July 25, 2007
New Solar Photovoltaic Cell Efficiency Record: 42.8%

A consortium of research teams has achieved a new record in photovoltaic cell efficiency.

5:14 p.m., July 23, 2007-- Using a novel technology that adds multiple innovations to a very high-performance crystalline silicon solar cell platform, a consortium led by the University of Delaware has achieved a record-breaking combined solar cell efficiency of 42.8 percent from sunlight at standard terrestrial conditions.

That number is a significant advance from the current record of 40.7 percent announced in December and demonstrates an important milestone on the path to the 50 percent efficiency goal set by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In November 2005, the UD-led consortium received approximately $13 million in funding for the initial phases of the DARPA Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program to develop affordable portable solar cell battery chargers.

Combined with the demonstrated efficiency performance of the very high efficiency solar cells' spectral splitting optics, which is more than 93 percent, these recent results put the pieces in place for a solar cell module with a net efficiency 30 percent greater than any previous module efficiency and twice the efficiency of state-of-the-art silicon solar cell modules.

What I want to know: Are these materials inherently more or less expensive to manufacture for unit area than existing silicon photovoltaics? Do these materials lend themselves to greater cost reductions?

Big money is going to go into creation of a manufacturing prototype.

As a result of the consortium's technical performance, DARPA is initiating the next phase of the program by funding the newly formed DuPont-University of Delaware VHESC Consortium to transition the lab-scale work to an engineering and manufacturing prototype model. This three-year effort could be worth as much as $100 million, including industry cost-share.

The professors leading this effort are aiming for 50% efficiency.

The ground-breaking research was led by Allen Barnett, principal investigator and UD professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Christiana Honsberg, co-principal investigator and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. The two direct the University's High Performance Solar Power Program and will continue working to achieve 50 percent efficiency, a benchmark that when reached would mean a doubling of the efficiency of terrestrial solar cells based around a silicon platform within a 50-month span.

Some are skeptical over whether solar electric energy will ever amount to much after decades of failing to become cost competitive. But my view is that many breakthroughs took decades to achieve. The fact that researchers have been searching for cheaper photovoltaic materials for decades isn't an argument against the feasibility of this quest. Rather, the number of first class minds pursuing this quest strongly suggests the ultimate goal of cheap and high efficiency photovoltaics is achievable.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 July 25 09:40 PM  Energy Solar


Comments
Shannon Love said at July 26, 2007 7:52 AM:

The Achilles' heal of solar power isn't conversion efficiency but rather our inability to store the energy and then produce it on demand. Even with 100% conversion we can't run our civilization on a power source that goes away when the sun goes down or that disappears randomly due to inclement weather. Now matter how efficient the solar cells, they still require a completely on demand 100% redundant non-solar backup. That means that solar will never be more than a minor source of power.

If we could create some kind of super-battery that could store electricity 4 or 5 times more efficiently than current technology then we could make a go of solar power with old fashion 5% conversion photovoltaic. All this emphasis on conversion efficiency is wasted effort. We should be concentrating on storage technology instead.

sean said at July 26, 2007 8:47 AM:

Another good question is, what kind of materials are needed for the production of these high efficiency solar cells? If they require highly toxic materials for production then I doubt that people will be happy with the replacement. Further, how much energy is required for there production? Cost is still the most reliable means of measuring the effectiveness of an energy source. Renewable isn't necessarily green, and green isn't necessarily better than oil, natural gas, nuclear, or coal. Its a cool idea but...

Paul Dietz said at July 26, 2007 9:01 AM:

The Achilles' heal of solar power isn't conversion efficiency but rather our inability to store the energy and then produce it on demand.

No, actually the roadblock has been that solar electricity is just too expensive. Even if storage were free right now, solar PV would not make sense (except for off-grid users).

some kind of super-battery that could store electricity 4 or 5 times more efficiently than current technology

Since existing batteries are already highly efficient, this would violate the first law of thermodynamics. The problem with batteries has not been their efficiency, but their lifecycle cost. If we had cheaper batteries today, we'd use them to level demand, not supply, so cheap baseload plants (like coal or nuclear) could supply a larger fraction of the demand.

Ron S said at July 26, 2007 10:01 AM:

Actually, solar cells don't have to be as cheap as baseload coal or nuclear for two reasons. First, they can be located at the point of demand, and therefore the price they have to beat is not the wholesale price of electricity, but the delivered price (at the household level, typically 2x higher). Second, solar generated electricity would look much more competitive if domestic consumers were charged for their electricity based on overall system demand at that given hour (ie, market-based prices that vary throughout the day). As the peak load in any system - the middle of the day - just happens to coincide with maximum solar energy, solar cells luckily produce energy at the time of day it is most likely to be expensive, and therefore look like peaking plants.

Storage of electricity is more of an issue for wind power, which is unpredictable in its timing and in any event has little natural timing with system demand.

Sigivald said at July 26, 2007 10:04 AM:

Paul: I think he meant 4 or 5 times more densely or cheaply, rather than efficient in terms of input:output ratio approaching 1.

Surely current batteries don't approach physical limits on energy density (though they may approach energy density limits for their particular chemistries and manufacture methods).

aaron said at July 26, 2007 10:07 AM:

Shannon, I've also read about solar towers, they use sun to heat a fluid and thermodynamic processes to produce power, The heat retained allows them to continue producing some power at night.

Now for the variability issue diminished night output, you simply create excess capacity. We'll just have to pave over 8-15 Ohios rather than 1-2 (actually, this suggests it's only about 5000 sq-mi for US consumption).

BR said at July 26, 2007 10:32 AM:

I didn't realize I had to have a generator in my back yard to get electricity. There's this thing called a power grid which you probably have access to if you have electricity. The grid is already able to transmit power over a thousand miles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inga-Shaba), and has been considered in the past to be cost effective up to 4000. The sun never sets on the earth, so the rest of the problem becomes one of cost and engineering.

