Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Difficulty with Green Tech

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Photovoltaic solar power, or PV solar, could be a $2 billion business for semiconductor makers by 2013, if all goes to plan, claims research firm Gartner.

But green technologies of all kinds are facing uphill challenges in a challenging economic environment — not the least of which is they many still aren’t ready for primetime.

Jim Hines, a research director for semiconductors at Gartner, noted that hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) will be in the minority of vehicles sold until at least 2025, accounting for perhaps 20 percent of the market by 2030.

The problem is that EVs have poor range and a long charge time and that the battery is costly, making them unappealing.

“Green cars will continue to represent a niche for the foreseeable future,” he told a crowd here at a Gartner briefing for the semiconductor industry.

The intelligent power grid will be the utility benefiting most technologically from the federal government’s stimulus efforts. That’s due to demand. Global electricity demand will double by 2030, requiring more than 2,000 new powerplants.

PV solar, though, has some barriers to adoption. It’s not a very efficient technology at power conversion, the inverters that convert DC power to AC have a short lifespan — only around ten years — and are large and expensive to purchase and maintain.

However, this is an opportunity for the semiconductor industry, according to Gartner, which said there’s room for improvement that can be driven by chips. There needs to be panel-level functionality for power conversion optimization and monitoring and diagnostics of the equipment, Hines said.

There needs to be improvements to the inverter as well as to what he called microinverters, which is to move the inverter to the panel and do the DC to AC conversion in the panel as the energy is gathered

Overall, he said, despite the talk of green tech and smart appliances, there needs to be a use for it.

“It will be a while before we see small appliances get traction in the market,” he said. “It’s not enough to be green. There has to be an economic viability behind the product.”

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