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A long awaited solar power milestone for unconcentrated silicon PV cells has been reached, thanks to steady improvement and research

While many traditional fossil fuel technologies show slow growth in efficiency and design, solar power has instead yielded steady and rapid advances.  While many question why a "killer app" solar product has not yet reached the market after years of hype, it is hard to deny the fact that solar costs both subsidized and unsubsidized have been dropping dramatically, being halved every 10 years. 

With current costs ranging from 15 to 20 cents per kWh, and wholesale coal power costs between 1.5 and 2.5 cents per kWh (and nuclear in a similar range -- 1.7 cents per kWh by estimates from the Nuclear Energy Institute), solar still has a ways to go and likely a few decades before being ready for full deployment.  Still, few technologies show the rapid growth in efficiency solar has and few utilize such a common resource as silicon, so the value of ongoing solar research is apparent.

UNSW's ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence reported a significant milestone this week, with the announcement of the world's first 25 percent efficient unconcentrated solar silicon cells.  They had previously held the 24.7 percent efficient silicon cell record, but were denied the 25 percent milestone due to gaps in the understanding of sunlight and its effect on silicon.

New research has led to revisions in how incident light efficiency is calculated.  As a result, their record-holding design has reached the 25 percent mark, a "magic" number according to many industry experts.  The cell, designed by Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham has a wide lead over competitive offerings, according to the Centre.  UNSW holds six solar world records now.

Centre Executive Research Director, Scientia Professor Martin Green described how the new research improved the understanding of the efficiency.  He states, "Since the weights of the colours in sunlight change during the day, solar cells are measured under a standard colour spectrum defined under typical operational meteorological conditions.  Improvements in understanding atmospheric effects upon the colour content of sunlight led to a revision of the standard spectrum in April. The new spectrum has a higher energy content both down the blue end of the spectrum and at the opposite red end with, dare I say it, relatively less green."

While suggesting less green of anything may seem like heresy in the alternative energy industry, it’s good news for the Centre as it means their cells are operating more efficiently than expected.  The Centre's cell posted larger gains than its competitors following the revision.  It is now 6 percent more efficient than the next most efficient competitor, according to Professor Green.

The Centre's cell is approaching the important 29 percent efficiency threshold -- the maximum theoretical efficiency for a first generation silicon photovoltaic solar cell.  Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, who heads the Centre's high efficiency cell research effort, says the new research is a big boost "because our cells push the boundaries of response into the extremities of the spectrum."

She states, "Blue light is absorbed strongly, very close to the cell surface where we go to great pains to make sure it is not wasted. Just the opposite, the red light is only weakly absorbed and we have to use special design features to trap it into the cell."

Professor Green states, "These light-trapping features make our cells act as if they were much thicker than they are. This already has had an important spin-off in allowing us to work with CSG Solar to develop commercial 'thin-film' silicon-on-glass solar cells that are over 100 times thinner than conventional silicon cells."

The biggest goal of UNSW is now to adapt the ultra-high efficiency cells for mass production which should lead to more cost reductions.  ARC Centre Director, Professor Stuart Wenham, adds,"Our main efforts now are focused on getting these efficiency improvements into commercial production.  Production compatible versions of our high efficiency technology are being introduced into production as we speak."

The center has a close relationship with the world's biggest solar manufacturers, thanks in part to Dr Jianhua Zhao and Dr Aihua Wang, who fabricated the record-setting cell and have since left the Centre to establish China Sunergy, one of the world's largest photovoltaic manufacturers.  Professor Green describes, "China was the largest manufacturer of solar cells internationally in 2007 with 70 per cent of the output from companies with our former UNSW students either Chief Executive Officers or Chief Technical Officers."

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25% = 24.7%
By Shining Arcanine on 10/24/2008 7:57:57 AM , Rating: 1
When you consider significant figures, 25% = 24.7%. If they had 24.7% before, then they had 25%. I don't see the point of announcing that they reached 25% now and all of the hype seems to be psychological to say the least.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By JasonMick on 10/24/2008 8:04:21 AM , Rating: 2
I agree somewhat, but I think they're using it as a tool to get people interested in the new research. The new research is pretty relevant to the solar industry as it gives a better understanding of how to best capture energy across the spectrum.

