The special Professor Walter E. Spear commemoration issue of the Philosophical Magazine, published in October 2009, contains papers which cover the numerous relevant issues, driven by commercial applications, primarily solar energy and displays. Kocka reviews the complex microstructure of crystallites embedded in the amorphous silicon tissue, the transport mechanism is determined by the conductive grains and influenced by the passivation through H at the grain boundaries. Hugger and co-researchers report on transient photocapacitance spectroscopy and drive-level capacitance profiling as a way of elucidating the fundamental electronic properties of hydrogenated ncSi. Tawada recounts the history of a-Si:H pin heterojunction solar cells, emphasizing the role of the p-type silicon carbide layer in the improvement of the device. Schubert and colleagues focus their work on the production of flexible PV modules with many applications in the architectural arena or integrated into clothing.