April 29, 2011
TenKsolar: 25 to 50 Percent Solar Rooftop Power Boost

Kevin Bullis in MIT's Technology Review reports on a company that can squeeze a lot more power out of existing solar cells.

A startup called TenKsolar, based in Minneapolis, says it can increase the amount of solar power generated on rooftops by 25 to 50 percent, and also reduce the overall cost of solar power by changing the way solar cells are wired together and adding inexpensive reflectors to gather more light.

The key innovation: a method to allow solar panels to not be limited by the output from their lowest output cells.

They claim that in higher sunlight areas the result is solar for 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. If you are a high electric power user in southern California you can find yourself paying 34 cents/kwh in the higher usage tiers. So the case for PV on your roof is especially compelling in SoCal. Phoenix Arizona has more insolation but Arizona electricity is less than 2/3rds the cost of California electricity. But to decide whether solar will save you money you need to look more closely at your electric power costs. Some areas have season price differences, tiered rates with higher prices for bigger users, options for time-of-day pricing, and also even options for cheaper recharging of electric vehicles.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 29 02:46 PM  Energy Solar

Grig said at May 1, 2011 2:56 PM:

The solar energy is the key of the future, all tht things who well mak that energy cheeper is a steo forward in the Human history.

B said at May 2, 2011 1:33 PM:

"The solar energy is the key of the future"

Sure, if by solar you mean fusion and advanced fission reactors like thorium type.

RS said at May 2, 2011 1:43 PM:

I urge ANYONE who believes that solar is a good deal to use their own money and install panels.
Just don't ask the government to steal money from your neighbors to do it.

Bryan said at May 2, 2011 1:47 PM:

Solar energy may be the key to the future if your future is all about getting off the grid. It's a dim future, but at least you may be able to run a freezer or some other few vital appliances/devices.

rhhardin said at May 2, 2011 1:51 PM:

You need a solar array so you can recharge your MP3 player when the grid goes down.

Javert Freeman said at May 2, 2011 1:58 PM:

A key is useless when the government has a deadbolt on the door.

hcombs said at May 2, 2011 2:06 PM:

Solar is nice but without an affordable battery technology it lets you run your lights and freezer dawn to dusk.
Solar Orbital gains the efficiency of 23hr sunshine, no clouds to cut output,and economy of scale to keep costs LOW.

rino watch said at May 2, 2011 2:42 PM:

Propane boils at -44 degrees... use a solar-powered heat pump to cool it to -46, and then at night let it boil to drive turbines.

Kathy Kinsley said at May 2, 2011 3:13 PM:

Solar here (SW Florida) is quite nice for heating water. After Hurricane Charley, with no electric, we could still get (short) hot showers simply from the hot water from the pipes in the outside walls - something which isn't quite so nice when you want cold water. Electric? Maybe here - in the winter, when we have little to no cloud cover. But in the summer, when we need the A/C, we tend to get a pretty fair number of clouds (and squalls, and downpours and t-storms - now if we could harness those for power...). And when it's 95 degrees and 80% humidity, the A/C is really nice to have.

Craig said at May 2, 2011 4:44 PM:

8 cents per kwh. Yeah, for the 1/3 of the day when the sun's shining brightly -- if it is at all. Now, that said, if someone wants to install it at home or at their place of business (without gov't. requirements that the utilities buy back the excess), then I'm all for it. But solar's a ridiculous choice as a power source for technologically advanced societies. The sun's output is just too weak and to undependable to make it sensible.

Thucydides said at May 2, 2011 6:03 PM:

Solar can fill many niche applications and this makes it more practical for these niches.

More emphasis on storage technology is needed to go to the next stage.

Koblog said at May 2, 2011 6:11 PM:

I asked a solar contractor -- at Costco, no less -- about putting solar on my house here in So. Cal. He looked at my monthly electrical use and laughed. It would take decades to recoup the cost of my solar panels, even if I took the kickbacks from my bankrupt state and federal governments.

And after all that, just as they began paying for themselves, the panels will have reached the end of their life and need to go into a toxic landfill somewhere.

Sounds really "green" to me....

Jake Peachey said at May 2, 2011 6:18 PM:

The proposed technology cause some speculative thinking in terms of much larger parabolic mirrors that would only reflect the spectrum that silicon solar cells can use, the heat being absorbed by the reflectors. This would increase output even more.

To the pessimist: at the current rate that PV cost curve is plummeting, the cost of solar electricity should be pretty close to zero in about 10 years! Yes, yes, I know such theoretical straight line extrapolations doesn't work out in the real world.

Solar will probably never replace needed for big generating plants for industry and urban areas, but it has the potential to fill in all the space in between ----particularly in developing countries.

Look at what happened with cell phone technology. Developing countries totally bypassed landline stage with cheap cell phone towers. Something similar would definitely happen if economical energy storage systems was integrated in solar generation of electrical power.

rino watch said at May 2, 2011 8:47 PM:

Just add solar heat to the coal's heat for boiling water...

eric said at April 14, 2013 7:58 AM:

Koblog the size of your electricity bill doesn't matter one bit for how fast solar pays off. What matters is the cost of the array and the value of the electricity it produces. (And there's no requirement that the size of the array matches your use - you could install more or less than that, if you choose) If the guy at Costco (?!) told you otherwise, perhaps you should consult a more knowledgeable source?

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