Humans do love nice even numbers. Its hard to argue with the subconscious's desires.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Master Kenobi on 10/24/2008 8:09:09 AM , Rating: 5
Here's a thought, go nuclear, end the problem while some of us are still young.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By jadeskye on 10/24/2008 8:33:08 AM , Rating: 4
I'll settle for a compromise master kenobi. I'll have nuclear if we keep the solar panel research running with the power.

Gotta think about our great grand children you know ^_^

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Master Kenobi on 10/24/2008 8:36:04 AM , Rating: 5
Nuclear will persist for our great, great, great, great, great grand children. By then we will be using a form of Fusion though.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By The0ne on 10/24/2008 9:45:28 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, it'll persist til then but then there would be no advances in the field of solar or other types of energies. Let me clarify that, there will be advances just not as quick as it would be if the field was well funded and supported.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By ebakke on 10/24/2008 10:46:30 AM , Rating: 4
Let them be funded, supported, and ultimately produced/consumed when they are viable.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By JasonMick on 10/24/2008 12:50:30 PM , Rating: 5
I can see you making the argument for not funding/subsidizing deployment of solar panels as they are currently significantly more expensive than fossil fuels.

While you could make a similar, but less weighty argument against nuclear power (which when you look at actual typical costs with construction budget overruns, etc., is significantly higher in cost that coal power, though substantially cheaper than solar).

Still I'd say in the short term, nuclear is indeed the best alternative to fossil fuels.

HOWEVER it amazes me that people would vote my original op down for supporting pure research. I mean intelligent, thoughtful solar critics typically say they support research on solar, just not commercialization as its not ready. Now apparently some are sliding further and even saying that we shouldn't be bothering to research the tech.

Even Michael Asher, one of the most outspoken critics of solar power commercialization on this site, and a strong proponent of nuclear power, has said that he believes in funding solar research.

You can bicker about whats better nuclear or solar, but to argue against research is pure stupidity. You should be researching BOTH.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By ebakke on 10/24/2008 1:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with everything you just said (and I oppose the commercialization of technologies that require subsidies to come anywhere near being competitive), with one caveat. I agree with research for nearly everything, but I greatly oppose government-funded research. In my opinion, research funding should come from private industries, and to a lesser degree universities.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By nah on 10/24/2008 4:09:57 PM , Rating: 3
and I oppose the commercialization of technologies that require subsidies to come anywhere near being competitive)

A lot of industries are subsidized--agriculture being foremost in my mind. Should that be stopped ?

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Spuke on 10/24/2008 4:27:33 PM , Rating: 4
Should that be stopped ?

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By LostInLine on 10/24/2008 5:47:15 PM , Rating: 3
You must look to national security when talking about funding/subsidization. Agriculture and food in general is a national security issue. Do we (the US government) subsidize too much? Probably. But we, as a nation, must ensure that we can be self sustaining for food and energy when needed. Otherwise we can be held hostage by other governments.

You could argue that the constitution requires the government to do so as it must provide for the national defense. With out the ability to feed the population and the energy to build and run military defenses, our national security would be compromised.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By nah on 10/25/2008 5:12:23 AM , Rating: 3
defense. With out the ability to feed the population and the energy to build and run military defenses, our national security would be compromised.

So farming should be subsidized for the national interest---why not alternate forms of energy ?

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By ebakke on 10/27/2008 10:59:38 AM , Rating: 3
Neither should.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By ebakke on 10/27/2008 10:58:08 AM , Rating: 2

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By kmmatney on 10/30/2008 4:45:54 PM , Rating: 2
In my opinion, research funding should come from private industries, and to a lesser degree universities.

Universities don't fund research - they receive funding (mostly government, but private as well) for their research. Far and away, most research (including my Master's thesis research) is governemtn funded.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Master Kenobi on 10/24/2008 4:36:09 PM , Rating: 1
Sorry Mick, but research will happen on its own by companies looking into satellite technologies or power for a future moon base. There doesn't need to be large public funding by the government or any kind of subsidy.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By nah on 10/25/2008 5:18:01 AM , Rating: 2
Even Michael Asher, one of the most outspoken critics of solar power commercialization on this site, and a strong proponent of nuclear power, has said that he believes in funding solar research.

