Today's electrical energy is mostly produced using fossil fuels which are rapidly depleting and will not meet growing international energy demands. The use of oil and coal is leading to critical environmental, economic, and political consequences on a global scale.
More than one billion human beings do not have access to electricity or use generators which are expensive, noisy, and cause pollution. According to the projections of the International Energy Outlook 2006 (IEO) the world consumption of electricity will double between the years 2003 and 2030. Consumption of electricity is projected to increase an average of 2.7% annually from 14,781 billion kilowatt hours in 2003 to 21,699 billion kilowatt hours in 2015 and will reach 30,116 billion kilowatt hours in 2030. The consumption increase of the OECD countries will be 29% of the above amount while the consumption increase of the Non-OECD countries will be 71% of the above amounts.
Over the past decade, a major effort has been undertaken to develop alternative and renewable sources of energy. The most promising of these efforts is solar energy, which does not have any negative environmental effects and has the potential for the greatest financial return.
The photovoltaic solar energy industry has grown exponentially since the year 2000 and recorded 62% growth in 2007. This growth has come in spite of the fact that under current conditions, the use of solar energy to create electricity is only profitable when government subsidies are enacted. The efficiency of existing commercial systems for the production of electricity from solar energy is about 12% -17% with an associated cost of about $5 USD per watt. It is very difficult to reduce this cost with the existing technology. Once the technology is developed to produce electricity from solar energy at the same cost as from fossil fuels, the energy industry will experience a transformational revolution.