Even though I think it’s going to be the thin-film photovoltaic space is where we will see the most market ready advances in cost and efficiency, breakthroughs in other areas, like polymer solar cells, keep the entire field moving forward and might well lead to the next big thing down the road. It truly is promising to follow and read about the sheer volume of basic research and incremental improvements going on in solar and other alternative energy sources. The faster the United States can end dependency on Middle East petroleum, the faster one of the more vexing national security issues gets solved.
From the second link:
Polymer solar cells are finding use in solar charging backpacks and umbrellas, but they still only convert around 6 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity–or around a third of what conventional silicon panels are capable of. If the efficiency of polymer solar cells–which are cheaper and lighter than silicon cells–can be boosted significantly, they could be ideal for plastering on rooftops or laminating on windows.
Solarmer Energy, based in El Monte, CA, is on target to reach 10 percent efficiency by the end of this year, says Yue Wu, the company’s managing director and director of research and development. Organic cells will likely need at least that efficiency to compete on the photovoltaic market.
Hit the first link above in the very first sentence of this post for a story on U.S. firms seeking to push the cost of thin-film solar cells down.