Compare the cost and efficiency of solar panels for cubesats and for your house:
The 10,000 Watt array for your house costs less than a 10 W array for a cubesat satellite.
I get tired of the excuse, “Im waiting for higher efficiency cells” when the cost of just doubling the efficiency from 15% to 30% is a factor of 1000 times more expensive. You’ll be dead before the expensive ones even come down by half (much less the 1000 to 1 needed to make them practical).
And in fact it will never ever happen. Because a satellite builder will pay a measly $10,000 to DOUBLE the power of his 4 inch satellite and so the market for the highest efficiency cells will always get a premium price because the satellite buyers will always pay max dollars for max power independent of cost.
And there will never be a decaying cost or learning curve, because as soon as someone comes up with a 32% solar cell, then the 30% technology is ABANDONED because the space industry will all move to the 32% cells and be happy to pay even more for the higher power and there is practically no market for last year’s 30% cells that cost 1000 times more than existing silicon cells at 15%. And without a growing market for last year’s HIGH efficiency cells, there will never be a learning curve and declining cost.
Meanwhile the cheap 15% cells being mass produced for the terrestrial solar market in a MILLION times the volume at 1/1000 the cost already cost less than a window of the same size! Witness the cost reduction of 10 to 1 in the last 10 years and the 2 to 1 reduction in the last 3 years with improvements from 15% efficiency up to around 18% not by changing the technology of the 60 year old simple silicon, but just optimizing the manufacturing process (by the billions)…
Solar is here, Now. And it won’t get any cheaper, because as the market expands exponentially the demand for bazillions of watts of solar will soak up every panel produced and homeowners are then competing with massive utility scale purchases of millions of panels. Solar panels now cost less than just a window of the same size. It is no longer the cost of the panels, it is simply the cost of labor that drives the majority of cost now. You can buy solar panels for under $0.70 a watt but to have a contractor installed system is hovering around $3.50 per watt and not going down much at all.
Lastly, if you have sun, you KNOW eventually you will be going solar. So once you realize that, you should also realize that every electric bill you pay from now on is just throwing money away which would have been better invested in free electricity and 10% annual return for life on your roof or in your yard.
Waiting gains nothing. Even the solar panels I bought 4 years ago at twice the price have already paid for themselves. Waiting would have gained nothing except 4 years of more wasted money to the utility and so many tons of burned coal wasted into the air. Here are some more thoughts…
Summary, Solar and Satellites… the same but 1000 times cheaper on Earth.