By the way here is a nice little chart provided by the DOE about the cost of PV solar energy: http://www.eere.energy.gov/tribalenergy/guide/images/chart3_solar_pv.gif

The graph comes from this page: http://www.eere.energy.gov/tribalenergy/guide/costs_solar_photovoltaics.cfm

The DOE estimates that solar will be competitive with current urban power costs around 2020. If costs in urban areas continue to rise obviously solar cells will become more cost effective sooner.

Light Maleski said at July 26, 2007 12:39 PM:

The real problem with batteries and power storage is the sheer amount of resources required to make the batteries. In order to store enough electricity to power through the night, we would need so much lead and space the project would be come infeasible for even a single State. I think we should look at electrolysis as a means of storing surplus energy. The Hydrogen can then be stored or released into a jet turbine to power a generator. The real benefit to solar energy however, is it's ability to produce the most power when we need it most... during the Day!

FK said at July 26, 2007 3:30 PM:

Richard Swanson of SunPower Corporation states that for every cumulative doubling of solar cell production, prices go down 19%. As long as production growth continues at the 20-25% it has historically, we are likely to see prices fall in half every 7-10 years. Not quite Moore's law, but not bad.

I have calculated what percentage of electricity solar can contribute to the US, in the years 2030, 2035, 2050 and 2010 with various growth assumptions. Based on these numbers, I think it is likely that solar will contribute less than 5% of electricity by 2030, but it is also likely that it will contribute more than 50% by 2050. Gotta love exponential growth.

And if you are curious how much land is required to generate all the world's energy, I always find this image to be helpful. You can fit it all in deserts with plenty of room to spare.

BBM said at July 26, 2007 4:31 PM:

FK:

That picture is actually pretty ugly. When added up, those dots look to cover an area the size of western europe.

Of course, that's at a conversion of 8%.

Randall Parker said at July 26, 2007 6:34 PM:

Shannon Love,

Imagine that 50% efficient solar cells could produce electricity for 1 penny per kwh. Would you refuse to install solar cells just because they don't provide power all the time? Or would you install them and use them when they provide power and use utility power the rest of the time?

We can shift demand around if the difference in price is great between different times of the day. For example, some skyscrapers in New York City have big water containers that get cooled down at night when electric is much cheaper and then air is blown over containers to cool the building air during hot afternoons. A recent article reported big savings from doing this. Air conditioning and even some heating demand can get shifted to whenever the electricity is cheapest.

But, yes, we really really need cheap, long-lasting, and high energy density batteries. Such batteries would break our dependence on liquid fuels for transportation. Great batteries would allow nuclear, coal, wind, solar, and geothermal to provide energy for transportation.

I say we are not having an energy crisis. We are having an energy storage crisis. Oil is not just a form of energy. Oil is a convenient form in which to store energy. We can extract portions of oil into gasoline and diesel and jet fuel to use to move around vehicles. But the world is running out of oil.

We need better batteries more than we need nukes, wind towers, or solar panels. Still, cheap solar will be great when it finally arrives in a decade or two.

Brock said at July 26, 2007 7:01 PM:

"That picture is actually pretty ugly. When added up, those dots look to cover an area the size of western europe."

Maybe, but the areas where the disks are placed are pretty sparsely populated (unlike Western Europe). No one lives in Saudi Arabia's "empty quarter" (seriously, that's what they call it) or in that region of the Sahara or Australia. Very few people live in the regions covered in the USA and South America (those are the highest points of the Rockies and Andes, respectively).

8% efficiency is probably fair given current technology, factoring in transmission costs from Colorado to New York.

Covering every rooftop with cells is still the better solution though. You save the transmission losses and don't commit any more acreage to man's use. That's why this stuff is cool, but the advances in plastic solar cells is cooler. 10% efficient for the price of saran wrap = 100% solar power adoption. Even better than that would be an artificial photosynthetic polymer that turns sunlight into sugars that in turn run fuel cells (or a roof that's half-and-half, to cover baseload and peak usage).

A thought crosses my mind - Craig Venter invents grass that's 20% efficient. It uses 5% of the energy to grow and feeds the other 15% into the grid of wires that self-assembled from the root systems and connect to your house. Now you lawn powers your TV. If that's crazy, I don't want to be sane.

Randall Parker said at July 26, 2007 7:25 PM:

Brock,

What'll eventually drive roof top solar: The development of roofing material that is also photovoltaics. When the incremental cost gets low enough people will install solar roofing instead of conventional roofing.

arbitrary aardvark said at July 27, 2007 8:11 AM:

This breakthrough by the U of Delaware didn't come from nowhere. Delaware had Solar 1, a demonstration house powered by photovoltaics,
"smart house" automated conservation devices, and a fuel cell to store the energy. This was in 1973. To those of us who've been following solar since then, it's taken a lot longer than we thought it would, but it's happening.

Egmonster said at July 28, 2007 12:25 PM:

"The development of roofing material that is also photovoltaics"
has actually reached the market, although Advanced Thin Film (amorphous silicon I think) is not cutting edge for efficiency, and the cost is still high. Sunsei(TM) Construct Solar Slates from ICP Solar make various colours of solar roof tiles which look and work just like regular slates. Looking at the roof you can't tell which tiles are just stone, and which are generating electricity!

Todd Flach said at August 1, 2007 4:15 AM:

The alternative to energy storage is timing the electric load to follow production. If there is a massive excess of electric production capacity in the sunny part of the day due to high penetration of solar, then we simply turn on all our dishwashers, washing machines, air conditioners, heat pumps, etc. then instead of in the middle of the night as we are wisely doing today given the dispatchability profile of our current energy system.

The degree of innovation activity in photovoltaics technologies today is remarkable, and is orders of magnitude more than just 10 years ago. I fully expect a series of very highly disruptive innovations to thrust PV into the mainstream in the next 5-10 years, and then it is only a question of political will and commercial risk-taking appetite to see how fast it scales up.

