The need for solar electricity is clear. It is safe, ecologically sound, efficient, continuously available, and it has no moving parts. The basic problem with the use of solar photovoltaic devices is economics, but until recently very little progress had been made toward the development of low-cost photovoltaic devices. The larger part of research funds has been devoted to the study of single-crystal silicon solar cells, despite the evidence, including that of the leading manufacturers of crystalline silicon, that this technique holds little promise. The reason for this pattern is understandable and historical. Crystalline silicon is the active element in the very successful semiconductor industry. Crystalline silicon solar cells work well and are successfully used in the space program, where cost is not an issue. While single crystal silicon has been proven in extraterrestrial use with efficiencies as high as 18 percent, and other more expensive and scarce materials such as gallium arsenide can have even higher efficiencies, costs must be reduced greatly to make them practical for commercial uses. Beside the fact that the starting crystalline silicon is expensive, 95 percent of it is wasted and does not appear in the final device. Recently, there have been some imaginative attempts to make polycrystalline and ribbon silicon that are lower in cost than high-quality single crystals; but to date the efficiencies of these apparently lower-cost arrays have been unacceptably small. Moreover, these materials are cheaper only because of the introduction of disordering in crystalline semiconductors, and disorder degrades the efficiency of crystal line solar cells. This dilemma can be avoided by preparing completely disordered or amorphous materials. Amorphous materials have disordered atomic structure as compared to crystalline materials: that is, they have only short-range order rather than the long-range periodicity of crystals. The advantages of amorphous solar cells are impressive. Whereas crystals can be grown as wafers about four inches in diameter, amorphous materials can be grown over large areas in a single process. Whereas crystalline silicon must be made 200 microns thick to absorb a sufficient amount of sunlight for efficient energy conversion, only 1 micron of the proper amorphous materials is necessary. Crystal-line silicon solar cells cost in excess of $100 per square foot, but amorphous films can be created at a cost of about 15 per square foot. Although many scientists were aware of the very low cost of amorphous solar cells, they felt that they could never be manufactured with the efficiencies necessary to contribute significantly to the demand for electric power. This was based on a misconception about the feature that determines efficiency. For example, it is not the conductivity of the material in the dark which is relevant, but only the photoconductivity, that is, the conductivity in the presence of sunlight. Already, solar cells with efficiencies well above 6 percent have been developed using amorphous materials, and further research will doubtless find even less costly amorphous materials with higher efficiencies.