This is not necessarily an absolute vindication of research into solar power ;)

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By omnicronx on 10/24/2008 10:53:39 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, it'll persist til then but then there would be no advances in the field of solar or other types of energies.
A solar farm outside of the city I live in which takes about as much space as the closest nuclear facility and is only going to output 110MW (at around 10-15% efficiency) power compared to the nuclear plants 3GW (which is considered a small plant). Now even if these solar cells had 100% efficiency, it would still not produce half the electricity that a 20 year old nuclear plant can.

I really just don't understand what all the fuss with solar is about, its never going to totally replace other forms of power. Nuclear is safe, and any spent radioactive materials really do not compare to the disposal of old solar panels, which is bound to happen on a mass scale, and nobody ever talks about.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By menace on 10/24/2008 6:14:25 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with your assessment though take exception at calling 3GW a "small plant".

The largest reactor in the US is Palo Verde 2 at 1.335 GW
The whole site has three reactor units and generates 3.2 GW on average. I think you would have to say that is a "large plant".

I never thought much about how to dispose of old cells. I might think there would be recycling potential. If nothing else crush it up and use it as concrete aggregate.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By TA152H on 10/24/2008 10:29:38 PM , Rating: 1
Never say never. Solar power could replace all other forms in the future, who knows?

There are already a number of ways it is better than nuclear. And one big way it is not. It's less efficient/most expensive. On both accounts that's changing.

But, your big fallacy about waste is this. I don't mind sleeping with solar cells on my house, or even solar waste in my garbage can. You feel the same way about nuclear waste? It's not the volume, it's the problems with the waste that is a problem. I think finding a use for silicon shouldn't be too difficult. In worst case, you bury it and it causes no harm. Spent nuclear fuel? Not so easy.

Plus, nukes are relatively safe, but even so, they are not as safe as solar power. Chernobyl? Three Mile Island? Being unlikely and impossible are two different things. People are always going to be a little afraid of nukes because the potential danger is very great, if also very unlikely. There have already been disasters, and consequences.

Also, at least for the near future, you can't put a small nuke in your house and address your electricity bill. It's just not a choice an individual has. You can add solar panels, or windmills, or even geothermal power in many instances. So, solar does have a place. I won't predict the future, it's a fools errand, and say how much it will be, but it clearly has advantages and research is clearly justifiable, especially with the costs coming down so quickly, and efficiency still moving up.

I know this sounds horrible, but I hope the oil prices go up some, so we'll stop being oil pigs and invest in more nukes, and alternatives. For the short term, nukes are really the only answer to increase power, and increase it quickly. Solar can't ramp quickly enough, and neither can air or hydroelectric, or any of the other completely safe types. But long term, things that make the Earth safer, rather than more dangerous, can hopefully be our future, or a greater part of it.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By teldar on 10/26/2008 9:36:43 PM , Rating: 2
See the only problem with that, is how is nuclear going to drive your car. Everyone wants to lump energy together. We use oil to drive and coal/sun/nuclear to power our houses.

For that basic dichotomy to change, we're going to need ultracapacitors or much much better batteries. Oil should be cheap and we need oil algae.


RE: 25% = 24.7%
By theapparition on 10/24/2008 8:57:37 AM , Rating: 4
I don't think even the most die-hard nuclear proponents are against research into any alternitive green energy. Right now, none of those has proven to be as reliable and cheap as nuclear energy.

I'll be the first one to cover my house with solar panels if it every makes practical sense. Until that time, why wait around, invest in proven technologies. If we would have done that with building refineries and leasing ANWR (a completely desolate frozen marshland), we would never have been in this mess to begin with. The worst thing we can do is wait.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By The0ne on 10/24/2008 9:49:33 AM , Rating: 1
Solar power does make practical sense. I know of a few people here that had their home covered with panels. It supplies enough for everything except when they have the AC running. In fact, it supplies more than enough you get credit for some of the unused energies. So instead of the meter moving clockwise, it's moving counter-wise...go figure. So what's your definition of practical that's not making you go solar now?

So even though the investment might be a bit high, the returns are there after a few years. Having said this the download to what I've seen at their homes is the lack of a storage device for the energy.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Schrag4 on 10/24/2008 10:52:53 AM , Rating: 3
You must live in a place where the sun shines. A lot. There was an article a while back on this site that had a link to some company that sells solar cells intended for home use, and according to their estimates (I followed the link, filled out the form), it would have taken me over 20 years for the system to pay itself off.