George W. Penington said at August 11, 2007 12:39 PM:

New Solar Photovoltaic Cell Efficiency Record: 42.8%. The engineers at DBK Engineering www.dbksolar.com have proclaimed a FIL 3000 watt solar panel that is 70% efficient since 2005. They have stated that they don't care if anyone believes them or not, they perform demonstrations for interested investors that walk away unshakeable in their beliefs in these 50 lb. 1.3 sq.ft. meter panels. At their last demonstration the panels powered two 1850 watt hairdryers with the panel propped up in the shade of the afternoon. The watt meters showed they were producing 2800 watts plus with out any loading. Two of my partners flew from the east coast to California to attend this demonstration and are convinced that the Company and the panels are real. They are prepared to order one (since one replaces 18 of the nearest competitor's panels) at the cost of over $10,000.00. Also the franchise fees are $4,000.00 to reserve an area code and then $100,000.00 when you have sold $1,000,000.00 worth of systems. I will give anyone that can prove to me, so that I can prove to my partners, a $1,000.00 (One thousand dollars) that these panels and the company are a scam. If no one can do it, then I will join them and laugh all the way to the bank. If they are proven to be real then I will eat a dead crow live on U Tube after a public announcement and apology. ps. I am building a website this weekend with all the research that I have done so far. www.solarscams.com but none of it is definitive proof one way or the other. OH yea! They stated they are not interested in the Nobel Prize. George W. Penington

Michael Flynn said at September 12, 2007 8:26 AM:


I visited DBK Solar in Carlsbad for a training session. They didn't get into the technical aspects of the product. They didn't get into the installation aspects either. They did show us a panel that produced 4100W indoors under a skylight and 5100W outdoors in the parking lot on a cloudy day. They downplay the output, encouraging us to stay conservatively at 3000W. I brought my own meter just for my own piece of mind. I'm not an expert, but don't you need a load to get an accurate reading of the power generated? We visited a very impressive facility that they were negotiating a lease on but they have not moved into it yet, after 6 months. I did purchase a dealership, on a gamble, and have kept in touch since. They have applied for certification in California and Florida has agreed to rubberstamp whatever California does. I can't sell the systems in Florida without the approvals, you can't apply for the rebates without approvals. The company is very secretive and odd, but I haven't given up yet. ndxtrader7@aol.com

Keith Reynolds said at September 16, 2007 1:24 PM:

I think a lot of people are missing the point. SolarPV panels are coming out of China at the moment at USD 3.7 per watt. They are not a cost effective way of generating electricity, but at the moment in UK we have sky high crude oil prices, Natural Gas from Russia, loads of coal but not very many clean burning coal power stations. Our energy needs have GOT to be met from alternative green energy, and I think microgeneration by SolarPV, Wind Turbines, Microhydro should all be fully supported by generous government grants,even to self install systems. Carbon emissions have to be reduced, and this is one way of doing it. Its really a lifestyle choice, rather like buying a flat screen TV, or recycling. You can get a perfectly acceptable picture on a cheap 26 inch monster tube model, but people buy flat screens because they have made that lifestyle choice.Unfortunately our ghastly government is preaching energy conservation, but you go to buy a low energy light bulb, and get charged 17.5% VAT. Outrageous. I wish I had the CA sun, I would install SolarPV tomorrow.

Jo said at October 20, 2007 4:49 AM:

Wouldnt it be interesting if we could actualy have an electric cable system conecting the world together. As the sun moved around the earth solar panles continued to add power into a world Grid system, By raising outpu to a super volage to lessen the Current loss.
Just A thought any big multi national companies interested to take it on???

L Nichols said at November 27, 2007 2:14 PM:

DBK (solar panels) won't return our money even though we have it in writing that they would return our money. $4000.
Please don't give these people any money. They have not followed through on their word.

torabora said at December 14, 2007 8:13 PM:

L Nichols! Email me at america@digitalpath.net I may be able to help.

Zeyphr said at December 17, 2007 4:40 PM:

Interesting commentary on solar power [sun PV, sun TE, sun SE, wind, tidal use, geothermal, etc.]. Solar PV by itself won't amount to much, neither will the other solar approaches, wind will only be a stop gap at best. Geothermal from hot spots on the earth will make a big difference if exploited correctly. Look at Iceland and Greenland ! There is more geothermal power in Yellowstone than anywhere else in the north American continent ! Tidal makes a lot of sense as its not only regular but enormously powerful ! Remember why Big Power Utilities build big electric generation plants => Its due to the advantages of the economics and power of scaling !

Personally I think that solar PV could be used for ' peaking problems '! Seems to make sense if you consider a scale in all the roof tops being used for electrical generation ! If you live out in the ' boonies or outback ', yes, a combination of solar PV, TE or SE with wind turbines would do alright. I know of several Australians that are doing this and it seems to work for them quite well. For a conversion of our society here in the USA, its going to take one hell of a lot more to displace both coal and hydro. Remember that we have Technically Evolved from the late 1800s ! Being a physicist, I still like nuclear powered electricity the best ! Look at France !

Its cleaner and far more efficient when considering ' economies of scale '. The waste ? Its still got one hell of a lot of energy in it and can be used for a lot of things from processing waste water to pure water, sea water to fresh, processing food stuffs, industrial processes, etc., and for RTGs [radioactive thermoelectric generators] ! Just to mention a few. Our reactors have evolved too, with technology. It is possible to design and build reactors that will not only breed more fuel [U238 => Pu235 ] but minimize waste at the same time. Fusion ? Its just around the corner and in another quarter century, it will be just around the corner again ! Too many problems here, the sun is a good example of just what fusion is all about, better out there than here on Earth ! Zeyphr, Ph.D, physicist...

