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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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RE: WOW!
By masher2 (blog) on 12/7/2006 6:48:00 PM , Rating: 3
> "The new 40% efficiency ration is actually achieved using lens tricks, essentially taking a larger area of light and concentrating it onto the cell..."

The concentrators aren't a "trick". The efficiency is calculated against the amount of light energy impacting the concentrator itself, not the cell. So if a concentrator focuses 100x the light on a cell, that cell has to produce 100x the power to equal the same efficiency ratio.

The concentrators are useful for two reasons. Firstly, in the above scenerio, the cell would actually produce *more* than 100x the power, due to the higher flux allowing the secondary junctions to be more efficient. Secondly, concentrators are much cheaper per sq. meter than the cells themselves. Focusing the light gives a substantial cost advantage.




"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive











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