I agree, solar is practical for some, but not for all.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By The0ne on 10/24/2008 1:15:13 PM , Rating: 2
Definitely not for all. And yes we do get a lot of sunshine here in San Diego :) When I asked my friends they said it would take them around 8-12 years for the return, depending on the usage of course. The best example I have to give would be a single guy and his dog in a big house and he's only paying taxes on electricity which is a few dollars.

So while it will take years to get your return back if you think short term you're not paying the few hundred dollars per month that you normally would. You could also look at it like saving some money here and investing it or putting into a interest accruing account and it'll lessen the number of years you have to wait :) But then I wouldn't be investing too much of it right now :D

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By ebakke on 10/24/2008 1:56:25 PM , Rating: 2
And, in CA you also get a pretty hefty government subsidy to help out with solar panel purchases.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Keeir on 10/24/2008 3:25:33 PM , Rating: 2
A few notes:

#1. Large subsidies for Solar Panels in San Diego
#2. One of the highest Solar Irradiance places in US
#3. No Time Value of Money, Maintaince Costs, etc
#4. Artifically High Electricity costs due to legalization that prevents Coal, Nuclear, etc power plants (Supply and Demand) + Taxes etc on Power

As Jason notes in this article, Electricity produced from Coal and Nuclear is very very cheap in comparison to Solar Rates as well as typically charged rates for delievered power.

Personally, I think Solar will not have "arrived" till it is profitable when sold wholesale

Right now thats around 44.0 dollars per MWh or 4.4 cents per kWh. A cost that is 1/5 the best case senario for Solar.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By JediJeb on 10/24/2008 11:04:01 AM , Rating: 2
For me practical would mean it cost less than having the electricity coming in from the meter, that includes the cost of purchase and installation. If you have the extra money lying around to purchase these then maybe it makes sense, but for those who really have no extra money on hand it doesn't at this time. It's like deciding to buy a $15 shirt or a $75 shirt, one covers you up, the other covers you up and leaves you $60 to buy food and gas.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By MozeeToby on 10/27/2008 12:17:00 PM , Rating: 2
A better way to look at it would be, does the system save me more money if, instead of buying solar panels, I had put that money into a CD or Money Market account (especially now as Money Market's are insured).

So, it isn't enough to say that your $10,000 solar setup saves you $1000 a year and you will break even in 10 years. If you had put that money into a no risk CD (say 3% these days) you would have had $13,500 after 10 years so you are still behind. For the sake of argument, lets assume that upkeep and loss of efficiency are about equal to increasing electricity costs. In all actuality, you wouldn't break even until 18 years into your investment.

Of course, there are other benifits of installing solar that have nothing to do with money. With a good setup, you can power essential appliances in your home during a blackout. You have a certain amount of independence, increasing electricity costs won't effect you as much. And, if you're into that kind of thing, you can get nice warm fuzzies from the idea that you're helping the environment.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By croc on 10/24/2008 8:54:14 PM , Rating: 2
Playing devil's advocate, if enough houses had extensive solar arrays, the net benefit to the electrical grid might be negative relative to their output. Say 1000 houses in a given area produced a total of 10000 KW, the supplying substation might not be able to handle the extra load without upgrading a few xformers or dumping the excess. I don't see a private company spending the shareholders' money 'uselessly', do you?

So much of the US electrical grid runs so close to the edge of safe operating limits now, upsetting the balance either has 0% or a negative effect.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Shining Arcanine on 10/28/2008 11:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
I would prefer a Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor over solar panels any day of the week.

All of this research into "alternative energy" is a huge waste of money, particularly because even if all of these technologies operated at their theoretical limits, they would never be a proper alternative to nuclear power. The atom's internal energy is far greater than anything you can get outside of it, even if you can only get a fraction of it.

This research is hindering research into Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactors and I don't believe our tax dollars should fund it.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By mrpenguin on 10/24/2008 9:05:23 AM , Rating: 2
The problem is when you considering mining and decommissioning, Nuclear still uses a whole lot of oil (70% is the figure I heard, but i get all of my news from comedians these days).
Fusion is possible, but many a scientist say that projects like JET will never get positive electric gains; the energy released by the fusion reaction is always going to be enough to disrupt the containment and whatnot.