Adegboye Olaoluwa Ayodeji said at March 25, 2008 3:02 AM:

I heard somewhere that there are indications on improvement. A lot of reserchers are trying to look at alternative to silicon as the only widely used semiconductor.
I'll like to clarify the advantage of carbon oxides and hydrides and some other covalent compounds. these is a field that can help improve the availability and accessibility of solar power as an alternative energy.

Don Fulton said at April 6, 2008 10:04 PM:

I began to research DBK Solar after running into a DBK Solar dealer at a MA fair. DBK Solar is a scam. There is no production, no technology, no delivery. Full DBK story at link below including a peek at their 'so called' technology from a patent application I dug out by DBK principal, Darry Boyd.

http://twinkle_toes_engineering.home.comcast.net/~twinkle_toes_engineering/dbk_solar.html

Peter Blackman said at June 24, 2008 4:55 PM:

One of the limiting factors of utility power is you need water to make steam and cool the steam and it turns out that 48% of the water used today is used by utility companies. Having said that solar can be stored by using water. By pumping water up a hill or back into a reservoir then the power can be used as needed using hydroelectric. There is a project in Palm Springs, CA were they will be using wind power to pump water between 2 existing mines that are 1700 feet apart in height. When there is no wind the water is released through some water turbines to produce electricity. Solar could be designed to do the same thing and in this case the water is used over and over again. A Water tower might work to store water power where no hills or mines exist.
In a residential situation extra solar power could be used to make hydrogen through electolyzers convertering water to hydrogen. Then hydrogen fuel cells convert the hydrogen back to electricity. Hydrogen is safer then you think because when there is a leak the hydrogen rises quickly. The storage of and the making of hydrogen is in a covered out side building with open air sides for safety.
There is work to be done to get the efficiencies up in both solar, electrolysers and fuel cells but the concepts are there. Just look at the change in solar efficiencies over the past couple of years. I have seen 42% and even 80% on the horizon.
What we need is an administration that has long term vision and is willing to put some money into research. We made it to the moon in less than a decade when we made up our minds that this was a worth while project and without the transistor. We just need visionaries that believe that spending money on research is more productive then spending our money on oil which is destructive to our country's economy.
Solar is free and we keep our money inside our country and solve a lot of our present national debt problems. I know the argument that this an oil economy and without oil we would destroy our economy. Well, that is why we need visionaries.

Greg Jung said at July 5, 2008 12:15 AM:

Our own energy usage only gets expensive when the air conditioner runs: when there is plenty of sunlight available for sun power.

Chris Cowan said at July 16, 2008 1:44 AM:

Is there a map showing the location of photvoltaic cells used around the world to show the efficiency of these cells depending where in the world these are sited ?

regards


Chris Cowan
07768 283214

chris.cowan@jarvishomes.com

Randall Parker said at July 16, 2008 7:55 PM:

Chris,

Check out this World Insolation Map.

Curiously, England, the area around the Great Lakes, and Seattle are all about equally dim. Canada get more sunshine than most of Europe.

Randall Parker said at July 16, 2008 9:07 PM:

Note that previous map was for the worst day of the year. For the United States see various insolation maps which include annual average and monthly average maps.

Ken Warburton said at September 21, 2008 12:32 AM:

Wouldn't it be great if a new UK government made a ruling that every new house built must have at least one solar panel. Imagine a Britain with solar panels on every roof. The price of solar panels would drop and the country would be able to get rid of several old power stations.
Instead of paying the over 60's £250 every year to heat their homes - (Or buy Xmas presents) Install solar panels instead. Their fuel costs would drop by a significant amount.

Bryan Smith said at November 20, 2008 8:41 PM:

storage of solar electric power for night time use is very easy, just stop trying to put it in a battery...
use the daytime solar electricity to lift water...and then at sundown let the water fall... hmm now if we can just figure out to get electricity from falling water?

BRYAN in denver colorado 303 503 4799

Rajanikant Ray said at December 8, 2008 5:57 AM:

Going SOLAR WAY is not only economical to end user but it will help future generation to have longer healthy LIFE by improving ENVIORNMENTAL impact due to more usage of fossil fuel which is an ugly TRUTH for humans to understand and make a fast move towards alternatives to avoid further damage to enviornment.

Adegboye Olaoluwa Ayodeji said at February 21, 2009 3:50 AM:

I've been able to use solar energy in laboratories and classrooms in Nigeria, they are used in lighting night classes and also powering practical labs. Solar electricity is indeed interesting

G Bouck said at March 9, 2009 8:04 PM:

I have watched PV cell improvements since 1968. It seems that the promise of cost efficiency continues to elude us, though I can not fathom the reason since efficiencies and manufacturing costs are now greatly better and other energy costs have skyrocketed.
Forget batteries. Mirrored arrays already use focused solar heat to make molten salts for steam turbines in daylight with the stored heat used at night for the same purpose. Or pump water uphill in daylight, run it back through generators at night.
There are vast (HOT, SUNNY) deserts world wide... China - Gobi, Africa - Sahara, even the USA. No need to use arable land. Combine wind and PV farms in these areas.
The approach has to be some of each of wind , PV, large and small hydro, tidal, and why not some bio-fuel and nuclear too while we find ways to lower our demands and boost consumption efficiencies. Costs won't come down until manufacturing scales up. Get the act together and Git-R-Done! Just don't tell me it doesn't work, the costs are too high, or we need more and better technology to get it going. BULL! Public will and Big Oil concerns are the missing links.

Siddesh Kapdi said at March 11, 2009 1:05 PM:

I would like to share a thought... that solar energy and wind energy farms should be coupled.Although its difficult to have a combination of right Load Center + incident radiation + wind speed at the same place.If such a combination is achieved then the disadvantages of one system will be overcomed by the other (like power supply at night is an issue of a solar power plant).The concept of 'Energy Packets' which means storage of high grade in high energy density battries should be sold to the consumer at times when the plant does not fuction due to varying climate, is worth giving a thought.As renewale energy is costlier than non renewable energy the govt should implement policies such a deduction in excise duties and taxes to the counsumer using renewable energy.
At the END .The consumer will definitely ask a question , Why will I buy the same product(Cost/unit) for at a higher cost ?Ans for which is , we as a renewable energy provider must be able to 'seduce' the consumer numerious benifits that he will enjoy when he buys the product.

