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Somenath Mitra, PhD, is among a group of NJIT researchers working to develop an inexpensive, easy process to produce solar panels.  (Source: New Jersey Institute of Technology)
Scientists say the plastic panels could be cranked out at home with an inkjet printer

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) claim to have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets.

In a release prepared by the University, researcher Somenath Mitra, PhD, stated, "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations."  Mitra is a professor and acting chair of NJIT's Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences.

Purified silicon, the same core material used for fabricating computer chips, is required for making conventional photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. The material is costly, difficult to handle and manufacture, and as a result, it is also subject to shortages. The NJIT research is focused on replacing purified silicon organic solar cells based on polymers.

Not only would such materials be vastly cheaper than silicon-based PV cells, they would also be significantly easier to use in a variety of ways. "Imagine someday driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless," Mitra said.

The solar cell developed at NJIT uses a carbon nanotubes complex, combined with carbon "Buckyballs," or fullerenes. Together, these nanomaterials form snake-like structures using Buckyballs to trap electrons generated by polymers exposed to sunlight. Nanotubes are used to conduct the electrons, creating a flowing current.

Details of the process were described in the article "Fullerene single wall carbon nanotube complex for polymer bulk heterojunction photovoltaic cells," recently published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry by the Royal Society of Chemistry.



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RE: Where can I buy one?
By DARGH on 7/25/2007 3:33:25 PM , Rating: 2
3000 watt system for $17,000
Depreciate the investment over 5 years, and you will be close to what you would pay your electricity company if your average consumption is based on 3kW.

http://www.solarhome.org/solarhomekits.html

Or, you can rent panels:

http://renu.citizenre.com/planosolar


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Ringold on 7/25/2007 4:01:20 PM , Rating: 4
5 years? At what location in the US -- the desert, in which almost no one lives? What about Florida, where half the best part of the day (solar energy wise) is spent under thunderstorms? And even on a clear day, that account for the fact that it's not 3kw dust-to-dawn?

That same 17,000 over 5 years even in low-yield government bonds would be nearly 22,000, and average stock market performance would be around 25,000 with the same 17k initial investment. If this technology could compete with those rates of return there'd be a lot more panels on roofs.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 5:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
3000 watt system for $17,000
Depreciate the investment over 5 years, and you will be close to what you would pay your electricity company if your average consumption is based on 3kW.

That's a bogus argument, and you know it. Everyone knows that solar is not cost-effective. That's the main reason it has not seen higher acceptance. You can trumpet other benefits of solar, but cost-effective is not one of them.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Felofasofa on 7/25/2007 8:59:35 PM , Rating: 2

quote:
but cost-effective is not one of them.


It can't be just about cost Tom, true people must have incentives to convert to renewable energy, but governments must do much more to encourage this. I saw a program on Portugal last night, they have no coal, oil or gas, but loads of wind, waves and sunshine. They have adopted a very holistic approach to generating renewable power and now lead the world. This has come about because of strong Govt leadership, educating the populace as to the benefits etc, legislating where required, and basically making it happen. Ony Govts can do this.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By masher2 (blog) on 7/25/2007 9:23:28 PM , Rating: 1
> "governments must do much more to encourage this..."

Why?

> "Portugal [has] adopted a very holistic approach to generating renewable power and now lead the world..."

Not in economic growth or standard of living, certainly. What do you feel they're leading in?


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Felofasofa on 7/25/2007 11:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Not in economic growth or standard of living, certainly. What do you feel they're leading in?


