We’ve seen this before. In 1909 Henry Ford froze his Model-T design and famously said “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. Beyond the limited offering, there are other similarities between the current PV industry and Ford’s rapid growth. Between 1909 and 1925 the price of a Model T went from $850 to $250 as the volume went from zero to 2 million units per year. The volume and cost curves for solar PV modules between 1994 and 2012 show a similar trend.
The global growth of solar PV sales has been spectacular over the last decade. However, as the maps below show, the majority of installations has been in developed countries, in the more northern latitudes. One-half of the world’s population lives between the equator and 30° north latitude. This section of the globe has inadequate electricity supply but an enormous solar resource. The economic buying power of people living in this region is low, which adversely impacts PV adoption. Giga Solar challenges the idea that one module design is appropriate for the entire world. Module weight becomes a much bigger issue in markets that lack modern roads, transportation, buildings and tools.