YES...technology needs to be better but we also need to change our mind sets initiallty.

Dr. Neil Gray said at April 28, 2009 2:37 PM:

I believe everyone is missing the point and linear thinking must stop. Who cares at this point if we cannot store it. Let's just assume we only use solar converted electricity during the day. We are talking a huge reduction in alternative energy sources. The battle of energy will not be won by one type of energy, it will be conquered by the use of multiple sources.

Richard McIver said at May 26, 2009 1:16 PM:

I have found the Solar Moore's Law. Moore's Law for computer transistor semiconducting chips is that
it is every 1.5 years for efficiency to double. Since PV cells are semiconductors, much of the same
technology (nano technology and chemical technology) apply and every 5 years the efficiency doubles.
In 1950 it was $10,000 / watt for PV electricity (space application) and if you do the math 5 years
double efficiency holds true.

PV electric power will be the new revolution with many things (lawn mowers and cars) going electric
and green. With

You have heard of Moore's Law. Every 1.5 years computers double in efficiency. I have coined the
term Solar Moore's Law or Slow Moore's Law. Every 5 years PV electricity doubles in efficiency.
In 1950 it was $10,000/watt for PV power now down to $2.50/watt and if you do the math it works
out quite accurately to 5 years to double efficiency. Do the math.

PV electric power will be the next revolution with electric power for cars and going green, too.
PV panels on every roof will be the norm.

Dr Amish said at June 1, 2009 3:18 AM:

I agree with Dr Gray, we must stop thinking linearly. Currently we do not have a viable way of storing electricity on such a scale but we do have an efficient way of storing solar power - molten salts retaining heat.
"Solar energy can be stored at high temperatures using molten salts. Salts are an effective storage medium because they are low-cost, have a high specific heat capacity and can deliver heat at temperatures compatible with conventional power systems. The Solar Two used this method of energy storage, allowing it to store enough heat in its 68 m³ storage tank to provide full output of 10 MWe for about 40 minutes, with an efficiency of about 99%." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power

And as you will also notice such large scale solar thermal projects already exist.
If we could harness solar energy very efficiently and be able to store it somehow, then we wouldn't need to bother with wind, waves... since they are generated from the Sun in the first place. The earth receives 174 petawatts of energy from the sun (174 x 10^15W)and our current consumption worldwide is less than 16 Terrawatts (16 x10^12W). Illustratively, here's how much energy we need from the sun to meet our current demand - http://www.desertec.org/ and that's using Concentrated Solar Power (C.S.P) for crying out loud! What makes solar energy conversion to thermal better than direct conversion to electric is that we can store the heat with very high efficiency (99%) and that the steam used to turned the turbines can be re-used to boil seawater and hence provide freshwater for those desert coastal regions - 2 for 1 offer!! The question I ask is would we be able to boil similar amounts of seawater(to produce freshwater) and still generate as much electricity from PV cells alone, even with efficiencies of 40% ?

Dunno what to think of a claim of 70% efficiency in harnessing the sun's power...surely if those professors could only achieve 42%... that's surely an incredible breakthrough... and I mean INCREDIBLE !

Breakthroughs are happening everywhere - cables of conducting electricity over thousands of miles with losses of less than 1%, ultra capacitor batteries for electric cars making recharging them a matter of minutes and less, High performance electric cars (0-60 in 3 secs), micro-generation/going off grid becoming easier with increased PV cell efficiency...

It's amazing to be part of a generation we move to being fully electric and being able to harness the planet's energy directly... this stepping stone would mark mankind as being the Type I civilisation on the Kardashev Scale. I dunno why I'm so excited about this!:P lol just like him - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHbnM_42mQE

lance sjogren said at August 8, 2009 4:50 PM:

"The sun never sets on the earth, so the rest of the problem becomes one of cost and engineering."

Yes, the supergrid is one possibility. But, major breakthroughs would be needed, which may or may not prove to be achievable.

Another potential show stopper for the "supergrid" is geopolitics.

Personally, I think large scale energy storage is more promising than supergrid as a solution to the intermittency of renewable energy sources, although both are in a state of infancy; reaching a point of proven feasibility, if it can be achieved with one or both, is a long ways off.

lance sjogren said at August 8, 2009 4:56 PM:

Dr Amish:

I think at the primitive stage we are at with renewable energy that it is extremely speculative to predict what will be the winning solutions (assuming they do materialize), but I agree that right now CSP with molten salt storage is probably what I would bet my money on as the most likely large scale generation/storage approach for renewable energy.

lance sjogren said at August 8, 2009 5:07 PM:

"The battle of energy will not be won by one type of energy, it will be conquered by the use of multiple sources."


I agree partially with this- a diversity of sources in combination with a relatively large-scale power grid will partially address the intermittency issue.

Real time pricing will also play a role- people will be incentivized to use discretionary power-consuming tasks during times when power is plentiful.


Nevertheless, I only believe those will go a fraction of the distance is resolving the intermittency issue.

For one thing, how much diversity of LARGE SCALE renewable sources are we going to have? I think it will be primarily wind and solar.

So you will be mixing two sources that in general don't coincide in time. But to really smooth out the variations you would need MANY different types of renewables, in similar quantities.


If you can mix wind from places far from each other and if the wind doesn't tend to be correlated between those places then that helps. But, I would think realistically you may at best have large quantities of wind power coming from 3-4 different geographically separated areas.