I think it's resonably obvious why Govts should encourage renewable energy use. Portugal has the second largest solar array and are building what will apparently be the largest array on the globe. They also have a large number of wind turbines feeding their grid. They have also installed an impressive, Scottish built generator powered by wave motion. This is experimental though. What impressed me about about Portugal though, was the attitude of Govt and peoples, recognising the benefits of renewables and working together to make it happen, and they seemed to be well on the path.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By TomZ on 7/25/07, Rating: 0
RE: Where can I buy one?
By Felofasofa on 7/26/2007 2:46:16 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Another view is that you could call the government in Portugal irresponsible for investing in solar power


Solar is just one aspect of their stratedgy. The point I'm trying to make is the Portugeuse are making tangible efforts to reduce their Carbon footprint by being energy efficient. Down here in Aussie we are sitting on, and exporting, ridiculous amounts of coal, selling LPG to the Chinnese for 2 cents a litre, almost half the worlds uranium, from a cost aspect, renewables are never going to compete with those resources. Attitudes and perspectives must be broader for lots of good planet saving reasons. Efforts to reduce carbon output is a responsibilty of both Govt and individuals. The Portugeuse are having a go, we're not down here, our Carbon footprint is outrageously high per capita. Where I live, we get nearly 300 sunny days a year, few take advantage of it, coal fired power is just so cheap. Capitalism as a mechanism for change is struggling here.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By masher2 (blog) on 7/26/2007 9:58:35 AM , Rating: 2
> "Down here in Aussie we are sitting on...almost half the worlds uranium....renewables are never going to compete with those resources..."

You do realize that nuclear power generates no carbon dioxide and is as 'renewable' as wind and solar power, given those uranium deposits are likely to last longer than human civilization.

> "Efforts to reduce carbon output is a responsibilty of both Govt and individuals"

That is a statement which requires a belief in a very shaky chain of logic.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Felofasofa on 7/26/2007 9:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That is a statement which requires a belief in a very shaky chain of logic.

Yeah, it's tenuous, but why shouldn't we be accountable. We have the means to accurately measure our impact across a broad spectrum of socio-economic activity. Lazy energy use should be jumped on.

quote:
given those uranium deposits are likely to last longer than human civilization.


So will the waste though, and it's hugely toxic. Pressure is building on Aussie to begin accepting Nuke waste from abroad, because of our vast geo stable, wide open spaces. People here aren't keen on it though.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By ZmaxDP on 7/26/2007 11:54:26 PM , Rating: 2
Solar power costing 3 to 5 times what other enery sources cost is now an outdated figure. Use current tech when creating these rules of thumb at least. It is no different than saying Intel cpus are still more power hungry than AMD because you've compared P4s to A64s and who cares if there is something called C2D? Given, Solar isn't less expensive now either...

Once again though, you're taking the direct costs of fossil fuels and comparing them with the direct and latent costs of solar panels and calling it "fair." Try including the latent costs of fossil fuels in the equation for a change. Or even nuclear for that matter. How about all the costs of litigation that come with attempting to build a fossil fuel plant in a developed area, or the costs in terms of property devaluation within sight of such a plant? I can keep going...

Don't get me wrong, all in all I agree with you. No magic bullets, solar isn't the solution to everyone's or even most people's energy problems. But for some cases it works extremly well, and it is getting better all the time.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By ZmaxDP on 7/26/2007 11:54:47 PM , Rating: 2
Solar power costing 3 to 5 times what other enery sources cost is now an outdated figure. Use current tech when creating these rules of thumb at least. It is no different than saying Intel cpus are still more power hungry than AMD because you've compared P4s to A64s and who cares if there is something called C2D? Given, Solar isn't less expensive now either...

Once again though, you're taking the direct costs of fossil fuels and comparing them with the direct and latent costs of solar panels and calling it "fair." Try including the latent costs of fossil fuels in the equation for a change. Or even nuclear for that matter. How about all the costs of litigation that come with attempting to build a fossil fuel plant in a developed area, or the costs in terms of property devaluation within sight of such a plant? I can keep going...