At least that is how i remember it being taught to me 8-something years ago.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By cblais19 on 10/24/2008 9:30:01 AM , Rating: 3
The EU is currently building the ITER experimental fusion reactor in France, intended to output 1000mW of power for...100something seconds. Basically taking JET to the next step in scale.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By MrTeal on 10/24/2008 9:43:54 AM , Rating: 4
I sure hope their $10B experiment produces more than a watt.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By rcc on 10/24/2008 10:49:13 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, and people wonder why grammar and accuracy are important.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Clauzii on 10/24/2008 10:48:11 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it is to be the first experimental reactor to reach break-even. The ITER organisation expects to be able to deliver commercial fusion power by ~2050 with ITER-3, the (allegedly) first commercial fusion power plant.

Btw. it's not only EU. Also Korea, China, Japan, India, Russia and USA are participants.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By heffeque on 10/24/2008 3:13:51 PM , Rating: 2
More or less like the CERN, but for fusion.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By cblais19 on 10/24/2008 9:34:17 AM , Rating: 2
Amusingly enough, I just did a small paper advocating exactly that for one of my classes. One thing I did note that was news to me is that world production capability for the one-piece forged reactor shells is currently very low-which the top models like the Westinghouse AP1000 require. Various companies are looking into tooling up to increase production though, or countries can utilize a model like the CANDU reactors that do not require it.

Oh, and from what I've seen, solar has an average of 12-15% operating efficiency vrs an industry average of 86% for nuclear. Honestly, the next best energy source is by far wind, with 40-60%, depending on locale and generator used.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By randomly on 10/24/2008 10:36:02 AM , Rating: 2
Japan Steel works is currently the only company capable of producing a one piece forged reactor pressure vessel for the large 1000-1650 MW reactors. They can only produce 4 per year. They plan to double that capacity in 2 years time.

There are 8 more companies adding large forging capability. Four in China, one each in Japan, France, Russia, and India.

China plans to deploy 100 Westinghouse AP1000 reactors by 2020. Cost of a single AP1000 (1100MW) reactor is $6-7 Billion USD with a planned construction time of 5 years. A rather big nut to swallow in the current credit crunch.

The first built units will undoubtedly take 6-10 years as much of the knowledgeable trained workforce in the US was lost during the 30 year hiatus in new nuclear plant construction. Most of the workforce on the new nuclear plant constructions have no previous experience in the field.

The average capacity factor for US wind power is around 35%. The average capacity factor for US nuclear plants is slightly over 90%.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Chernobyl68 on 10/24/2008 11:39:16 AM , Rating: 2
if you're talking about energy efficiency, any nuclear reactor that uses steam to drive turbines will at most run about 25% efficiency.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By randomly on 10/24/2008 5:01:23 PM , Rating: 2
I believe he is talking about capacity factor, the actual average amount of energy produced over time vs the name plate rating of the equipment.

Most modern nuclear reactors have a thermal efficiency in the low 30% range. This is mostly a factor of how hot you run the coolant temperature.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Chernobyl68 on 10/24/2008 6:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
ah, ok. Not familiar with that term - the reactors I worked on weren't commercial! they are "corvettes" compared to the "trucks" of commercial power generation.

I was just pointing out the inefficiencies of the Carnot cycle. Any mainline plant is going to be operating at or near capacity while online. This would include most plants opearting on a steam system (nuclear, oil, coal), as it takes a very long time to bring the steam system up to operating temperature and pressure. Smaller plants with adjustable capacity like hydro, wind, or solar are mostly used as peak plants - because their generators can be brought online in a matter of minutes.
Solar requires daylight obviously and so that's 50% right there, and only certain hours of the day are ideal for power generation due to the angle of the sun and atmosphere. Not to mention clouds. So taking that in mind, yes, the 86 and 12 % sound good.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Clauzii on 10/24/2008 5:07:48 PM , Rating: 2
I don't get why You got rated down. Your 25% is definitely more correct than 85%.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Spuke on 10/24/2008 5:34:59 PM , Rating: 4
I don't get why You got rated down. Your 25% is definitely more correct than 85%.
I guess you can't read very well. Try it again but this time with less influence from your biases.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Clauzii on 10/24/2008 7:24:04 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking about lightwater reactors, but Yes, it's me not being enough up to date though, since I found this and learned some new stuff:

and this:


So the thermal efficiency is a total expected vs. actually power output - including building and running the plant?

