While I believe that solar panels are "good" generally speaking, they are not without environmental and social costs. I believe this is especially true when they are being manufactured in China where environmental regulations are lax and working conditions are often poor. I guess if you only consider the short term economic impact we would be better off, but I'm not certain how this all balances out world wide over the longer term and if this would be such a gift to us from China.
The power density of the solar panel(photovoltaic effect)is in the order of 60 watts per square meter only. Whereas a typical power station has a nominal output in the order of gigawatts. That is to say, it would need 100,000,000 square meters of solar area to generate the same power output as an conventional power station. I do not know the basis of the competition as suggested by Richard's contention. It seems to me that there is no substitution for the good old fossil power plants.
Rich - "....or at least over the lifetime of the panels". Given China's reputation for making huge quantities of cheap and nasty stuff, what would the lifetime of such panels be? I am told you can expect 20-25 years from a good panel - if China's only last 5 years they'll have to be VERY cheap to compete, given reinstallation costs. Could you comment?
Sorry to ruin the holiday spirit, but if China's predatory pricing drives other companies out of the market, then it may be depriving the world of the innovation source that would otherwise keep the PV industry moving forward.