Don't get me wrong, all in all I agree with you. No magic bullets, solar isn't the solution to everyone's or even most people's energy problems. But for some cases it works extremly well, and it is getting better all the time.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Hoser McMoose on 7/26/2007 12:45:21 PM , Rating: 3
That large solar power plant in Portugal is 11MW. Typically solar power gets you a capacity factor of about 20-25%, so really it's producing an average of 2.2 to 2.75MW of power on average. For comparison, a fairly normal coal or nuclear power plant will be in the 1500 to 3000MW range and they usually achieve 80-90% capacity factors. Within 150 miles of me (as the crow flies) there is a 3920MW coal plant (Nanticoke), a 1975MW coal plant (Lambton), a 3100MW nuclear plant (Pickering), a 3524MW nuclear plant (Darlington) and a 4700MW nuclear plant (Bruce). This sort of thing is not abnormal for densely populated areas in North America and Europe (FWIW I'm in southwestern Ontario, Canada).

Long story short, from a real perspective this solar power plant is TINY from an electricity generating perspective. It contributes about 0.05% of Portugal's electricity consumption (total electricity use is about 45TWh per year) In total all the solar, wind, wave and biomass make up somewhere around 5-6% of Portugal's electricity mix. Hydro power makes up about 35% and fossil fuels the remaining 60% or so.

Better then some countries (including both the US and Canada) but certainly not leading the world. Denmark and Germany both produce a higher percentage of their electricity from wind alone.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Alexander2007 on 7/26/2007 8:31:32 AM , Rating: 2
Well its typical, if the US did not abuse and pollute the planet we never would end up in this situation..

The US is by far the biggest contributor to the problem. And it’s proven that Americans can’t objectively judge their responsibility.

And you ask what the Portuguese have accomplished? Well your not to bright my friend. They are saving your ass. !! Witch I recommend you should get up of and start helping out instead of evaluating everything from a capitalist view, because that is exactly what got us in this mess.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By TomZ on 7/26/2007 8:49:04 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well its typical, if the US did not abuse and pollute the planet we never would end up in this situation..

The US is by far the biggest contributor to the problem. And it’s proven that Americans can’t objectively judge their responsibility.

What "situation" are you talking about? What "mess" do you mean? You mean the the prosperity in the US, which leads to greater power consumption, which is the same in all developed nations around the world? What is the great problem you see with that?

The problem is really with enviro-freaks that believe that all development is evil, and all human needs should be reduced/eliminated to protect the environment. Can't eat animals, can't heat our homes, can't drive to work, etc. You believe that if we're not poor and living a spartan, minimal lifestyle, then we're "wasting." Sorry, that's just not true.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By masher2 (blog) on 7/26/2007 10:02:25 AM , Rating: 4
> "The US is by far the biggest contributor to the problem"

If you mean the "problem" of carbon dioxide, the US is not the largest contributor, either on a total generated or a per-capita basis. China now generates more on a gross basis, and a dozen different nations beat the US on a per-capita basis.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Felofasofa on 7/26/2007 9:34:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And it’s proven that Americans can’t objectively judge their responsibility.


There's a technical term for this now, it's called the "Perception Gap". Which is the difference between how the US see themselves in the world, and how the rest of the world sees the US. And guess what?....it's widening!


RE: Where can I buy one?
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 10:44:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It can't be just about cost Tom

If solar cells were really cheap or free, it wouldn't be mostly about the cost. But they are actually pretty expensive, so cost considerations dominate most decisions about solar power.

But if you have extra money, feel free to spend it on whatever you want, solar cells, whatever. That's your choice to make. When tax dollars are being spent, however, I don't appreciate when logic and reason go out the window, which is what so often happens when tax dollars are being spent.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By ZmaxDP on 7/25/2007 7:39:12 PM , Rating: 1
No one is arguing that 17K isn't a lot of money, or that Alaska (random state) is a great place for panels either (though technically some spots in Alaska are, if you wanted to know). Nor is anyone arguing that solar panels can provide a constant amount of power in varying weather conditions.