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By randomly on 10/24/2008 9:27:09 PM , Rating: 2
Efficiency is Power out to the grid vs Thermal energy input.
Most nuclear reactors are either Boiling Water reactors or Pressurized Water Reactors. Their output temperatures are usually less than 320 Centigrade so their thermal efficiency is much less than a modern coal or gas powered generator.

There are some high temperature reactor designs (Gen IV) that would have much higher thermal efficiency but none of these are currently developed to a state where they can be commercially deployed.

Some developmental reactors have operated at very high temperatures such as the Tory IIc reactor that was used in a nuclear powered ram jet engine. It ran at 513 Megawatts at 1600 C (2500F), just 150 degrees below the auto-ignition temperature of the reactor base plate. The design was largely ceramic and since it was intended for an unmanned cruise missile it was also completely unshielded. The design called for an extremely low flight level at Mach 3+ speeds. The intense radiation and shock wave would have killed anything it flew over making it problematic if you had to overfly friendly territory. However the reactor/engine was run at those temperatures.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By obiwankenobi on 10/24/2008 9:13:47 PM , Rating: 1
i would agree to go nuclear as long as you will keep the spent fuel rods in your basement.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By rdeegvainl on 10/25/2008 2:37:28 AM , Rating: 3
I'll do it

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Shining Arcanine on 10/28/2008 11:38:59 AM , Rating: 2
The notion that "spent fuel rods" are waste is a lie. 99% of the composition of "spent fuel rods" is exactly what went into the reactor when the fuel rods were new.

After the fuel rods are spent, you just need to do nuclear reprocessing to replace the 1% that is bad with fissile uranium and they will be good for another 3 to 5 years of use in a nuclear reactor.

RE: 25% = 24.7%
By GlassHouse69 on 10/26/08, Rating: 0
RE: 25% = 24.7%
By Major HooHaa on 10/26/2008 11:13:58 AM , Rating: 1
25% is one of those psychological human milestones. Like the FTSE 100 stock market indicator dropping below 4,000 points. Well done to the scientists for hitting that mark and learning more about lightwave absorbtion by solar panals.

I think it would be quite cool to put solar panels on your roof and generate your own electricity. If the national grid comes under heavy strain in the future, you will be doing your bit to releave the strain on the grid and also reduce your carbon footprint.

I have seen pictures on-line of a small purpose hut, with solar panels on the roof and a wind turbine next to it. This is in a developing country and is used to provide electricity to a hospital there.

Also on a slightly different note, to my knowledge, nuclear power stations have to be built near water sources. So with possible sea level rise in future due to global warming, would this put at least some of the current power plants under threat of flooding or being lost to the sea?

So, to be clear...
By Tanclearas on 10/24/2008 8:52:21 AM , Rating: 5
Am I correct in reading that there wasn't an actual improvement here? Rather, it was just a redefinition of the terms? Why not just change the definition some more and say we're 50% efficient?

Clearly, redefining the terms doesn't change the reality of the cost of producing energy using the "milestone" technology.

RE: So, to be clear...
By Shadowself on 10/24/2008 9:02:45 AM , Rating: 5
This appears to be *exactly* the case:
New research has led to revisions in how incident light efficiency is calculated.

Don't make your goal? Move the goal posts!

RE: So, to be clear...
By Hieyeck on 10/24/2008 9:09:56 AM , Rating: 1
Reminds me of a lil country called America

RE: So, to be clear...
By rcc on 10/24/2008 10:53:43 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be jealous, be happy. It doesn't all have to be about you.

RE: So, to be clear...
By heffeque on 10/24/2008 3:16:46 PM , Rating: 3
I didn't know that there was a country called America. I do know about a Continent called America tough.

RE: So, to be clear...
By menace on 10/24/2008 6:24:50 PM , Rating: 2
No there is no continent called America. Though you may call the two continents collectively as "The Americas".

Traditionally the term "United States of America" is shortened to "America". Just like Unidos Estados del Mexico/Brazil (sorry if I mispell, don't really speak Spanish and I also realize the Portugese version is different) are shortened to Mexico/Brazil. Get over it. We don't lay claim to the name just because we think we are the only important country in the Western Hemisphere.

RE: So, to be clear...
By NainoKami on 10/24/2008 9:38:31 AM , Rating: 2
It may not have improved the actual results, but they posted higher gains from the revision than other similar PV manufacturers... The whole point is, they've come closer to understanding how the energy is generated at different wavelengths, therefore getting a better idea of areas in need of improvement... The actual energy produced is no greater, but the understanding of how to make it more efficient is.

