Technology Review: Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said that a breakthrough is needed for photovoltaic technology to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. Researchers are exploring solar cells that use very cheap materials or even novel physics that could dramatically increase efficiency, which could bring down costs.
But industry experts at the Washington symposium argued that new technologies will take decades to come to market, judging from how long commercialization of other solar technologies has taken. Meanwhile, says Zweibel, conventional technologies "have made the kind of progress that we were hoping futuristic technologies could make." For example, researchers have sought to bring the cost of solar power to under $1 per watt, and as of the first quarter of this year one company, First Solar, has done this.