Photovoltaics Today and Tomorrow

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Science  21 Apr 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4902, pp. 297-304
DOI: 10.1126/science.244.4902.297


In the next several decades it is expected that the United States and the rest of the nations of the world will greatly expand their consumption of electricity. But many questions will accompany this expansion: Can we build enough generating capacity? Do we have enough energy resources? Can we accommodate centralized and dispersed needs, large and small applications, and the diverse requirements of all sections of the world? And can we increase consumption without increasing environmental degradation? Photovoltaics, which by means of solid-state technology turn photon energy into electricity, can make a substantial contribution toward fulfilling these energy needs. Historically, the drawbacks to photovoltaics have been cost and technological maturity. But more than a decade of research has greatly advanced the technology and has brought it to the point of entering large electricity markets. Advances in the next two decades should make it possible for photovoltaics to become one of the world's preferred technologies for generating electrical energy.