At least this is my understanding.

RE: So, to be clear...
By Starcub on 10/24/2008 10:53:41 AM , Rating: 2
They probably complained to the rating body that they were using a bad profile from which to judge efficiency.

So why was the old incident spectral radiation profile bad? Prolly 'cause there was a shift away from green since the last time the profile was constructed caused by decreased solar activity and/or increased atmoshperic pollutants.

Cost Comparison totally bogus
By jiminmpls on 10/24/2008 11:07:04 AM , Rating: 1
"With current costs ranging from 15 to 20 cents per kWh, and wholesale coal power costs between 1.5 and 2.5 cents per kWh (and nuclear in a similar range -- 1.7 cents per kWh by estimates from the Nuclear Energy Institute),"

This is a totally bogus comparison. You are comparing the capital costs of solar (while ignoring the nearly zero operational cost) with the operational cost of coal and nuclear (and ignoring the exhorbitant and rapidly increasing capital costs.)

Current projections for the cost of new nuclear power in the US is in the 10-12c/kWh range. Furthermore, 92% of the fuel used in civilian nuclear power plants is imported - 32% from Russia. Uranium prices have more than doubled since 2006 and contract pricing for 2012 delivery is five times higher than current prices.

RE: Cost Comparison totally bogus
By fgordon on 10/24/2008 11:23:37 AM , Rating: 2
True - I think that is what many don't bear in mind - nuclear power makes the US far more dependend of foreign countries than any other form of energy.

And depending the most important part of a modern society - the energy - mainly on foreign countries is probably not a really good choice. (e.g. if you see how Russia is using oil/gas deliveries in some countries for political influence)

Of course we live in a globalized world but energy-production is too important to totally depend on others.

RE: Cost Comparison totally bogus
By Spuke on 10/24/2008 12:23:19 PM , Rating: 1
True - I think that is what many don't bear in mind - nuclear power makes the US far more dependend of foreign countries than any other form of energy.
100-32=68. So how are we "far more dependend of foreign countries" again?

RE: Cost Comparison totally bogus
By menace on 10/24/2008 6:38:49 PM , Rating: 2
Current projections for the cost of new nuclear power in the US is in the 10-12c/kWh range.

This is the typical "greenie" estimate that assumes the bottom feeder environmental lawyers fight tooth and nail to delay construction of every plant for at least a dozen years and then another bazillion dollars to deal with the waste and probably throw in another bazillion in costs to clean up a massive reactor failure that they think is bound to happen every ten years...

If that cost projection was accurate then what company in their right mind would attempt to build another reactor?

RE: Cost Comparison totally bogus
By andrinoaa on 10/25/2008 7:09:00 AM , Rating: 2
Congratulations, you have stumbled into the real world!
Oh, you forgot about the cost of storage for all the waste that has to be maintained for at least a couple of thousand years- whats the name of the mountain?
Fusion is still getting a mention. What about new generation reactors you say, VAPOURWARE! lol
may as well enjoy solar power!

Harry Potter Image
By bribud on 10/24/2008 9:06:54 AM , Rating: 2
So, what's with the Harry Potter image and what does he have to do with Solar Power? I would rather see an image of a young kid with a magnifying glass burning ants or something like that to show Solar Power.

RE: Harry Potter Image
By The0ne on 10/24/2008 9:55:36 AM , Rating: 2
Or the picture of plump kid from "The Kid."

"Why is the moon sometimes orange.." By Godly I think these scientist has found the answer! A bit of sarcasm of course :)

RE: Harry Potter Image
By Master Kenobi on 10/24/2008 9:55:51 AM , Rating: 1
Only 25% of him is showing........

RE: Harry Potter Image
By Starcub on 10/24/2008 10:43:55 AM , Rating: 2
24.7% with a good haircut.

Solar - Nuclear
By pajimdiver on 10/24/2008 5:00:20 PM , Rating: 1
Sure, continue research in both solar and fission/fussion. But do remember that while the French brag about recycling 3-8% of the LOW level waste, 90% of the HIGH level gets dumped into the OCEAN. Check it out. The rich are raping the world monies, and the nations are poisioning the oceans. Me thinks we may need the space habitats.