Bottom line, I am personally extremely skeptical that you can get a sufficient mix of renewable sources to have a reliable power grid without large scale storage as part of the solution.

The supergrid bringing in solar energy from around the world would solve that, but I personally think it will prove infeasible on several counts- prohibitive cost, prohibitive power losses, and it requires the world be one happy family which is a nice thought but I think unrealistic for the forseeable future.

lance sjogren said at August 8, 2009 5:13 PM:

"There is a project in Palm Springs, CA were they will be using wind power to pump water between 2 existing mines that are 1700 feet apart in height."


Pumped storage is a great approach where feasible but the opinions I have read in books about alternative energy seem to largely reach a consensus that there aren't enough feasible sites for such storage for it to serve more of a role than just a niche storage solution in those few places where it happens to be doable.

lance sjogren said at August 8, 2009 5:24 PM:

Another advantage of a renewables+storage approach compared to a "super grid" approach is that you potentially can have a more decentralized system.

The holy grail in the decentralized concept most people seem to have in mind is a rooftop PV solar collector in conjunction with a storage battery in the basement.

The feasibility of that will largely depend on whether we can develop a good and cheap enough battery. Also it should ideally not have corrosive liquid chemicals in it- we don't really want everyone to have their basement full of lead acid batteries, or everyone may wind up with their own personal superfund site.

Nick G said at August 8, 2009 6:22 PM:

Lance,

Don't forget about the power of Demand Side Management, especially combined with PHEV/EVs. Most demand is deferrable, at least for short periods. Think of the potential of 230M EVs in the US, each with 50 KWH of storage and 10KW of demand or V2G output, coordinated by utilities or by customer-controlled smart meters.

pedros said at November 28, 2009 9:42 PM:

There are other energy savings possible - for example, absorption type air conditioning, solar water heaters, etc.
Part of making solar really work is to determine how much electricity we really need, and how much energy can be derived by alternate harnessing of solar energy. The thought of an electric grid stretching from Shanghai to Paris simply to avoid "night time" effects, is almost science fictional!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_air_conditioning

Bernard Montaron said at December 1, 2009 2:30 AM:

I would like to see PV cells efficiency expressed in terms of solar power in (roughly 1 kW/m2 i.e., 100 mW/cm2) and electrical power out.
According to this definition a one-square-centimeter PV cell with 50% efficiency should produce 50 mW of electrical power (peak). I doubt this will ever happen!
The definition of "efficiency" for PV cells is in fact misleading.

John said at December 14, 2009 6:30 PM:

I can't understand why this technology isn't already being used on a full-residential scale, and I'm 15. I mean to say, Earth has two amazing, unlimited sources of energy: the ocean and the sun, one of which projects 1,000 watts per sq. meter onto Earth and one that covers 70% of Earth's surface. Imagine: 42.8% efficient solar cells powering homes by day, hydroelectric plants doing the same by night: how amazing our lives would be! Power, free, on demand, for 6 hours in the daytime and through the rest of the night....why is this simply a dream of a 15-year-old kid? Get moving, everybody....we could easily pull this together. And for those who think hydroelectricity is ineffective and/or environment-murdering, just think...I live in Hawaii, not too far from Peahi, Maui, and I know just what the ocean can do. Motion-to-electricity generators mounted in optimal wave locations would not damage wildlife, nor would it harm anything or anyone, and would provide a steady stream of power to countless homes. We're surrounded by water and sunlight: why not use our resources to our advantage? Oil doesn't work, as we've come to find.....it's time for something new.

jack said at March 16, 2010 9:55 AM:

oil does work.... just look at the bank balances of the evil capitalists. and my dear boy, that is all that matters. The world WILL need to be cleansed of human life before things will change. That's life... everyone on here is better off not looking to these alternative forms of electricity since they are all flawed... on purpose. Do you think the the board of BP, OPEC etc, are going to stand by and not kill those who attempt to invent something that actually works and takes away there powers. Common, all the real breakthroughs you no nothing of, since the inventors have been long gone, 6' under or alike. Get real, human corruption and evil will win forever, you are just sheep. the easiest life you can hope for is to give in, accept it and look to join in with this corrupt system and learn how to make your own money until the world self destructs and the earth virus "humans" all kill each other...

jerry stroud said at March 17, 2010 10:49 AM:

To begin using solar, try installing a solar hot water heater. These are cheap and very effective (You can make it yourself if you research a little).
In California, they are putting solar shingles on homes and the inverters and batteries systems are built as part of the house. These are very expensive right now but if the cells get cheap enough, then rather paving over an entire state to try to transmit hundreds of miles away, this would be the wave of the future.

daniel stephen said at March 28, 2010 1:08 AM:

hi
Can all the great inventors help us solar up the friendliest, sunniest country in the world? Zimbabwe we are desperately in need of solar technology and with help from so many clever eco friendly inventors , engineers and finatics like myself , we can do it. We have sanctions as well as a very corrupt government with no interest in conservation or the country or the people. Help us please . We are willing to learn and help in any way possible. With the likelyhood of conventional electricity supplies becoming unavailable or power cuts more often than they are now (usually once a day, sometimes for weeks at a time) Can the societies interested in solar come up with a cost effective entry level solar package that will enable the every day man - family some relief against the ineffiency of our government to supply basic needs. We must become independent of external services and with science and modern technology be able to empower the local small scale farmer and man in the street to self sufficiency. I have a solar retail outlet and am looking for clever efficient solar equipment and employ more people who can make solar panels to help the situation. With the restrictions we have here it is very difficult to make head way. An enormouse market awaits any organisation that can help us in this regard.Biggest problem is getting it through the border without the government or some fat minister trying to get even richer on the people instead of helping the people. Typical Africa hey ? Any solution ? Any agency or organisation that can help please contact me or my organisaton who are involved in research and development to promote solar energy and farming advancement through clever technology , hard work and the will of God.

Daniel Stephen BSc Eng ( Local Solar Shop .)

