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April 01, 2008

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference MIT Spin-off Developing Solar Cells That are 27% More Efficient, No more Expensive to Make:

Comments

Luke

Yet another step towards making solar a viable (meaning affordable) option for the masses. As one of the masses, I can't wait!

Cyril R.

If the incoming light is not at normal incidence, this concept could work less well. If this is a problem, a two axis tracker could solve it, although that might limit it's applications.

NiraliSherni

I really applaud all the R&D that is done in the solar energy segment. That is the one source of energy that is clean, efficient, and is not likely to run out anytime soon or ever come to that.
-http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/xebra-xero-solar-option

Kit P

“As one of the masses, I can't wait!”

Poor down trodden Luke!!! More than a billion people on this planet do not have access to electricity and clean water. Luke whines about the cost of something while communicating on the Internet using an expensive computer.

Abe Lincoln never used electricity. In that tradition, you can not be poor if you have access to a good library. With access to computers and the Internet, you must be rich. I can build Luke adequate shelter that uses no electricity with affordable solar panels to power a radio to get the crop reports. So solar is affordable for the masses. Solar panels to meet the demand of Al Gore mansion are not affordable for the rest of us.

Chandranshu Pandya

The rate at which Solar Technology is getting updated all ove the world, I am sure drastic changes in the residential power needs may bring about some improvement in the environment after, may be, a decade or two.
Let us hope for the best !

bob

God, Kit P, you are a misanthrope. I suppose you're at least fairly honest about it, unlike most hardcore "environmentalists." How about you go live in the wilderness without electricity, we're going to stay here and come up with reasonable solutions to problems.

Paul Dietz

Textured silicon is an old idea for PV cells. It works because the refractive index of Si is very high (3.5, iirc, although it depends on wavelength) and so unless the outgoing light hits the surface at near normal incidence, it will be reflected back into the cell. This enables one to greatly reduce the cell thickness, improving its efficiency.

It's even more important for PV cells made from direct bandgap semiconductors (GaAs, say), where carrier recombination can cause reemission of light. You want that light to be trapped and reabsorbed.

Fluorescent concentrators have also been tried, where incoming light is absorbed and reemitted in a random direction, with most of it being trapped in the transparent material. You want a bleach-resistent fluorescent dopant, such as various kinds of uranium-containing ions.

Harvey D

Kit P:

As the majority of the very poor people live is hot dry sunny areas, they could be the first to benefit from very low cost PV panels to get the essential (clean) electric energy they don't have.

To make us feel better, we could supply them (almost free) with a few hundred million PV panels + batteries instead of weapons to make wars or Oil wars etc.

With electrical power, they could pump enough water to grow food in many dry places where many are starving and/or fresh drinking water to avoid current sickness.

Carl Hage

I don't see where the 27% comes from-- supposedly improving the solar:electric conversion from 15-19%. The ribbon technology allows 2% improvement in electric power loss (not solar) from the area otherwise covered by the silver connections. There is also mention of improved silver wires, but I don't think total loss from wiring is really 30%.

If wiring loss is really that big of a problem, why not use laser-drilled (or whatever) vias and use standard printed circuit board technology to carry the power behind the cell?

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the cost of the glass and silicon for a given amount of power, but it seems like this announcement is a minor though useful tweak.

Still, it's good to hear of yet another startup company. I've heard of other startups just talking with friends, each with the possibility of dramatically reducing cost/watt. (All seem to use thin CIGS, CdTe or Si.) At least one is bound to succeed, so we are on the verge of an exciting time.

The only startup I haven't heard of is one to figure out some way to cheaply mount and install these soon-to-arrive inexpensive PV panels.

Clee

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. I don't think we should give away PV panels for free to make ourselves feel better when we can help people set up their own self-sustaining, profitable PV industry, like they have in Kenya, which reportedly has the highest household PV ownership rate in the world, and where PV is affordable for the rural off-grid middle-class.
http://www.worldbank.org/html/fpd/esmap/energy_report2000/ch11.pdf

On the topic of the blog entry, it seems to me that some PV manufacturers are already increasing their cell efficiency by adding texture and using thinner wires, or even putting wires on the back of the cells so they don't shade the semi-conductor. No need to wait for the startup, these things are already in, or going into mass production. The light-capturing ribbon sounds new though.
http://global.mitsubishielectric.com/news/news_releases/2008/mel0705.pdf

On designing panels to reduce installation costs, Akeena is taking a shot at it with their Andalay product. We'll see if that pans out for them or not.
http://www.akeena.net/cm/Press%20Release/jan0208.html

Harvey D

Clee:

In principle, I agree with you. Free access to the technology, essential training and cheap start-up capital may be enough in many places and could be a better idea than repeated free finish products.

PV panels must be very low cost. Otherwise, very few poor people will be able to buy enough of them to make a difference. Even $1/watt is too much for many in poorer countries. Burning wood for cooking is devastating countries like Haiti, Ethiopia, Soudan, Tchad and many others.

If we find anything above $1/Watt to expensive, how can very poor people, in Kenya or anywhere else, afford to buy such product?

Clee

The reason they can afford PV in rural Kenya when we can't is because our alternative is cheap electricity from the grid. For them, PV replaces kerosene lamps and increasingly expensive diesel-generated power. But you're right, if they can't even afford the kerosene lamps and diesel, then they can't afford the PV.
I've seen it claimed, that if you can afford to buy a new car, you can afford to buy PV. Of course that is just a straight dollar comparison of the two and only goes so far.

RM

Professor Sachs has a track record, so here's to hoping this new venture works. Cheap solar is a world changing technology. Necessity is the mother of invention, as someone once said.

And, Kit P, go crawl back under the dark, cold, miserable rock you sulk under. No one is interested.

bigTom

At least for the near future the people in rural Kenya would be delighted to have a few tens of watts of electricity. The marginal utility of the first fifty watts is much larger than the marginal utility at 1KW/capita. Think how during a power failure backup power for a couple of emergency lights feels like bringing you half way back to civilization. Given the cost of new electrical transmission lines, beyond a certain population density PV is a cheaper solution. Low per capita demand also improves the relative price picture.

Luke

"Poor down trodden Luke!!! More than a billion people on this planet do not have access to electricity and clean water. Luke whines about the cost of something while communicating on the Internet using an expensive computer." -- Kit P.

Dang, what was I thinking? Cheaper and cheaper solar energy makes me look greedy. LOL!!!!

Luke

"Abe Lincoln never used electricity. In that tradition, you can not be poor if you have access to a good library."

Abe probably knew what "non sequitur" means.

Kit P

Sorry if you all find it offensive, but the only purpose of PV is greenwashing based on 30 years of observation. There is no social benefit associated with PV other than to make rich people feel good about themselves. It belongs in a special category for the clueless along with Hollywood cosmetic surgery. Neither works very long.

Except for Clee, I never hear well thought out practical uses of PV that must also talk about how much electricity is produced relative to the environment impact of other choices.

There is nothing stopping Luke or anyone else that blogs here from buying PV and telling us how it works.

Anyone who thinks PV is a good environmental choice is just wrong.

Cyril R.

Guys, let's just ignore Kit P. He just wants to provoke other people. Let's not give him what he wants.

Bob Wallace

When I found this site I was delighted by the depth of knowledge provided by some of the posters.

I'd hate to see this site destroyed by one (or a few) people who cannot or will not engage in an exchange of ideas in a civil fashion.

Ideally the site admin would exert some control over the community, but this doesn't seem to be happening.

Perhaps Cyril has a solution.

Perhaps when a post is made that is insulting, disruptive, apparent spam, etc. the first participant to observe it should post a "Please ignore the 00:00 post by X".

Other ideas?

eja

SCE announced a solar rooftop project last week 250 MWs -- the cost is $910 MM. Ready to pay for it? http://snurl.com/23euk [www_itstheinfrastructure_com]

Cyril R.

Perhaps Cyril has a solution.

Perhaps we should have the option to rate comments, so that the average rating of commentators is displayed.

Of course that is a bit subjective and doesn't always work well, especially if the rating system doesn't work well.

A much better idea is just not to respond to posts that are obvious hogwash, meaningless unrefutable generalizations or just plain acts of propaganda.

Paul F. Dietz

Sorry if you all find it offensive, but the only purpose of PV is greenwashing based on 30 years of observation.

So, the use of PV in satellites, offgrid homes, and small dispersed automonomous terrestrial applications are all just figments of our imaginations?

Cyril R.

Not to mention the recent deal that DC Chemicals got to supply Chinese manufacturers with $ 631 million dollars worth of polysilicon.

Kit P

Good point Paul, there are many good application of PV where there is no environmental benefit. So 99.999% of PV applications are greemwashing. For example, those who want off live off grid would forgo generating electricity if their goal was to minimize the environmental impact of their lifestyle.

For those who do not know, greemwashing is when you marketing something based on false claims of environmental benefit. Greemwashing is so ubiquitous in our modern society that it has become the new sex appeal. The reality is that good environmental choices are universally boring and really, really cheap. Planting shade trees to keep your house cool, low flow shower nozzles, recycling aluminum, and compsting are environmental no brainers.

I will change my mind when anyone provides me a LCA comparing reducing peak electricity demand with shade trees to PV.

The interesting thing about so called environmentalists is there huge gap knowledge about protecting the environment.

Cyril R.

Perhaps we should also compare pulverized coal power plants with shade trees. Right.

I think I'll follow my own advice now.

bob

I agree that greenwashing is a significant problem, and many energy-saving ideas are commonsense. My problem with your comments on this blog are that most amount to hating on scientific advances, because it seems to me that you would rather society as a whole moved back to the paleolithic era (or, in this instance, the American civil war era). If that's not how you feel, it's sure as hell what you sound like, and I for one like the idea of starting to ignore your posts.

shawn

Our global dependence on fossil fuels and our urgent attempts to free ourselves from this dependence have revealed a significant deficiency in our current energy generation and supporting infrastructure. We are making great strides in the energy generation field with a nuclear renaissance on the horizon and the emergence of new and innovative ‘green’ technologies; nonetheless, these gains are offset by the inefficiencies inherent in our infrastructure. Unless we invest in and develop our capabilities to store efficiently the energy that we are producing, we are only going to add to the problem. We need a cost-effective, reliable and efficient energy storage platform to 1) transfer energy into, 2) store the energy, and 3) release it when needed. If this ideal platform existed today we would be much closer to true energy independence. The consequence of such a break-through in energy storage technology would truly change the face of the globe and help us realize our dreams.

In order to gain a better perspective on what a universally desirable energy storage device should comprise, we should look at each of the processes above. This may be an overly simplistic view of energy storage, but it does provide insight into what we are up against. Of the three processes, numbers 1) and 3) are the biggest culprits when it comes to wasting the energy we are trying to conserve. These losses are repetitive and additive and are a consequence of the inability of the energy storage device readily to accept energy and its reluctance to release it when needed. For example, if you take an ordinary lead acid battery, the amount of energy required to recharge it is always greater than what is actually stored, and you can never get as much out of it as it can store. These inherent short-comings have been accepted in the industry and design philosophies have followed suit. The industry as a whole has adopted a design philosophy that compensates for energy storage device inadequacies rather than trying to fix the problem. In other words, the industry accepts the energy storage device ‘as-is’ and then designs its systems to work around the problem. This line of thinking is wrong and it is not an acceptable approach for those interested in energy conservation. AGT has identified, and is targeting the root cause for these energy losses by attacking it at the most fundamental level.

AGT’s patent-pending technologies (protections held in the US, Canada and Europe) offer customized Ultrasonic Energy Efficiency Improvement (UEEI) solutions for all battery based applications. AGT uses high-frequency, low-level ultrasonic energy to alter the electro-chemical conversion process within the energy storage device. Specifically, the ultrasonic signal is tailored to enhance the energy storage devices internal electro-chemical diffusion characteristics. By doing so, the energy losses (waste) associated with this limiting characteristic during the transfer of energy to and from the energy storage device are significantly reduced. AGT recaptures the wasted energy and uses it for its intended function. Until now, this energy storage device characteristic was considered fixed and dependent on the chemical make-up of the energy storage device—AGT recognized that it is also dependent on the influence of ultrasonic energy. Thus, the energy storage device becomes an integral part of the solution, an active and controllable component of the system, rather than part of the problem. AGT is not settling for the energy storage device in its manufactured (as-is) form; we take a commercial product, we modify it, and we control it to fit our application.

-1-

Benefits of AGT’s Patent-Pending Technology and Process

• The size of a battery pack can be greatly reduced, to 1/3 of 1/2 of its original size
• Higher peak currents are available during discharge (power), up to 3X greater
• Faster charge times to 100% State of Charge (SoC), as much as 5X faster
• It will last 5-10 times longer, sharply reducing the need for battery pack replacement
• Its charge acceptance at lower currents is significantly increased (Solar)
• Its internal impedance can be adjusted to compensate for less than ideal wind speeds (Wind)
• The level of control is limitless and it is real-time, thereby allowing for compensation for load changes, environmental changes, etc
• The level of control can be altered via customized software solutions: A programmable battery pack
• Less weight compliments the plug-in hybrid initiative (40 miles on single charge)
• Lowered impact on the environment, fewer batteries being discarded
• Less gassing and at lower charging potentials, less sensitive to the cold (Fork-Lift)
• Industrial and residential applications
• Truly revolutionize energy storage without disrupting current production and distribution channels
• Cost effective and scalable solutions for energy storage worldwide

If we truly want to minimize or eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and move toward a ‘green’ environment, we are going to have to change the way we think about energy storage. AGT has dedicated itself to solving these problems and will pave the way for others to follow. The gains achievable with the application of AGT technology are boundless.


comments/suggestions
shawnkel@gmail.com

Jules

"Burning wood for cooking is devastating countries like Haiti, Ethiopia, Soudan, Tchad and many others..."

Yes, but thermal applications of solar power are relatively inexpensive. Solar cookers and water heaters can be made locally from cheap materials like cardboard, scrap lumber, aluminum foil, etc. When the sun don't shine... use one of those cheap little "rocket" stoves that can burn twigs or a methane stove powered by animal dung.

Save the expensive PV's for small-time stuff like lights, radios, charging cell phones, etc.

SolarLad

A lot of these advancements never make it to the commercial stage. Having Emanuel Sachs on board makes this one a little more promising (and exciting). After all, his string ribbon technology has been proven commercially viable.

linds

There is a need to increase demand in order to create the economies of scale needed for solar to compete with conventional electricity production methods. This will catalyze a positive-spiral effect whereby we can transition global energy sources to renewables.

It's interesting that universities are the key developers of emerging solar technologies, yet they remain dependent largely on fossil fuels for power.
One innovative way to increase demand for photovoltaics such that they can compete with conventional electricity production methods is to harness the green purchasing power of academic institutions (universities and colleges). This has been shown to be potentially quite influential in catalyzing a positive spiral-effect in renewables globally. Please see: Joshua M. Pearce, “Catalyzing Mass Production of Solar Photovoltaic Cells Using University Driven Green Purchasing”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 7(4), pp. 425 – 436, 2006. at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/10.1108/14676370610702226

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