However, I don't think you'd try and argue that your home draws a constant amount of power either. So, what is your point? Normally, you draw the most load in summer when the most energy is available. While loads are higher in the winter at night for heating, in most seriously cold areas you aren't using electricity for that anyway. So, your electricity loads usually decrease significantly during winter months, though lighting loads do increase. With a decent panel setup you'll usually be running your meter backwards during the day, and then running it normally at night. A good 3kW array hooked up to your local power grid can definitely pay for itself over the course of several years. There are more than enough examples of this happening already with much lower efficiency panels that were installed 5 years ago. So the ROI should be less with newer panels.

No one was comparing this investment to one in stocks or bonds, but since you made the comparison, here goes...

Let's say you get your 17K turned into 25K in 5 years. That's 8 grand, not too shabby. Of course, you also paid about 3 grand a year in electricity costs so you lost 15 Grand. At a 8% per annum interest rate, it would take you
about another 5 years to start making as much money as you'd been paying in utilities off the interest. However, you would have paid 30 grand in electricity costs, and have about 32 grand in the account. Now, your interest is paying for your electricity. Awesome... My balance meter says that's a 2 Grand difference.

Now, let's say your 17 Grand turned into solar panels. Well, you're now paying almost nothing over the course of the year for energy. So, after 5 years you've recouped 15 grand. Over 10 years you've not spent 13 grand you would have. Well, you don't have 32G in an account somewhere, but you haven't spent 30G on electricity, just 17 Grand, and, you do have 13 Grand in an account.

All that's of course assuming that energy prices don't rise between now and then. In reality, prices will be increasing over those 10 years, just like the stocks... Of course, long term is where the investment looks better - you start getting ahead once that investment grows to 60 or 70 grand, or more. Meanwhile solar man has to replace his panels at some point. On the other hand, your 3kW system shouldn't cost you 17 Grand anymore either. Not that my accounting is vaguely close to accurate here, but your implication that one is a loss of 17 grand and the other is some 8 grand grab for glory is just wrong. Both are investments, both have their own yield points and potential hazards. Both are solid investments. My accounting also misses out on the recouped costs of the fossil fuel emissions your panels eliminated, and the various hazardous materials required to manufacture solar panels...

TomZ: How is it bogus?

Personal computers weren't cost effective one either. Hell, socks weren't cost effective at some point in time. That didn't stop some people from using them, and it is those people that allow any technology to come to fruition (and cost effectiveness).

That being said, whether a solar panel array is cost effective is dependent upon how long you'll be able to use them. I know of at least 15 people in Austin, Tx who have recouped their costs in less than 5 years using older less efficient panels. If they installed the panels and left the next week, you're right they aren't cost effective. If they stay in those houses for 15 years, they'll be reaping the rewards big time! Now given, Austin has some additional incentives for solar systems that the rest of the state doesn't have. That 17G system would only cost about 12-14G in Austin. However, Austin has the same buy-back rate on power as most of the state does, and several of those homes on the survey were actually making money from their panels.

Saying they aren't cost effective without any qualifying information is flat out irresponsible. Given the right climate, and about 5 years, most homes could break even on their investment. Given 10 years, most homes could far surpass the investment in money saved/earned. Given a 15% efficient solar panel (there are many higher efficiency panels on the market currently, BP has an 18% efficient panel, and I understand a 24% panel is soon to come) the geographical area that fits into this generalization makes up about 30% of the US, and some areas are quite surprising.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 9:10:11 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
TomZ: How is it bogus?

It's bogus because you're ignoring about 20 different factors. I don't have time for a lengthy reply, so let me take this shortcut. If you live in the US, try out the following web site: http://www.findsolar.com. Click on My Solar Estimator.

I did (I live in Michigan), put in my information, and it came up with a total estimated cost of $52,000 and it calculted 36 years to break even. I can quickly think of a dozen other investments that will perform better than that.

Try it yourself, based on where you live.

Economically, installing solar panels in your house makes little sense. You have to pick a different reason to justify solar panel investment, if you want to, because saving money just isn't a valid reason.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By ZmaxDP on 7/26/2007 11:41:40 PM , Rating: 2
Man, someone needs to work on their caculator, cause it is way off. I'm going to e-mail them and ask for some more of their assumptions, because something is just wrong. It reccomended a 14Kw system to meet my needs based on solar angles, etc... Which is laughable, and were it true, you'd be right.