Tom Radford said at April 22, 2010 9:04 AM:

There are a lot of interesting arguments here, and a lot of conflicting viewpoints. Will solar save the world? Will it be wind? Will it be supergrids? Will it be energy storage? When it comes down to it, it's all a game of numbers. During my undergraduate course I did some work analysing the UK energy flows data for 2007. For those that might be interested:
* UK primary supply: 9869 PJ (that's Peta-Joules), or on average 315GW, or 2.3% of world energy (including all fuels, imported electricity, renewables, heat sold and nuclear)
* UK primary demand: 6891 PJ (supply minus electricity generating losses, chemical industry use, energy industry use, and distribution loss)

The efficiency of the UK's electricity generating system in 2007 was 38.1 %. That means of the 3570 PJ supplied in fuel to the power stations, only 1240 PJ (34.1%) actually reached homes, industry and businesses, and the other 4% was used by the electricity generating industry or exported.

On consumption, the three biggest culprits are:
* Electricity generation (3570 PJ, 36% primary supply)
* petroleum for transport (2580 PJ, 26% primary supply)
* natural gas for space and water heating (1649 PJ, 17% primary supply).
* These three uses together total 7800 PJ, or 79% of primary energy supply to the UK.

A notable point here is that if 1 unit of electricity is saved, you save 2.6 units on the primary fuel input to the power stations.

Of these things, electricity is the most complicated, because its very versatile, and used for a great many things, so it's difficult to identify any one big saving.

Transport depends more the attitude people has on how they use transport (44% energy is used in passenger vehicles), and less on the actual technology (but it certainly helps). Everyone seems to believe the government will solve the problem, but it's people on the ground who will make all the difference.

The simplest thing, is that 17% on space and water heating. Put. Blankets. Around. Everything. If it's warm, keep it warm, if it's cold, keep it cold. Insulate homes, businesses, universities, industrial facilities, refrigerators, hot water tanks, the lot.

And the 2220 PJ (22.5% of primary energy) lost to the atmosphere in the power stations? Why it appears to be about equivalent to the 17% used on space and water heating... how about that... Waste heat = process heat = hot water. Pipe it from the power stations to the centre of the cities, and sell cheap heat to homes and businesses, and cut the use of gas and electricity for central heating. This is exactly what they do in Mannheim (Germany).

So, the questions are now: how much does it cost, how quickly can we feasibly have it done, and how much of an effect will it really have? And these are the questions I cannot yet answer...

Thoughts? Anyone?

Tom Radford
MEng Systems Engineering with Sustainability, University of Warwick.
Postgraduate Research Engineer, Energy Storage Systems (oh yes, I didn't mention that...), University of Warwick

Wallace N Pettie said at June 28, 2010 4:03 PM:

My NOBEL in Energy … focused sun energy into “Solar grid pipe line” conduits from “Solar Thermal Battery Power Plants" collective enclosures all over the world … it will work … even effect global warming and put millions or even billions to work again? Lets do it Wallace N Pettie http://www. mallini1000.com mailto:mallini1000com@gmail.com

Wallace N Pettie said at June 28, 2010 4:33 PM:

*****
Magnetically bottled spent Uranium electrons into thermal-photo voltaic coated energy cells … another way to make waste useable for hundreds or thousands of years … that will work so you would think. We have too many resources we do not use. Like the spent deuterium water in hydrogen fuel cells on site in its cooling circulatory systems or transported to other sites. Are we doing this?

Ronny said at July 13, 2010 9:42 PM:

It seems this is coming down to geopolitical issues. Now if we look at what the USA as done due to big oil, and how we manage to pipe it and ship it and whatever means we use to transport it here has really caused death and war and environmental damage and greed to flourish, and give us nothing but a source of energy DEPENDENCE, that is not finite...yes, it IS going to run out. Not to mention for example what is going on in the gulf presently due to the BP oil gusher.

Now, without getting technical or mathematical, or bringing up the efficiency specs of PV cells, or batteries...what is to stop us from constructing solar panels in the deserts of the world, which comprise anywhere from 14 to 20% of the earths surface, and pipe the energy on demand to the areas of the world that require it, and are willing to pay for it? And those that use other forms for their daily lives ie: wind, hydro or residential/commercial solar panels, can simply resell it back to the power grid if not using more then they pay for?

Would this not be a potential solution to unnecessary wars, pollution and unemployment?..at least for a substantial length of time? And hopefully as new technologies arise, and efficiency increases in energy storage such as batteries are encouraged and funded...can this not be a viable long term solution? Or, do we let big oil destroy everything first for the sake of the insatiable greed of the few? Am I being overly Utopian in thought?

Nick G said at July 14, 2010 3:00 PM:

Ronny,

You're on the right track, but focusing a bit too much on solar. Wind is substantially cheaper right now, and is likely to stay that way for a while.

Wallace N Pettie said at August 28, 2010 2:13 PM:

My comment on “Jack said at March16,2010 9:55 am in regards to oil”… Wallace N Pettie said at August 28, 2010 in regards to oil... let every resource produce photonic energy to add supplement to the World Solar Grid Network. Oil can be lathed (use the heat & light energy… I can help with those designs). Hydrogen is a product produced in those processes as well. You can even electrolyze oil into hydrogen gas with high voltage of various frequencies (can help with design of those devices). They could use their economical resources to build hydrogen energy consuming devices. They could use those devices to produce electricity direct to sale to the solar grid. Can we just all get along for a cleaner world. Wallace N Pettie/Mallini1000.com

Wallace N Pettie said at August 28, 2010 2:40 PM:

Nick G said at July 14, 2010 3:00 PM: This is my comment: Wind power is a resource that will run magnetic devices to produce energies to heat Deuterium or some cases just plain water. Let us take our primary energy sources oil, coal, gas, hydro, and atomic nuclear devices and reconstruct the way we produce the same electricity. Let us go into the atom more efficiently with all of them and I can help in those designs. The planet is fighting back and it will give in one way or another. Wallace N Pettie/Mallini1000.com

Vladimir Karasev said at April 3, 2011 9:43 AM:

Dear Sirs\ Mis, our company is interested in quickly attracting venture
funding to finish work on the technology of production of
solar modules with high efficiency. Nizhi request for funding and in the
annex to the letter the results of our work in the form of a report

We offer more detailed information on our company and demand for grant
capital funding in the amount of - $ 3000 000.

