U.S. solar PV companies need to find a way to work together with international PV companies, especially those in Mainland China & Taiwan.

The Current State of the International Solar Power Industry

Dr. Simon Tsuo | Motech Solar

The Taiwan solar industry has benefited greatly from the punitive tariffs that the U.S. imposed on Chinese-made solar modules, but last summer’s agreement between the EU and China was expected to reduce orders for Taiwanese solar cells.  What impact are you seeing in the Taiwanese market over the short term, and what is your prediction for the longer term?

Taiwan solar photovoltaic products are competitive in quality. The U.S. & China trade problem in PV was focussed on solar cells. This does help Taiwan's solar cell manufacturers. However, other customers in Japan, Europe, India, etc. also like Taiwan solar products. 

For the long-term, Taiwan needs to improve the size of domestic markets and consolidate the solar industry with domestic & international partners.

In September, China announced that it will limit construction of new PV manufacturing plants to cut overcapacity and encourage consolidation within the industry.  How will that affect the Taiwan solar industry?

There may be interest in consolidating with Taiwanese solar PV companies by Mainland Chinese companies. Consolidation will increase scale and reduce costs. 

There is a lot of talk about solar efficiency gains moving the solar market toward grid parity.  Can that actually happen, and if so, what is your projected time frame?

Grid parity depends on the local energy costs. Solar PV is achieving grid parity in certain small markets already. The question is not just prices, it also relates to infrastructure and customers' acceptance of solar. Solar PV was used mainly in developed countries, such as Germany, Japan, and USA until about two years ago. Now, China and India are increasing the use of solar. I hope other regions of the world will also increase the use of solar. 

Realistically, what role will solar power play in electricity generation in the future? And how will it compare to other alternative energy sources like wind power?

I hope solar PV power can one day account for more than 5% of global electricity consumption. 
Wind power is not in direct competition with solar PV. 

What’s the market opportunity in the U.S.?  Is it growing?  Why or why not?

The U.S. should be able to use much more solar PV because of the availability of land and solar resources. The market for solar PV in the U.S. Is growing slowly. It should be pushed to grow faster. U.S. solar PV companies need to find a way to work together with international PV companies, especially those in Mainland China & Taiwan. 

Do you see a time in the near future when the solar energy market will be able to survive on its own without government subsidies?

I think the role of governments should be in promoting infrastructure for solar and to educate the public about the benefits of solar. 
It is great to have government subsidies. But, the solar PV industry is reaching a size and cost to survive on its own. 

What part of the world stands to make the biggest gains in solar energy implementation in the next decade?

Asia and Africa because of the need for electricity.

Dr. Simon Tsuo

Dr. Tsuo saw the light in renewable energy 30 years ago, when he was a research scientist working on infrared detectors for military use at the NASA-Langley Research Center and Stanford Research Institute.  He moved to the Solar Energy Research Institute in Colorado (now U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and subsequently founded Taiwan-based Motech Industries, now one of the top 10 solar cell manufacturers in the world.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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