It’s an all-too-familiar refrain in the United States these days: “Solar is too expensive.” Supporters of solar power have long had to face the argument that conventional energy sources are simply cheaper. This economic reality is a substantial portion of what underlies the sizable government subsidies to solar companies such as Solyndra in the U.S., and why the Chinese government is vigorously subsidizing its own solar industry. A poll conducted in the U.S. by clean-tech communications firm Tigercomm reflects this as well: The majority of respondents said solar power is too expensive, will remain an intermittent source of power, and can’t truly compete directly with coal or natural gas. A mere 41% believed solar was affordable, and only 34% believed it was reliable. But new solar cell technology–specifically improvements involving nanotechnology–may change minds with surprising speed.