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Often times it isn’t until new tech hits mainstream markets that the average consumer is reminded of the extent and rigor of research that goes into developing higher-efficiency products. It can seem as though eons pass before our favorite products receive their latest updates, and this is especially so when we’re constantly on the search for the newest, most cost-effective technology. Naturally, this is no different when it comes to solar photovoltaics.

A few weeks ago we gave a brief overview of what it will likely take for solar energy storage systems to become ubiquitous based on trends we’ve seen occur across industries. This process necessarily involves improvements being made to existing technologies that effectively cause prices to decrease, thereby making them affordable to a wider population. According to PV Tech, a leading source for updates in photovoltaic (PV) research & development, the markers of this are indeed becoming increasingly apparent in the public sphere. Given recent policy setting limits on Chinese deployment of modules manufactured within their borders, buyers elsewhere are reaping the benefits. Eric Millard, CCO at U.S-based Conti Solar recounted last week that “last year [Conti Solar] ended up using a lot of higher efficiency modules” and that “particularly in the first half of this year, [they are] seeing that the lower wattage products went out based on the economics.” In other words, retail and installation companies—that is, those of us who source our products at least in part from China—are benefitting from system costs that are lower than ever as high-efficiency modules reach the price of what we previously would have paid for lower efficiency products. 

This sounds like good news to us, but the question remains as to how these improvements translate into identifiable benefits specifically for the African consumer. Part of it is simply a waiting game, as only time can give us the hard facts we seek. For now, stay tuned as we take a more in-depth look at industry updates to get a sense of what Nigerians are choosing.

Changing Landscapes

This may come as a shock to some, but a lot can change in just half a century. A little short of fifty years ago, the then coveted Kenbak I personal computer was selling for $750—which, when adjusted for inflation, comes to $4,659 by today’s standards. Fast forward a few decades: it’s 2018 and no reasonable person dares spend that much on what is now the hallmark of ubiquitous commodities. Times really have changed.

Just look at any other breakthrough technology and you’re likely to spot a common pattern: first there’s the initially questionable market viability because of high costs. This tends to be followed by initial sales and capital investment driving the development of more efficient processing systems. Greater efficiency leads to an increase in demand often resulting from the increase in user-friendliness. And, finally, a decrease in cost thereby making once rare technologies more widely accessible. Groundbreaking, right?

Anyway, the question remains as to where solar technologies fit into this picture. Like any industry in its youth, the benefits don’t always outweigh the costs when money is an issue for those who stand to benefit the most. But thanks to ongoing research in solar cell efficiency and growing concerns about sustainability, costs may not present as much of a barrier as the technology catches up with public interest. A pioneer of decentralized, clean energy in West Africa, entered the game to meet the public’s needs along each step of the way. Stay tuned as we keep up with the latest industry developments and help pave the way to a greener future—for all of us.