Print 46 comment(s) - last by TheLiberalTrut.. on Dec 11 at 5:57 AM

US DOE helps fund advanced solar technology

Solar cell technology has always shown promise as a source of renewable energy but relatively low efficiency levels and high costs have kept it out of the mainstream energy market. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that with the help of government funding, Boeing-Spectrolab has demonstrated a concentrator solar cell with a record-breaking 40.7% efficiency rating.

With concentrator solar cells, sunlight is intensified with the use of an optical concentrator. This allows for more electricity to be extracted out of each solar cell. Also employed are multi-junction solar cell structures which allow more of the solar spectrum to be captured by using multiple layers per cell. Each layer in a cell is then able to capture a segment of sunlight allowing for more efficient electricity production.

“Reaching this milestone heralds a great achievement for the Department of Energy and for solar energy engineering worldwide. We are eager to see this accomplishment translate into the marketplace as soon as possible, which has the potential to help reduce our nation’s reliance on imported oil and increase our energy security,” said Assistant Secretary Karsner.

With this new technology, the DOE is projecting that installation costs for these types of solar cells would drop to $3 per watt with electricity costing 8 to 10 cents per kWh. The long-term goal is to have solar energy technology installed in as many as two million American homes providing power at 5 to 10 cents per kWh by the year 2015.

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This is great news!
By Spartan Niner on 12/7/2006 11:32:54 AM , Rating: 5
To put this into perspective many conventional combustion engines are around 25%-33% efficient in converting chemical energy (gas/petrol) into mechanical energy/electrical energy. Having a 40%+ efficient solar cell panel/array that generates electricity at 8-10c/KWH would make it competitive or even better than conventionally generated electricity, depending on where you live. The cost of running DC projects just may drop a bit in the future :P

RE: This is great news!
By Spartan Niner on 12/7/2006 11:35:45 AM , Rating: 2
From the orig. article:

... nationwide acceptance of clean solar energy technologies by 2015. By then, it is intended that America will have enough solar energy systems installed to provide power to one to two million homes, at a cost of 5 to 10 cents per kilowatt/hour...

Okay, 8c a KWH would make many people happy, at 5c a KWH you have no excuse not to build a folding farm ;)

RE: This is great news!
By ADDAvenger on 12/7/2006 12:04:08 PM , Rating: 2
Any idea what it used to cost per KWh, and/or the efficiency of other cells? I once looked into solar power, maybe two years ago? But anyway, it would've taken something like forty years for the panels to pay for themselves (not literally, but through a reduced electric bill), and that was with the $40,000 system. Maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place..

RE: This is great news!
By ADDAvenger on 12/7/2006 12:08:13 PM , Rating: 2
Nevermind, just clicked the link in the article.

Almost all of today’s solar cell modules do not concentrate sunlight but use only what the sun produces naturally, what researchers call “one sun insolation,” which achieves an efficiency of 12 to 18 percent.

That's pretty awesome, in a year when this becomes mainstream we'll be able to buy solar panels that pay for themselves in twenty years. (and that's in a small town in Missouri that gets its power from a non-profit co-op, no telling what this'll do for you guys out in CA)

RE: This is great news!
By TheLiberalTruth on 12/11/2006 5:55:09 AM , Rating: 2
Unless, of course, you live in a state where 99% of the electricity consumed is generated from coal. There's, of course, the cost of the electricity (which, incidentally, is more than what my parents pay for electricity generated by a nuclear plant), and then there's the heavy cost to the environment in the form of acid mine drainage, acid rain, particulate emissions, carbon dioxide, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.......

RE: This is great news!
By TheLiberalTruth on 12/11/2006 5:57:47 AM , Rating: 2
Hit the wrong reply link, that was supposed to be a reply to ariafrost.

RE: This is great news!
By masher2 on 12/7/2006 12:45:29 PM , Rating: 2
> " 8-10c/KWH would make it competitive or even better than conventionally generated electricity..."

I strongly suspect that figure is arrived at by dividing the product installation cost and expected lifespan by the nominal output. That means it's an ideal figure, practically attainable only in a desert location at a relatively low latitude. Furthermore, the requirement for a solar concentrator (at 1000 suns, no less), pretty much means this is going to be useful for utilities only, not private citizens...even if they did live in the Arizona desert.

RE: This is great news!
By TomZ on 12/7/2006 12:58:43 PM , Rating: 3
So, in summary, 20-40 years breakeven, which is long enough that the average American will not consider its purchase. Sad.

RE: This is great news!
By Dfere on 12/7/2006 2:33:36 PM , Rating: 2
Most people do not own a home for 40 years anymore.

I wonder if this is a case where possibly government interaction in the marketplace would be justified? Subsidies and such?

RE: This is great news!
By masher2 on 12/7/2006 2:52:00 PM , Rating: 2
This is aimed at commercial installations primarily, not home rooftop collectors. As such, they only need to improve the lifetime of the cells somewhat, bring economies to scale to bear on manufacturing costs, and solar power may well be viable.

RE: This is great news!
By CSMR on 12/7/2006 9:20:35 PM , Rating: 2
There are already subsidies in many places including some US states. The justifications would be to encourage the industry, which should help research and generate publicity.

RE: This is great news!
By CSMR on 12/7/2006 9:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
With a long term bond rate of 1.055 you need a factor of just under 20 for economic feasability, assuming that a few things are constant (output, energy costs) and no risk.

RE: This is great news!
By greenandgoldenergy on 12/7/06, Rating: -1
RE: This is great news!
By Seer on 12/7/2006 5:13:17 PM , Rating: 2
Advertisement, needs deleting

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