As far as I can tell be reverse engineering their calculations, they are assuming panels at roughly 15 to 16 % efficient. I know that about two years ago I helped install some panels that were about 18% efficient, so I'd imagine things are better now, as mentioned in my earlier post. Looking at their other efficiency assumptions, they are very conservative. I know the solar company I worked with wouldn't install an inverter that didn't pass a 95% efficiency testing in their lab. The worst assumption of all is that the page is set to assume you want to have enough panels to meet 100% of your peak load at the specified solar radiance average. This is also just silly. The whole point of being tied into the grid is so you don't have to do that! You should take a look at your average utility rate, and then at the average buy-back rate (which is usually lower - I wish congress would get off their ass and require energy companies to buy back electricity at the same rate they sell it). Take a look at the percentage difference. If your buyback is half of your rate, then you should aim to be selling twice as much energy as you buy for a good break even point. So, aim for enough panels to meet 2/3rds of your calculated peak loads. Not 100%

Correct those assumptions to match some updated figures and you're in a lot better shape...

Listen, you can run web calcs all you want. I personally know people who've seen ROI at 5 years or less on solar systems in Austin. As mentioned, we've got good solar exposure (not poor) and some nice rebates from our local energy company (10%!) so we've definitely got an edge on michigan. Now, I'd like to know what 20 different factors I'm ignoring this time around, or for that matter what 20 different factors some clients (and reality) are ignoring too. You'll have a hard time convincing them they haven't gotten their money back...

Like I said before, comparing solar panels to stock investments is silly. Not quite as silly as the OP implied, but still a bit silly. Especially over a long period of time. The beauty of compounding and all... But, just as I was ignoring "20 factors" that neither of us can probably name, you're ignoring hundreds of factors which I'll lump sum into this one: The economic costs of climate change and fossil fuel depletion. There is no internet calculator to lump up those costs, and if you could disperse that over the tons and tons of CO2 you don't pump into the air when you're using solar panels, it might have a much higher value than you'd think...

One parting shot. People shouldn't install solar panels to MAKE money, but you said people shouldn't install solar panels to SAVE money, and I'm sorry but I know better. You can install solar panels and save a lot of money, and it doesn't take nearly as long as you, or that website imply, if you do it correctly. (By coorrectly I mean don't install them in your basement, or on your roof at the correct solar angle in Michigan. You're not in the 40% that are close to the 5 year ROI mark on a properly installed, properly sized solar panel array.) Wait another 5 years for us to hit 50% efficient panels and then I'll tell you to install them too.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By Hoser McMoose on 7/26/2007 12:05:54 PM , Rating: 2
Note that solar systems (or at least this solar system) is rated for it's performance at 1000W/m^2, 25C. This is basically high-noon sun in mid summer.

The average solar power hitting the ground in the US is more like 175 to 250W/m^2 when you average together day vs. night, summer vs. winter, etc. So even in a good location for solar panels you're 3000W system is really only producing about 750W through a simple calculation, though in reality it's probably more like 500-600W since the drop-off in performance is non-linear and cooler temperatures and wind can lower efficiencies of the panel as well.

600W * 24h * 365 days = 5256kWh

At a typical electricity price of $0.10/kWh that's $526 per year. At that rate it will take over 32 years to pay for itself. Customers in Hawaii though, with some of the better sun conditions of the US and electricity prices up around $0.22/kWh could have this pay off in under 15 years.


RE: Where can I buy one?
By ZmaxDP on 7/26/2007 11:44:21 PM , Rating: 2
Check out the site TomZ posted, I don't agree with their solar design strategy, or their efficiency numbers, but their average energy per square meter calculation is much better than yours, and it is computed regionally, which is the most important factor to guaging whether a solar system is cost-effective in a particular time frame for you.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher











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