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DuPont Says Solar Panels to Cost Less Than TVs

Solar panel prices, which have fallen 80 percent in the past three years, can fall further because the technology is simpler than many consumer electronics that are being made cheaper now, a DuPont & Co. executive said.

“Right now it would be cheaper to put 40-inch TVs on your roof than solar panels, which are much less complicated,” said Conrad Burke, general manager of the Wilmington, Delaware-based chemical company’s DuPont Innovalight unit, which makes a product that gets more power from panels.

The comments highlight the potential for solar panel costs to decline far enough that power from cells rivals that generated by fossil fuels. Burke said DuPont, whose materials are in 70 percent of the world’s installed panels, aims to hit $2 billion in solar sales by 2014 after $1.4 billion last year.

Solar panel makers led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. in China and First Solar Inc. in the U.S. have suffered slimming margins as increased competition drives down the price of cells.

TVs are cheaper because there are about five major manufacturers mass producing them, and solar may be similar in the future, Burke said. The pattern mimics the aluminum and mobile phone industries, which consolidated once technology enabled low-cost production.

Canadian Solar Inc. Chief Executive Officer Shawn Qu said yesterday he expects that there will be only also only four to five major solar manufacturers by 2015.

Solar energy currently only generates 0.2 percent of the world’s electricity even though installations are growing by a third each year and the cost of its power is reaching parity with retail prices in Australia and Brazil, he said.

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