Inventor of.
Company- SOLARUS ENERGY Ltd
Address - 454080 RUSSIA, 52 \ 74 St. VOLODARSKOGO, CYTY CHELYABINSK

CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY - technology perfected laboratory,
to manufacture industrial design and conduct an independent test.

REQUIRED AMOUNT OF VENTURE FINANCING - $ 3000 000.
The additional informationFinancing term - 18 months. Return of the
investor - in the course
10 days after the expiration of funding.

PROPOSAL FOR COOPERATION for venture investors
After production of the industrial design and an independent test, we
propose % Of revenue from the sale of technology.

COMMERCIALIZATION developed technology.
Our technology has a wide range of potential buyers.
This technology allows all companies to manufacturers of solar modules
very easy to integrate our technology into an existing, technological
complex. It is planned to implement the technology on a territorial basis --

right to the technology will be limited to use by the buyer on the
Territories
and obemu release.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
At present the main trends in development by improving the efficiency of
photo electric plates in the application of new non-silicon materials.
So a few days ago, the Japanese company Sharp after 9 years of work
reported the creation of a prototype battery that runs without a hub, but
the efficiency of which is 35,8%.
New uses for electricity generation several photo-absorbing layers, united
among themselves. The substrate is made of battery connections on the basis
of indium and gallium. The properties provided by the battery is quite close
to those used in the aerospace industry. Talking about the mass use will not
have developers in the coming years to address issues of cost reduction and
a number of technological problems.
Our company has gone a different way:
1. We left a substrate of mono silicon.
2. on the surface of the substrate of mono silicon, we have consistently
strike a few
layers of thickness 50-100 nano meter (materials that are applied is our
know-how) --
* Main layer of nano-size mono atomic amorphous silicon, is a very active
state of amorphous silicon. In this layer, the speed of motion of electrons
is several times higher than the standard Cell-based silicon. And as this
layer is able to convert into electrical energy is not only the visible part
of the spectrum of sunlight and ultra violet and infra red radiation. Mono
atomic amorphous silicon produced by quantum chemical engineering at a
temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.
Properties of mono atomic amorphous silicon are truly unique.
Cost to automobile 1 gr. This material does not exceed $ 100.
At the same time using 1 gr. mono amorphous silicon can cover 10 square
meter
photovoltaic plates.
* extreme layer is an anti-reflecting the carbon coating.
Total efficiencies achieved over 35%.
If you compare the cost of Sell-based mono silicon efficiency 16%
Cell produced by our technology with efficiency over 35%, our Sell more
10-15% while the efficiency of our Sell more than 2 times better.
While improving the technology and equipment we can achieve efficiency of
50% and above
.
The characteristics of our products:
Specification
Dimension :156mm x 156mm ± 0.5mm
Thickness :203 mc.m ± 0,5 mc.m, 180 mc.m ± 0,5 mc.m
Front :2.0 ± 0.1mm busbar (silver)
Silicon nitride antireflection coating
Back 3.0mm continuous soldering pads (silver)
Back surface field (aluminum)
Efficiency - 35%
Power : 6,5 watt
Color uniformity A, grade

In addition to the use of solar energy nanoscale mono atomic amorphous
silicon and its application of our technology has great prospect of
application in the electronics industry.
When applying this material for silicon-based chip, we seek to increase
speed and memory in the old scale of the chip.
We have plans to use this technology in other areas - space, medicine ..
To maintain the pace and timing of the completion of the production of
industrial prototypes we raise $ 3000 000.

We are interested in quickly attracting investment.


respect
SOLARUS ENERGY LTD
VLADIMIR KARASEV

Email: vladimirkarasev1@gmail.com

Wallace N Pettie said at March 10, 2012 2:33 PM:

03/10/2012:5:31pm - The Atomic particles are so small; but the better we look at them, the smaller they are. The ever so allusive, yet I think so obvious “Higgs Boson” to be a major player in “string theory black hole physics”. The “Higgs” particles pull matter down “Black Holes” to singularity conservation of energy gates (closed or open strings). Most singularities appear closed because we can not actually see both cross sectional ends to verify. The wormholes are open ended navigable passageways in this family type of black hole singularity. Wormholes allow transport of matter in linear formation and reassembles it on the other side, atom by atom just as all matter assemblies in creation. Black holes do the same thing , only more violently. The “Higgs Boson” elemental physics are responsible for the unaccountable matter we sometimes experience in our math? Can they also be responsible for magnetic attraction in graviton particle physics? These black hole singularities are everywhere, on every scale level, through out the the “Multivers”. Wallace N Pettie / mallin1000.com / mallinicom.tripod.com/ ///////MALLINICIOM@LIVE.COM

Wallace Pettie said at April 25, 2012 4:45 PM:

Any one interested in the subject of "Electronic Fuel Projects". My ideas may not be new but are certainly unknown by the general public.
Wallace Pettie / Http://www.mallinicom.tripod.com

Richard McIver said at August 27, 2012 3:37 PM:

Storing electricity is not all that important with 1)grid as the battery. When you have excess you send it on the grid and when
you need power take it off the grid. Most electricity is used during daylight and so solar is ideal here. Fuel cells for
night works too. Electricity can make the H2/O2 for night fuel cell use. What we need is high efficiency, cheap solar PV cells.

LED lights have made power for lighting much more efficient.

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