September 12, 2007
AVA Solar To Make Photovoltaics Cost Effective?
Here's yet another entrant into the race to make solar photovoltaics cost competitive for electric power generation.
FORT COLLINS - Today, Colorado State University is taking another big step toward making Colorado a leader in sustainable energy production. Already internationally known for research in the development of clean energy solutions including alternative fuels, clean engines and intelligent power grids, Colorado State announced its innovative method for manufacturing low-cost, high-efficiency solar panels is nearing mass production - bringing hundreds of jobs to the region and potentially providing light and power for billions in the underdeveloped world.
In a new 200-megawatt factory, expected to employ up to 500 people, AVA Solar Inc. will start production by the end of next year on the pioneering, patented technology developed by mechanical engineering Professor W.S. Sampath at Colorado State. Based on the average household usage, 200 megawatts will power 40,000 U.S. homes.
Produced at less than $1 per watt, the panels will dramatically reduce the cost of generating solar electricity and could power homes and businesses around the globe with clean energy for roughly the same cost as traditionally generated electricity.
With installation the $2 per watt expected cost is still much lower than current photovoltaics.
The cost to the consumer could be as low as $2 per watt, about half the current cost of solar panels, and competitive with cost of power from the electrical grid in many parts of the world. In addition, this solar technology need not be tied to a grid, so it can be affordably installed and operated in nearly any location.
They say their manufacturing process will be highly efficient.
-Simple manufacturing process - fully automated and continuous production with no batch processing yielding high throughputs or production rates;
They also claim their process uses far less semiconductor material than crystalline silicon panels.
-Inexpensive, efficient raw materials - because they convert solar energy into electricity more efficiently, cadmium telluride solar panels require 100 times less semiconductor material than high-cost crystalline silicon panels.
The era of cheap solar photovoltaics is no longer a distant prospect.
Since the word Cadmium is mentioned in the case of this kind of device, can someone please comment about how we can recycle these instruments at the end of their useful life? This is assuming that these panels will never leak cadmium. Since they are supposed to face the sun, there is also a danger that some cadmium will directly evaporate, but my current question is how to make sure that these are recycled without going into the landfills and contaminate water.
I believe that there is a slight difference between "cadmium" and "cadmium teluride", much as there is a difference between "chlorine" and "sodium chloride".
I have just found this web site which says that Cadmium Telluride is toxic.
Cadmium telluride is toxic. It should not be ingested, nor its dust inhaled, and it should not be handled without appropriate gloves. Please refer to materials safety data sheets for details."
Do not gnaw your solar panels. Do not pulverize them and snort them. Problem solved.
Some of the cadmium might end up in the ground water, because if we have these solar panels on many roofs in every city, then it is guaranteed that after a few years, many of these cells will gradually crack and leak. It is worth investigating if it is possible to seal these cells perfectly so that they cannot leak, and also it is important to legislate to make sure that they are recycled properly.
How can you be so callous and unfeeling toward those who have solar panel licking obsessive compulsive disorder?
Apparently it is reported that the reason children chew lead paint is because it tastes like candy. The lead paint that the Chinese toy manufacturers are using due to its low price, makes the toys even more dangerous due to the way it tastes for children who are chewing these toys.
But seriously, if all roofs get covered by these solar panels that are made with exotic materials like cadmium, gallium-arsenide, etc, suddenly we have a potential environmental disaster, unless there are serious laws to keep the entire cycle under control. This is one of the areas government intervention is relevant.
Color me skeptical. The installation cost isn't a function of your industrial process, it's dependent on having contractors available to do the work. Considering that PV panel installation happens up high, on your roof and has to interact with your current roof (shingles, whatever), I imagine that it's a fairly pricey install, available only from fairly high-end contractors who can do both the physical install on the roof AND the electrical install into your house.
If the peak oil theory is correct, and if the oil production in the world starts declining abruptly in a few years, then the only problem will not just the lack of fuel, but also fertilizers in 10 years. This might simply imply that billions of people will starve after 20 years. Any comments?
This site has more info about the use of cadmium telluride: http://www.nrel.gov/pv/cdte/
"A CdTe PV module contains very little cadmium. In fact, it has less than 0.1% cadmium by weight. One 8-square-foot module contains less cadmium than one size-C NiCd flashlight battery, and the cadmium in the module is in a much more environmentally stable form (i.e., a compound rather than a metal).
Because cadmium is encapsulated in the PV module, PV technology provides an effective solution for sequestering cadmium. A by-product of the zinc mining industry, cadmium usually ends up in a slag heap or in NiCd batteries, half of which eventually end up in landfills. PV modules seal the cadmium for the life of the module (20-30 years), at which time the cadmium can be easily recycled."
Eventually, people would die anyway from hunger as the ' envelope of food ' can only be pushed so far. We are now pushing it with geneticly modified plants and animals. Malthus was basicly correct, in that there are finite limits to everything ! He just looked at it too soon on the growth curve. Yes, energy propels everything ! With more people coming into the world, living longer and demanding higher living standards, that envelope of progress will eventually stall. All technologies do whether its electrical, mechanical or bioenterprise.
Something to think about; as we look for new sources of energy to replace hydro, coal and petroleum, and look to solar; radiance conversion to electrical and chemical energy, wind power which is just solar radiance converted in the first place, tidal [again radiance converted to mechanical energy], geothermal [same but converted many times] and other forms like solar winds outside our atmosphere and sending the power down via microwave energy, we will find that too will have its limitations. Each approach will have its own set of problems to contend with.
Liquid fuels came about due to mobile transportation, the beasts of burden being replaced by mechanical transports. Ultimately, the mobile transportation must evolve to a complete and full electric mode. That will be the most efficient, least polluting and most effective form to arrive at. Energy storage, better batteries, better capacitors, better fuel cells, etc. are going to be needed to make this evolution a success ! From my view point, the markets are not doing it and probably won't be able to. We probably need a program similar to the Manhattan Project during WWII which produced the U235 and Pu235 weapons or the NASA Project during the late 50s to about 1972, to be able to accomplish these goals. Its going to need big effort and big funding or otherwise, it just simply won't happen ! Zeyphr, Ph.D, physicist...
None of the solar companies based on CdTe will go any where but an eventual bankruptcy, due to the fact that tellurium is a very scarce resource on earth, and the extremely limited annual tellurium production of the world is quickly used up by other industry needs, like metal alloying, rewritable CDs and DVDs, and the next generation phase change memory. Read this: