaper are on their way, ready to match the cost of old-fashioned fossil fuels within five years. The secret? Researchers are moving away from heavy silicon solar panels and changing the entire solar energy equation with thin-film solar panels made of rolls of dark polymer foil that can be mass-produced in any color. The thin film has already seen some great uses, such as keeping beer cooler.
Even though solar technology has made significant gains since the 1970s when it cost $100 per watt (now it's $3 to $4 per watt), that sweet spot of beating out fossil fuels is $1 per watt. Swiss entrepreneur Anil Sethi says his solar foil can hit that magic number for even less than that — $0.80/watt — within five years and beat the cost of fossil fuels by 50% in 10 years. There are even more benefits to this groundbreaking tech, including one key factor:
Because these newfangled rolls of foil are 200 times lighter than their silicon-based predecessors, they can even be attached to the sides of buildings. Best of all, the thin film will even work well on a cloudy day. Power companies must be trembling at this development, where a huge percentage of their customers might soon turn the tables, selling power back to them.