Thursday, January 24, 2008

Biopolymerzing Solar in a World of High Oil Prices

As autofuels go "bio", so does solar

PV's commercial potential hinges on getting PV-generated power to grid parity (i.e. ), where it hasn't already been achieved (for, e.g., in Japan, with some of the highest electricity rates, make PV power cost-effective even without subsidies). There are various ways to achieve this, including increasing subsidies for PV, reducing the costs of solar installation (see previous post), reducing the cost of producing PV panels. One company that is working on reducing the costs of PV panels, with a unique approach, is BioSolar (OTCBB: BSRC.OB), a Santa Clara, California-based company that I've previously blogged about.

Rather than focusing on increasing the efficiency of solar conversion of its cells, or streamlining the ingot manufacturing process, BioSolar is aims to replace oil-based plastic components in PV systems with bio-based components. In the current environment of sustained high oil prices, BioSolar represents a value proposition that makes a lot of sense. According to the company:

When using BioSolar materials, the cost reduction over the materials being replaced can be in excess of 50%. The current market for plastic components and layers exceeds $1 billion and growing rapidly. We estimate that the market for backsheet products alone is currently at $300 million.
Look here for more details (and cool diagrams!) on how BioSolar will introduce biopolymers into PV backsheets, thin film substrates, and other components traditionally made from plastic or glass.

BioSolar's shares trades on the U.S. OTC markets and is highly volatile (so trade with care!!), but the general trend upward of its share price in recent months reflects the anticipation of the commercialization of its products. A research report notes:

During the last three months, the Company has set the stage for the commercial launch of its products by implementing a tactical scenario to reduce the amount of time for attaining Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification for PV modules incorporating its bioplastic backsheet material. UL certification is required to sell photovoltaic modules in the US.

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