RE: Solar - Nuclear
By Ringold on 10/24/2008 9:03:25 PM , Rating: 3
CNBC sent a reporter to France to do a special on how the French handle nuclear power and its waste. Nothing goes in to the ocean there; most is recycled, and the minuscule amounts of leftover waste is stored in.. what looked like a big concrete structure. Melissa Francis literally stood on top of the waste. Which was cool. 'Cause Melissa Francis is hot.

By Shmak on 10/24/2008 7:35:53 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, so many comments and not one person has mentioned the biggest challenge to renewable energy is not, in fact, its acquisition. Its the storage. Solar, wind, and other weather-based renewable sources will be totally viable when we are able to build a battery that can store and dump (thats key) energy onto the grid in a way that meets demand. It doesn't matter if solar cells reach 100% efficiency if the sun goes behind a cloud at the moment the grid tries to draw full power from the plant. No storage, no lights.

RE: Batteries?
By tygrus on 10/25/2008 8:48:32 AM , Rating: 2
How about building techniques to reduce heat/cool/light demands.

Store energy addition/removal for building in water when the sun is shinning or the wind is blowing. We can't just say stop using power during the peak of summer if building design and A/C reliance means internal temperature change rapidly when not controlled. If we can reduce the heat exchange (loss/gain winter/summer) and increase the energy storage of the structure then you can reduce A/C demand and extend the no-A/C period.

Pumping water upto a dam (ready for later hydroelectric) or running a desal plant could be linked to excess renewable power.

By Howard on 10/24/2008 11:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
What is UNSW???

RE: ???
By Bouba on 10/25/2008 7:31:38 AM , Rating: 2
University of New South Wales.
An Australian university.

As a comment to previous posts, nuclear energy is not THE solution to a country's dependance on foreign oil, but Part of a solution. Diversification is the key.

And also, fissile material is not unlimited... sooner or later (later in this context)we'll run low on uranium or plutonium.

25%...That's nothing..
By Clauzii on 10/24/2008 8:10:06 AM , Rating: 2
Give me +40% or I'll say "So, what's new?"

By dug777 on 10/24/2008 8:50:31 AM , Rating: 2
(and nuclear in a similar range -- 1.7 cents per kWh by estimates from the Nuclear Energy Institute)

Nuclear looks great from an opex perspective, but damn scary from a capex perspective, especially in the current financial environment.

Before you line up to kick me in the head for being a retarded greenie, I'm a dispassionate economist at heart, and I'm watching the UK and the US with interest re new nuclear developments.

I suspect an eventual ETS will firm up investment certainty quite nicely.

Short-sighted posters
By roastmules on 10/27/2008 1:03:45 PM , Rating: 2
Here's one place where solar is better than nuclear/coal/etc, and always will be.
Let's say you have a metropolitan area, like Los Angeles, which has more electric demand than supply. They could build a plant out in the desert, but that would also require additional power lines. Various groups keep power lines from being built. Therefore, if we put 1MW installations on top of buildings with a lot of rooftop space, it can help fix the demand/suppy issue.
Additionally, think of emergency power, backup power, disaster aid, etc.
Put solar on top of the EMS stations, fire stations, police stations, military bases, etc...
Put solar on rooftops of anywhere where brown/blackouts are common.
Put solar on rooftops on top of electrical substations.

Point: There are many uses of solar that aren't a simple comparison of bulk cost.

Think About "Consequences"
By Spectator on 10/27/2008 2:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
So they develop some mad efficient solar cell. The whole world traps x% of the energy from the sun. World gets colder :P.

Yes im messing but the logic still exists. we just swap from burning some on world resources. It will still impact us in the long term.

I vote we get off world asap and start pillaging resources elsewhere :). chukkle

By Mithan on 10/24/08, Rating: -1
RE: yay!
By dflynchimp on 10/24/2008 8:28:00 AM , Rating: 2
I was thinking more like Mad Max...

RE: yay!
By weskurtz0081 on 10/24/2008 8:47:28 AM , Rating: 3
2 men enter 1 man leaves
2 men enter 1 man leaves
2 men enter 1 man leaves

RE: yay!
By theslug on 10/24/2008 10:19:55 AM , Rating: 2
Then the other man leaves after being declared the winner.

RE: yay!
By menace on 10/24/2008 6:28:25 PM , Rating: 2
I guess Master/Blaster is the exception to the rule

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