Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Sun for Less: Solar Panels Drop in Price

From the New York Times

More Sun for Less: Solar Panels Drop in Price

1 comment:

  1. Bigger is not Better – Efficiency and Affordability Are

    Solar panels just aren’t big enough.

    Better solar is the key over the next few years, and the idea is to replace 30 percent of fossil-fuel electricity generation by making it affordable, yes, but more efficient, too.

    Germany has the biggest sun energy project thus far-- 210 football fields with 560,000 thin-film First Solar panels – projected to top out at 700,000.

    The project produces 53 megawatts, which is enough juice to power 15,000 households. Not efficienty enough, however.

    So, some of the best photovoltaic solar panels in the world operate at about 40 percent efficiency. The same is true for concentrating solar power, or CSP, though CSP also offers the advantage of energy storage. Some three-phase CSP operations (solar energy, desalinated water for shaded horticulture, and cooled water for HVAC systems) can raise overall efficiencies to about 70 percent.

    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists project that indium/gallium/nitrogen alloys can convert the entire spectrum of sunlight, but that is still a 70-percent efficiency.

    Scientists from Idaho National Laboratories utilizing nano-antennas can captures infra-red light. Infra-red makes up 47 percent of light’s spectrum, as compared to about 46 percent for visible light; plus, infra-red is available at night.

    There has to be great progress on creating minute capacitors in the center of each nano-antenna. If this happens, solar energy would enter a Phase Four, providing up to 80 percent efficiency. The paradigm would shift immediately.

    Many know that it’s vital that solar energy succeed as an energy resource. Petroleum experts like Dr. Sadad al-Huseini, the former Head of Exploration and Production at Saudi-Aramco, has publicly admitted that oil is likely to peak by 2015. Dr. Shokri Ghanem, director of research at OPEC's Secretariat from 1993 to 2001, also stated that peak oil could will arrive within the next decade. Coal is facing similar peak scenarios.

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a kind of gilded energy policy. Offering $19 million to Massachusetts and Michigan for improved solar photovoltaic efficiency (and another $52.5 million to the latter for improved concentrating solar power), ARRA may seed the sort of efficient, affordable solar that would put business, industry and the American homeowner on the road to drawing down its use of polluting energy.


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