Is the military target #1 for high efficiency and high cost solar panels?

There’s talk again of solar panels with 30 percent or even 50 percent efficiency one day soon being possible. Alta Devices already has said they’ve got a panel that does 30 percent and the talk of 50 percent is surely a good headline. The hitch is, of course, that even if somehow Alta Devices can get to 50 percent, the chance that it’ll be able to do so at the same materials cost as the poly silicon panels that dominate the current market, is well, very small.

That said, I think we might be looking to the military for help on this one. It has tremendous needs for energy at remote locations, like the middle of the desert. Fuel convoys are one of the major reasons soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, since the transporting of fuel across long distances makes an easy target for IEDs.

The military is thus very committed to renewable energy, and moreover, cares a lot less what materials cost if they improve readiness and save lives. I always look to the U.S. military as a gauge of where next generation technology is going because of the competitive pressures on the battlefield. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it go long on high efficiency solar.

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Adam Lesser

Cleantech Curator Gigaom Research

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