Tag Archives: solar-power

Solar power achieves $1-per-Watt milestone

solar panelsDepending on who you ask, solar power is somewhere between the ultimate clean solution to our energy addiction or a blind alley of inefficiency and cost that distracts us from more reasonable solutions. Recent developments have added a little weight to the former argument, with a solar panel manufacturer claiming a $1-per-Watt grid parity on manufacturing costs:

Using cadmium telluride (CdTe) technology in its thin-film photovoltaic cells, First Solar claims to have the lowest manufacturing cost per watt in the industry with the ability to make solar cells at 98 cents per watt, one third of the price of comparable standard silicon panels. The efficiency is in part due to a low cycle time – 2.5 hours from sheet of glass to solar module – about a tenth of the time it takes for silicon equivalents.

Cost is only part of the battle, of course, but dropping prices can’t harm solar’s status as a contender in the renewables marketplace. [image by laurenatclemson]

However, somebody somewhere is probably going to find some other reason for not deploying it – look at the NIMBYism that has plagued windfarms.

Solar power from space: here in ten years?

One of the most visually striking science fictional solutions to our hunger for energy has to be SBSP – solar power beamed from space. Nothing says ‘awesome’ quite so much as a lance of coherent energy zapping through the atmosphere and into a collection station before powering your toaster or charging your pod-car…. but how soon might it turn up?

According to the not-so-imaginatively named start-up company called Space Energy, Inc, it could be soon. Space Energy says “it plans to develop SBSP satellites to generate and transmit electricity to receivers on the Earth’s surface […] The hitch: this concept is based on as yet unproven technology.”

For ‘unproven’ there, you might want to swap in ‘sketchy’:

… the actual test results conducted for a Discovery channel documentary proved a total failure. The former NASA executive and physicist who organized the experiment, a John Mankins, admitted in a press conference that the $1 Million budget spent of the experiment resulted in less than 1/1000th of 1% of the power transmitted being received on the other island.

Ouch. I wonder if SE, Inc are sincere but a little deluded, or whether they’re another snake-oil energy company? There’s been a few of those cropping up recently, and I can’t help but suspect there’ll be more to come… especially when the price of oil starts rising again.

Still, maybe two decades will do it for space-based solar – apparently the Japanese are on the case:

Researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have begun to develop the hardware for a SBSP satellite they hope to launch by 2030. They will begin testing this month of a microwave power transmission system designed to beam the power from the satellites to Earth.

All very well, but will no one think of the birds?

Record photovoltaic efficiency

Encouraging advances is solar power technology from the US DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.


The 40.8 percent efficiency was measured under concentrated light of 326 suns. One sun is about the amount of light that typically hits Earth on a sunny day.

Mmm. I wonder what the efficiency will be under normal conditions (once it’s mass produced)? Still, it’s pretty impressive as a proof of concept:

…the new design uses compositions of gallium indium phosphide and gallium indium arsenide to split the solar spectrum into three equal parts that are absorbed by each of the cell’s three junctions for higher potential efficiencies.

Beautiful. Kudos to humanity’s glorious electrical engineers!

[story here via ElectricalEngineer.com and KurzweilAI.net][image from Alex // Berlin on flickr]

Is Solar feasible – absolutely!

A Concentrating Photovoltaic array by Solfocus using mirrors to concentrate light onto a III-V photovoltaic
Earlier today TJ wrote a post about the possibility of solar power as an alternative fuel. Now I have to admit to having a vested interest in this field as recently I began work as a Solar Analyst for a renewable energy developer. I’ve spent the last six weeks conducting studies into every aspect of the solar market and its feasibility. Although some more outlandish technologies have been overstated, the future of solar is incredibly bright.

There are four main types of solar power on the horizon. Most people know about silicon photovoltaics, which are now reaching record efficiencies of 23%.

Back of the envelope: is solar power feasible?

solar_panelsDr Buzzo has some interesting back of the envelope calculations concerning localised solar power generation. This kind of localised, renewable energy generation, is something that Greenpeace are pretty hot on:

Day by day the sun supplies 15,000 times the amount of the daily energy-demand of the total global population. In less than 30 minutes the sun sends more energy to our planet than is consumed in a whole year.

This certainly looks promising. Dr Buzzo looks at it from the other direction, by taking available data on the amount of solar energy available, the efficiency of solar panels etc, and looking at how much energy could be generated in his native Connecticut:

Reasonably speaking I