NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - Solar power should become a mainstream energy choice in three or four years as companies raise output of a key ingredient used in solar panels and as China emerges as a producer of them, according to a report by an environmental research group.
Investors have flocked to solar and other renewable energy sources amid worries about the high costs of oil and natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions. Solar is the fastest growing energy source, but still provides less than 1 percent of the world's electricity, in part because its power can cost homeowners twice as much as power from the grid.
But costs could fall 40 percent in the next few years as polysilicon becomes more available...More than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States will boost production over the next few years of purified polysilicon, which helps panels convert sunlight into electricity, and is the main ingredient in semiconductor computer chips, according to the report.
In some of the world's sunniest places, like California, electricity from solar panels costs the same as power from the grid. A drop in solar panel prices could expand that to places that only get average sunlight, making solar more of a mainstream choice...
Last year, China passed the United States to become the world's third largest producer of solar panels, trailing only Germany and Japan.