A Lot of Power

Australian company Spark Solar, in collaboration with the Australian National University's spray-on solar technology project, plans to build a $70 million solar cell manufacturing plant where they will fabricate 19 million solar cells annually. That's enough to power 20,000 homes plus export more than $400 million worth of solar energy [source: Evans].

Spray-on Solar Panel Problems

No matter how much you'd like to weave solar material into your T-shirt or cover your house in solar film, you can't. It doesn't exist outside of the laboratory yet. Testing of the new spray-on PV manufacturing process is going on at ANU and won't be commercially available until the end of 2011.

Perhaps the biggest marketing hurdle, though is the one facing the solar industry as a whole: cost-effectiveness. The current global economy has everyone, including energy companies, tightening their budgets. Investing in solar energy research and new solar energy systems is expensive, and soaring expense is a barrier to adopting new technologies.

After seeing an annual market growth rate of more than 30 percent over four years, the PV solar panel market has declined sharply. Industry experts predict growth will bounce back by 15 to 20 percent [source: Malsch]. And the scientists working on the ANU project hope that by decreasing manufacturing costs, the energy industry (and consumers) won't be afraid to invest in solar energy.

With their new spray-on production method, ANU researchers estimate that a medium-sized solar cell producing factory could save roughly USD $4 million -- manufacturing cost reductions that could in turn drive down consumer prices [source: Stohr]. Which means you can get ready to bring solar energy into your home.