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Solar power deemed too expensive for commercial use

Solar panels undergoing testing at the Mont Soleil research facility Keystone

Solar power technology needs more funding and research if it is to have any hope of competing with other sources of energy, according to a three-year research programme supported by the Swiss government.

The study’s findings, presented at a press conference on Friday, do not bode well for environmentalists and others concerned about renewable energy.

After three years of research, the solar power company that conducted the study, Mont Soleil, has concluded that technologies to harness the Sun’s energy remain far more expensive and inefficient than other sources of power.

One reason is a lack of research. Mont Soleil, based in the Bernese Oberland, said there has been no improvement in the performance of solar cells in the past 10 years.

On the contrary, said Rudolf Minder, head of research at Mont Soleil: some of the new solar technologies are actually less efficient than their predecessors.

The company said it is clear that intensive research is needed if solar power is to have any hope of competing with traditional energy sources.

Switzerland is a world leader in the use of solar power, harnessing more of the Sun’s energy per capita than any other country.

But the fact that the industry receives annual subsidies of SFr15 million ($8.8 million) from the government suggests that solar energy has a long way to go before it becomes competitive.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR