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The new solar cells from the University of California, Berkley use nanopillars to create cheap and efficient cells. An optimized cost could cut solar power costs to a third of current levels.  (Source: Ali Javey, UC Berkeley)
New technology may unlock some massive savings

One of the biggest factors in solar power remaining an expensive power source, despite constantly improving efficiencies, is the inherent cost of materials and processing for solar cells made of polysilicon.  Cutting these costs could make the solar power the preferred energy source for mankind, but thus-far there has been little high-performance designs made with cheaper processes or materials.

Now University of California, Berkeley researchers have created a new type of solar cells that may offer exactly that -- lots of solar energy with low processing and materials costs.  The new type of solar cells are composed of tiny nanopillars in a thin film layer atop aluminum foil.  The foil is enclosed in a protective layer of transparent, rubbery polymer.

The total materials costs are quite low, and the production costs, while not fully determined also look promising.  Ali Jarvey, an electrical-engineering and computer-sciences professor who led the work, cheers, "You won't know the cost until you do this using a roll-to-roll process, but if you can do it, the cost could be 10 times less than what's used to make [crystalline] silicon panels."

The cells use a nanofilm of cadmium telluride with uniform 500-nanometer-high pillars of cadmium sulfide laid on top of it.  Other thin-film solar cells with pillars have been made before, says Professor Jarvey, but they have relied on more expensive deposition techniques.  Further, the new cells have an efficiency of 6 percent in transforming sunlight into electricity, where past designs had efficiencies of less than 2 percent.

Silicon-based photovoltaics still have the cell beat in efficiency with 20 percent or more in commercially available designs; however, they are extremely pure, expensive crystalline silicon.  Impurities can cause electrons to get trapped in the semiconductor, so the expensive process of making this high quality crystal material is unavoidable for that design.  Purity is much less of a cost concern in the new design.

Creating an equivalent amount of power would require three times the area (panels) of photovoltaic cells, given their respective efficiencies.  This means that given the cost estimates, solar power costs could be cut to a third of the current levels.

Another key advantage of the new design over traditional photovoltaic panels is flexibility.  Traditional crystalline panels would break if flexed.  The thin film nanopillar cells, though, can be rolled and unrolled with ease.

The new design essentially divides silicon's responsibilities.  The thin film material absorbs light and generates electrons, while the pillars conduct the electrons to the circuit and help to trap light.  As electrons have a shorter distance to travel to reach the pillars they're less likely to get trapped by defects, and thus crystal quality is less of a concern.

Currently the cells are produced using a relatively cost-effective anodizing design to grow the pillars on a thin aluminum foil film, the bottom electrode.  The thin semiconductor film is then layered over the pillars and a top electrode of copper and gold is layered thinly to complete the circuit. 

Two key areas of improvement are the top film and the production process.  Adopting a roll-to-roll production system could speed up the assembly and make it cheaper.  Also, currently the gold only allows half the sunlight to enter the cell as its semi-opaque.  Replacing the gold with a transparent material like indium oxide could double the efficiency to 12 percent or more, while not significantly impacting the cost of materials.

States Professor Yang, "(The) architecture is most important--materials we can continue working on. The beauty of this paper is the demonstration of how well the architecture works."

The research appears in this month's edition of the journal Nature Materials.

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Can I roll this thing
By sxr7171 on 7/7/2009 8:36:08 AM , Rating: 3
all over the roof and sides of my house? Can't wait until I can sell back power to the grid at 7x the price of coal power.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By FITCamaro on 7/7/2009 8:55:05 AM , Rating: 2
Sure. You'll just need to triple the size of your house to be able to produce as much power as traditional solar panels on your current roof would allow.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By JasonMick on 7/7/2009 9:29:07 AM , Rating: 2
If the cells live up to their cost potential, actually it'd a terrific deal to choose this over traditional panels.

The polymer should hold up much better than glass panelling and be more waterproof and have a longer lifetime. Further, as the article states you might only be generating a third of the power or so (6 percent versus 18-20), but you would be getting it at approximately a tenth of the cost -- that means you're ultimately getting your power at a third of the cost and could recoup your investment much faster.

If this technology lives up to its promise, it could put solar power much closer to wind and fossil fuel power. Currently the most efficient fossil fuel power cost about 3 cents per kwh, the most efficient wind power costs 5 cents per kwh, while the most efficient solar installations cost 20 cents per kwh. With this, solar could drop to as little as 6 cents per kwh, making it much more competitive with fossil fuels. The longer life could drop costs even further as well.

Needless to say, it seems very promising.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Regs on 7/7/2009 9:42:39 AM , Rating: 5
You lead the charge Mick, we'll be right behind you.

*slaps horse*


RE: Can I roll this thing
By JasonMick on 7/7/2009 10:08:13 AM , Rating: 5
Unlike a lot of environmental thinkers, I don't support the solar power movement primarily based on emissions, etc. Rather, I consider it a valuable technology to develop and market as it will be one of our best bets in the near term when we're exploring and colonizing the reaches of outer space. Nuclear fusion and fission are the two other primary alternatives, depending on how much water/isotope-containing ores you have.

Call me what you will, but I prefer to think of myself as a futurist.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By randomposter on 7/7/2009 10:43:45 AM , Rating: 2
You actually raise an interesting point from an op-ed piece I read several years ago ... the basic premise was that the American culture of consumption (water, energy, food, etc.), personal space, modern conveniences, meticulous personal hygiene, etc. essentially preclude many Americans from participating in a space diaspora, if one is coming.

Other cultures like China, Japan, India, or even Europe are more predisposed to compromise and forgoing comfort for the greater good. You are much more likely to successfully house 500 people like that in a closed ecology biosphere.

Personal freedom at the expense of communal ideals may be the American way, but for a spacefaring society it's not tenable.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By mdogs444 on 7/7/09, Rating: -1
RE: Can I roll this thing
By randomposter on 7/7/09, Rating: 0
RE: Can I roll this thing
By mdogs444 on 7/7/09, Rating: 0
RE: Can I roll this thing
By randomposter on 7/7/09, Rating: 0
RE: Can I roll this thing
By Schrag4 on 7/7/2009 1:54:35 PM , Rating: 4
No, you're just missing the point of his response. The idea tha Americans wouldn't fare well in space is a huge assumption based on the fact that we are spread out and enjoy plenty of food, water, etc, when people from other parts of the world are packed together and have fewer of those resources (whether it's true or not). His point is that the only reason people in other parts of the world live like that is because they're forced to, and we don't live that way because we are not forced to. We're all human beings, and we all do what we have to to survive, and we all will take whatever comforts we can afford.

Your point is somewhat valid, it would be an adjustment for many Americans, but I think it goes a little far. Obviously if the benefits of living in space outweigh living on Earth where you can sprawl out and eat lots of food and take long showers, then anyone would do it, regardless of where they're from. But I guess I see your point. If living in space really has no benefits and sucks like you describe, I guess Europeans might decide to live there and Americans might not.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Regs on 7/7/2009 11:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
It's a rather grey point if you ask me. Yes, America is mostly covered in forest, farm, or even uninhabited by man completely. Man however decided not to live in these areas for a reason. The decided to live in crowded metropolises closer to resources and next to the coast lines.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By TSS on 7/8/2009 9:10:28 AM , Rating: 2
I guess Europeans might decide to live there and Americans might not.

ohhh so that's why every human from earth in all space related context sounds american. they are! :P

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Silver2k7 on 7/7/2009 4:25:47 PM , Rating: 2
So when does the Babylon project begin ;)

RE: Can I roll this thing
By djcameron on 7/7/2009 12:15:51 PM , Rating: 5
Is there some plan I'm not aware of to blast Texas into space?

Hey Beavis, th-th-that would be cool.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By menace on 7/7/2009 5:54:40 PM , Rating: 2
We can put giant domes over our cities and cover them with this stuff.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By FITCamaro on 7/7/2009 4:17:37 PM , Rating: 2
I think American's are perfectly fine giving up living space when there's a reason. But there isn't as we're not short on space in the vast majority of the country.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Boze on 7/7/2009 7:17:45 PM , Rating: 1
I just want (hopefully, although doubtfully) myself and my descendants to colonize new planets and gain the mineral rights to them so 200 years from now, two of my female descendants can marry someone named Weyland and the other can marry someone named Yutani and my future family can then use their ridiculous wealth to explore and mine other planets while keeping a keen eye out for hostile life forms to be used in urban pacification.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Shadowself on 7/7/2009 10:28:26 AM , Rating: 3
Leading silicon based solar cells get up to 20% (and sometimes better) efficiency. GaAs and multiple junction cells are getting into the mid 30% efficiencies (though their prices are higher than simple silicon ones).

A 6% efficiency has a long way to go. Even a jump to 12% is not that great.

While it may be feasible in certain climates to use this material as a roof covering (think of areas where hail, microbursts, etc. are very rare). I can't imagine using any solar array as a full roof covering until it becomes more "bullet proof".

Modern asphalt shingles (and even more so, tile and asphalt looking steel shingles) are quite resistant to most hazards. Besides getting the efficiencies up, these materials will have to significantly increase their physical robustness.

As for covering your southern (and maybe eastern & western) faces of your house -- I can't imagine the average homeowner covering their "lovely home" with solar cells even if it saved them $1,000 a year.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By mdogs444 on 7/7/2009 11:01:27 AM , Rating: 2
I can't imagine the average homeowner covering their "lovely home" with solar cells even if it saved them $1,000 a year.

Heck no, I wouldn't cover my roof with that stuff...nor will I bow to the governments wishes of painting my entire roof white.

Obviously, those are personal preferneces. But I think the reason most people wont invest in these things are the same reason they don't feel the need to sell their current cars to buy a hybrid. The length of time your going to keep the car, factored in with the higher cost difference between the non-hybrid version, the total out of pocket costs to obtain the car, and possibly any loss you take on the current just doesn't make sense to put yourself through that financial mess to save 10-15mpg's to "feel good".

RE: Can I roll this thing
By randomposter on 7/7/2009 11:17:23 AM , Rating: 2
So your argument is an economic one. Fair enough. So how much does a can of white paint (for your roof) cost?

RE: Can I roll this thing
By djcameron on 7/7/2009 12:17:22 PM , Rating: 2
But then you'd have to paint your roof black in the winter, right?

RE: Can I roll this thing
By lagomorpha on 7/7/2009 2:51:00 PM , Rating: 3
A black cover that rolls up doesn't sound that difficult to implement...

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Boze on 7/7/2009 7:22:36 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, even if I had a 10,000 square foot home, I'd love to cover it with extremely high efficiency solar cells. There's something about the thought of making everyone else pay for electricity that I get free from the Sun that makes me smile.

I wish some ridiculously advanced new technology could be developed in the next few years that gave the cells a near 99% efficiency and could be produced at a cost of say, $1 per square foot or so... pipe dreams for now I guess. :)

RE: Can I roll this thing
By BeagleFury on 7/10/2009 9:20:03 PM , Rating: 2
We get 4Hr sunlight per day here in NH.

At 6% efficiency, my south facing front roof, covered in solar shingles having this technology, would generate about 350 KWHr per month.

Our electricity costs about 13 cents per KWHr. We pay about $710 for our electricity per year.

Asphalt roof lasts about 15-17 years, costs me about $3000 to replace the front facing roof area.

I estimate a solar roof over the same area using an aluminum base with this technology at 1/3 silicon panel prices would be about $10000 installed.

I am confident they could make this last 30 years.

So, instead of paying $880 per year for my asphalt roof and electricity...

I pay $510 per year for my metal solar roof and electricity.

Seems like a pretty good idea. I save $400 per year. If I'm really worried about hail damage, microbursts, etc. taking out the entire roof, I think I could probably get insurance coverage for under $200 per year. Still save $100 per year over long term.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By MrPoletski on 7/13/2009 6:08:33 AM , Rating: 2
.... and you'll never have another brownout...

RE: Can I roll this thing
By Sanity on 7/7/2009 11:11:34 AM , Rating: 2
but you would be getting it at approximately a tenth of the cost

As long as supply is limited to patent holders and licensing, there's no way anything like this would be sold for much less than a third of the cost of current tech. It's possible applications are more versatile, it would probably last longer and be cheaper to intsall. Even though you're giving up overall efficiency, these qualities alone would let the manufacturers charge more per percentage point of efficiency.

If you have a product that is comparable to other products on the market, but ten times cheaper to manufacture, why sell it for so much less and give up all that profit? I'd sell it for half the cost of regular solar to stimulate sales, and put that 400% profit im my pocket. Capitalism is awesome isn't it?

Unil competition catches up with demand that is.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By menace on 7/7/2009 5:49:08 PM , Rating: 1
If you have a product that is comparable to other products on the market, but ten times cheaper to manufacture, why sell it for so much less and give up all that profit? I'd sell it for half the cost of regular solar to stimulate sales, and put that 400% profit im my pocket. Capitalism is awesome isn't it?

Until "King" Obama decides you are a greedy capitalist and takes over your company for the sake of saving the world.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By puckalicious on 7/7/2009 11:18:11 AM , Rating: 1
Until fossil fuel power properly factors in the REAL cost of supplying our air, land, and water with dangerous chemicals and killing thousands of our citizens with mine collapses and black lung disease and coal ash spills, can a REAL cost analysis be conducted.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By mdogs444 on 7/7/2009 11:25:48 AM , Rating: 5
Don't mix emotion with fiscal responsibility. Haven't you watched Washington do that for decades and put us in this hole were in right now?

When looking at cost and policy, only use real statistics - don't try to put your emotional and environmental spin on it. That's irrational and competely dishonest. You act as if those people in the mines were forced there - as if they couldn't move to a different city/state and get a different job.

If you want to get emotional, why don't you go figure out what we're going to do with all the chemicals from your precious hybrid and battery operated cars.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By superflex on 7/7/2009 2:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
Google Sudbury Ontario nickel smelter and see what your precious NiMH hybrid batteries are doing for the environment.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By randomposter on 7/7/2009 11:27:38 AM , Rating: 2
There have been numerous studies calculating full-cycle costs for various forms of energy. See the Worldwatch Institute for a good starting point.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By randomly on 7/7/2009 11:57:46 AM , Rating: 1
Unfortunately the 1/10 cost factor only applies to the cells themselves. At low efficiencies and thus large collector areas the cost of the support structure, the panel supports, the installation and mounting etc start to become the dominant factors. Even if the cells themselves are free they become uneconomical to use at low efficiency because of the ancillary costs.

Perhaps if they can get the efficiencies above 10-12% they might become economically feasible, if everything else falls in their favor.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By futrtrubl on 7/7/2009 6:14:47 PM , Rating: 2
Their (physical) flexibility will reduce ancillary costs. It should also reduce maintenance and replacement costs since they can simply be rolled up in potentially damaging situations.
Also makes it especially exciting for portable applications.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By FITCamaro on 7/7/2009 1:42:41 PM , Rating: 3
You missed my point. If they're only 1/3 as efficient, then I need 3x the space. A roof is only so big. And considering the amount of space a typical solar plant already takes up, do we really want to have to need 3x the space? Even if its cheaper? We need more power, not less.

Go nuclear. Needs little space and puts out far more energy.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By ClownPuncher on 7/7/2009 2:44:05 PM , Rating: 2
But can I fit a reactor on my roof?

Nuclear has to be bad, because when I shoot the cars in Fallout 3, they blow up and make me sick with radiation!

RE: Can I roll this thing
By FITCamaro on 7/7/2009 4:15:49 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not against a person spending their own money to put solar on their roof. I'd do it too if I owned a home in an area where it made sense. Fact is though, in much of the country, that isn't the case. But I'm talking about large scale power plants.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By ClownPuncher on 7/7/2009 6:29:55 PM , Rating: 2
No doubt. I just wanted to inject some tongue n' cheek in there. I'm very pro-nuclear.

Solar would not work where I live, it rains constantly (at least we tell the Californians that so they don't move here!). Though Seattle gets the majority of its electricity from efficient hydroelectric turbines.

RE: Can I roll this thing
By FingerMeElmo87 on 7/7/2009 4:52:07 PM , Rating: 2
so umm, whats you plan when the sun goes down???

well good
By MrPoletski on 7/7/2009 8:32:00 AM , Rating: 3
so how long until it can enter production? 5 years?

RE: well good
By FireSnake on 7/7/09, Rating: 0
RE: well good
By mdogs444 on 7/7/2009 9:03:54 AM , Rating: 1
Seeing that these things are still less than 20% efficient, who cares. I don't want forced into solar and wind that is going to grab more of out my pocket book for someones dream of social engineering.

RE: well good
By glenn8 on 7/7/2009 9:47:27 AM , Rating: 3
So what's the average efficiency of the internal combustion engine? Especially at the beginnings of the tech?

RE: well good
By randomposter on 7/7/2009 9:53:47 AM , Rating: 5
And don't forget to add in the (in)efficiencies associated with drilling for crude, transporting and refining crude, securing (often militarily) supplies to crude, etc.

RE: well good
By Sdaas on 7/7/2009 10:14:55 AM , Rating: 2
Well if you consider all of that then petrol would have been more efficient in its earlier life then today. However, it produces 44 MJ per kilogram. Even with all of the cost and resources required to acquire the fuel for a combustion engine it is still incredibly more efficient then anything we can think of other then maybe nuclear.

However, Lower cost > then efficiency. There is no such thing as 100% efficiency solar energy, and especially if its on the surface of the earth. What needs to be considered is most energy per <currency here>. Not how much energy it produces. Places like California, Arizona, Nevada, and any other desert location would have quite a load taken off of their grids if even 1/5 of the houses and/or businesses produce 1/10th of their power.

RE: well good
By hduser on 7/7/2009 2:31:22 PM , Rating: 3
It'd be hard to compare efficiency of engines, because the quality of the fuel back in the 50-80 years ago doesn't compare to the quality of fuel now. I think the octane rating was quite low then.

RE: well good
By Type2 on 7/7/2009 10:27:23 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, although 20% is still too inefficient for me. It'll have to be at least twice as efficient as the most efficient power source currently used, one tenth the cost to design, manufacture, transport and integrate into our delicate load balanced power grid vs the current market leader, a one year ROI, the power companies will have to buy the excess power generated at competitive market rates, it must create a substantial net amount of jobs with zero government intervention AND I better not get a whiff of patchouil (aka social engineering) or my highly-conditioned, moving-target support will be even more evasive, untenable and mind-blowingly impossibly unrealistic than ever before. grumble grumble...

RE: well good
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 7/7/2009 11:10:19 AM , Rating: 3
Where do you get 20%?

the new cells have an efficiency of 6 percent in transforming sunlight into electricity

The arithmetic is: Jason promised 1/3 the cost based 6% efficiency as opposed to 20% for other methods. That is based on 10X less cost but 3X greater area required to match the current efficiency.

So this is MUCH less efficient, but costs MUCH less to make, but requires MUCH more real estate to deploy them on.

Jason forgot to figure in the real estate costs.

If you had to have 3 acres of land at 6% efficiency to deploy these on as opposed to 1 acre of land at 20% efficiency, um lessee, higher land costs, less efficient production rate per acre... I would say this article is crap.

RE: well good
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 7/7/2009 11:10:57 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, but they're nano, I forgot that part. Nano = better.

RE: well good
By Jellodyne on 7/7/2009 9:04:01 AM , Rating: 5
The beauty of this design is that it contains a thin film of aluminum foil, thus the researchers can simply wrap their heads it to prevent their secrets from being discovered. The oil lobby can't buy what they they don't know about!

RE: well good
By FITCamaro on 7/7/2009 4:14:25 PM , Rating: 3
Christ this needs a 6.

RE: well good
By nafhan on 7/7/2009 9:09:06 AM , Rating: 2
I'd say convenience and cost do more to slow down deployment of "green" tech than "oil lobbies".

Conspiracies are more fun, though!

RE: well good
By FITCamaro on 7/7/2009 4:24:48 PM , Rating: 2
Actually as ironic as it is, environmentalist groups also hold up the development of green energy as well. Wind farms and solar power plants take up huge amounts of space which environmentalists don't like for varying reasons. And wind turbines can kill birds. Plus there was that solar power plant in Commifornia where to connect it to the grid they had to build power lines through a national forest which environmentalists protested.

But its mostly the high cost, the low power density it produces, and the lack of large amounts of bare, open space to build the plants in. Pretty hard to find room for a wind farm in Rhode Island.

RE: well good
By Radnor on 7/8/2009 8:36:21 AM , Rating: 2
I bet you don't have a nuclear plant in Rhode Island. Or Thermal.

Real estate, can be expensive. Or not. Depend were you build. This tech seems pretty cool were real estate would be cheap.

Like, deserts for example.

RE: well good
By glenn8 on 7/7/2009 9:52:56 AM , Rating: 2
The trouble with all these "promising" technology is that you hear about them, get excited, then never hear of it again. I really don't understand why more people are not interested in this stuff. Who wouldn't want to remove their dependency on the inefficient power grid even if you didn't care about the environment?
I understand that these tech suck at first and are expensive e, but this applies to all tech. Things only really get better in a hurry when there's interest in it.

I don't think this will become a success.
By CurtOien on 7/7/2009 9:41:50 AM , Rating: 3
I will install solar panels on my roof when it becomes economical for my limited budget. Even if it is cheaper, I don't think this will sell. If I'm going to invest in a solar system with the batteries and hardware to mount it on my house and all the other things involved, it will have to supply a good portion of my energy needs if not all of them. There is not enough area on my roof for something that is even less efficient than what we have today.

RE: I don't think this will become a success.
By randomposter on 7/7/2009 9:52:20 AM , Rating: 1
Let's look at this another way:

If this technology became cheap enough that it cost 50% more than traditional asphalt roofing shingles, and it produced enough electricity to meet 25% of your household energy needs, and you need to replace your shingles this year anyhow, and when you do the math you say to yourself "shit, this will pay for itself in about 18 months ..."

That's the market these low-efficiency, low-cost solar materials are competing in.

RE: I don't think this will become a success.
By bdot on 7/7/2009 10:27:52 AM , Rating: 2
So individuals with solar panels on their roofs don't have shingles up any more?... I haven't read anything stating these replaced the waterproofing of your home.

By WackyDan on 7/7/2009 10:45:36 AM , Rating: 2
They could be incorporated into a roofing material.

There already is a company incorporating solar cells into roofing tiles... THe product is/was called SunSlates.

By randomposter on 7/7/2009 10:47:14 AM , Rating: 2
It's encased in a polymer layer. It would hardly be rocket science to laminate it to other strengthening agents and sell the stuff in rolls.

By on1wl on 7/7/2009 10:30:28 AM , Rating: 2
Most home solar systems in the forseeable future will not have batteries, rather, they will be grid tied. Size is irrelevant because the question is not how much you need, but how much you pay. When solar is cheaper than the grid price, we will install as much as we can and either sell the excess, or buy the shortage from the grid.

By SublimeSimplicity on 7/7/2009 10:50:18 AM , Rating: 4
I think your subject line is dead on. Look at the most extreme case of inefficient solar power... ethanol. At its roots (no pun intended, too corny for me... OK that one I meant) its solar power via photosynthesis in the plant. Photosynthesis is pretty inefficient, then add to that the processing is sometimes even more inefficient. Yet every time gas gets to around $4/gallon its considered.

Bottom line is that efficiency means almost nothing, when your materials (sunlight in this case) are free.

By WackyDan on 7/7/2009 10:51:06 AM , Rating: 2
The problem with most Residential solar or wind installs is the perception that YOU get paid by the local power company for the surplus you produce.

Fact is, in most states the utility does not pay you if you produce surplus. All that happens is that your surplus is banked on a monthly or yearly basis against times when you are not producing any surplus... ie; winter, periods of bad weather/overcast skies/no wind....

On top of that, you are still obliged to pay a monthly bill to your utility company that typically includes many of the same fees you pay today connected only to the grid. A connection/maintenance fee, State, Local, and federal taxes all for the luxury of having the power drop or burial connected to your dwelling.

Again, this varies by state, so do your research before you start calculating savings over time.

Why doesn't it look flat black?
By SublimeSimplicity on 7/7/2009 10:36:07 AM , Rating: 2
I'll admit straight away that I know next to nothing about gathering solar energy. However my simpleton mind says that an effective solar cell should look flat black to the eye, because its trapping (and converting to electricity) all the visible light.

Is it because there's more energy in sunlight in the UV and IR spectrum?

By randomposter on 7/7/2009 10:52:34 AM , Rating: 2
I know that historically, heat gain has been a big problem with PV. A hot cell loses efficiency compared to a cool one. So differences in colour may be an attempt to control heat gain.

It's all a step in the right direction
By elgueroloco on 7/8/2009 8:03:51 AM , Rating: 2
Is this going to solve all our energy problems? No, but it's a step in the right direction. Every advance made in solar power is a step closer to being able to use the sun as our primary energy source, which I think is a good goal.

If this can be combined with other things (like silicon nanowires, etc) which increase the efficiency of solar, and maybe use other, cheaper matierals they might invent down the road (perhaps iron-based, room-temp superconductors) all roofs could be shingled with thin, flexible, durable, cheap, efficient solar cells, which would produce enough energy to power society.

The first ICE cars could only go as fast as a quick jog. Now we've got cars that can go 240+ MPH. Just give it time and look at each advancement as what it is: a step on a path. We'll get there eventually.

By rrichins on 7/8/2009 5:44:50 PM , Rating: 2
Just a question. If this material can be rolled at will, a 3' square on your roof using a belt positioned to the sun, could be x feet deep. (x) is the break even point of cost to spin the belt, material reaction/absorbsion rate, and excess power drain. Excess power drain, must be part of any solution. You must store energy. This should be another, completely exhausted thread. We must have a better way of storing energy. I am not talking about the average life of a nine volt battery in your smoke detector, I am talking about multi-year underground storage of electricity.


I’ll believe it when…
By Marlin1975 on 7/7/2009 8:41:00 AM , Rating: 2

I see it. Too many “soon to come…” announcements come out all the time. Just like “we cured cancer/Aids in mice…” but never hear from it again.

But it is good we are putting more research into alternative energy’s like this. Our demands will only go up and doing the same thing will not work forever. I don’t care if you like this for environmental/global warming reasons or just want to have lower cost and ability later on. Let alone maybe one day be able to not buy so much oil from others and use more nuclear and less coal. (i.e. electric cars that plug in)

All depends on roi
By Murst on 7/7/2009 11:32:47 AM , Rating: 2
Last year, my electric cost just under $3k. It still seems these panels would be nowhere close to paying for themselves in the near term, unless electric prices skyrocketed. Hopefully there'll be some major breakthrough(s) in solar, but I'd still prefer if they started building nuclear plants again so that we can at least have some stability in electricity prices.

A Wacky Idea
By btc909 on 7/7/2009 5:14:57 PM , Rating: 2
Make a solar panel look like a single roof tile. It's up too you if you want to pay the extra cost of having a solar panel roof tile or a regular none solar panel roof tile. A click in grid system could be developed. A challenge would be to make these tiles look like traditional tiles. A colored red light green light LED test system could be developed to test dead solar roof tiles. Put the system into a test mode & see which tiles light up red or green.
If a better panel is developed, replace the tile as long as the gird system is standardized. You can end up with an entire roof that generates power but looks like a traditional roof. Maybe a peel & stick design that resists fading would work.

You guys comments are funny
By atlmann10 on 7/8/2009 12:56:51 AM , Rating: 2
How many people here can read? OK the initial efficiency or production ratio is 6% which could be doubled feasibly they think. But the 6% is guaranteed. Now go find any invention that was made of anything that actually did something such as this. Then find what it's efficiency level was when bought by a manufacturer then worked on for a few years and actually hits market. I would imagine you would find at the minimum at least a doubling, and in a good number of cases triple or quadruple (take light bulbs the energy efficient ones would most likely work).

Remember this was made in a totally new process and form by a college research team. This concept has not even been validated or looked at by anyone else, or that is just starting. Give it to GE and wait 3 years, I bet a 36 to 48 percent output level would be about on par. Now think about a much cheaper as efficient or more efficient solar panel.

This is actually pretty cool. I read your comments and also comments by people around the internet talking about energy etc. I also hear the government and the scientist that found global warming is not that much of a big deal etc. I wonder why if it was more efficient, cost you less money in the long run, and also by the way reduces pollution would you not do it. That just makes no sense to me. It would even seem to me if something reduces any matter we inject into our environment that could be reduced or lessened would be better.

I think it will be best when we as a race try to develop for efficiency. I hope all power and anything else is made by something that doesn't impact the environment minimally or at all. Why not if we have the brains to do it? I am not an environmental extremist in any way. It just makes better sense when there is less volatility in an environment everyone and everything lives and operates better easier.

incomplete view
By elukac on 7/8/2009 7:21:00 AM , Rating: 2
Not relying on crystalline silicon while providing good efficiency is nothing new: the company Nanosolar sells solar cells manufactured roll-to-roll since a couple of years now.
On Wikipedia, one can read: "Nanosolar's solar cells have been verified by NREL to be as efficient as 14.6% in 2006."

By gfredsen on 7/13/2009 9:42:30 AM , Rating: 2
I can say that solar is overrated for my area. I try and do anything to avoid solar. First, get rid of anything that uses electricity. Use propane for hot water, cooking and even refrigeration. The expense of panels, sine wave inverters, batteries and controllers just adds up greatly. My point is that you read about all of these new technologies, but they are extremely slow in making their way to having an effect on my wallet.
I would just as soon use my propane generator a few hours each day to charge the batteries I have as opposed to buying more panels or batteries.
That's the bottom line in US PacNW.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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