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Record-Breaking Solar Cells Tailored To Location

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the new-and-improved dept.

Power 133

Urchin writes "The quality of sunlight varies depending on where you live, but off-the-shelf solar cells are all identical. A new solar cell designed by UK firm Quantasol is easily tuned to adapt to the local light conditions, which boosts its long-term performance. Its short-term performance isn't bad though — the single junction solar cell has a peak efficiency greater than any previous device, beating a world record that's stood for 21 years."

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Zzzzzz (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28551985)

Wake me up when I can plug an extension cord from a tree to my data center.

You can do that already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28555727)

It won't power your data centre, but then again your requirement didn't make any sense anyway.

It's vs its (5, Informative)

ChrisCampbell47 (181542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552001)

I know I'm heading to the moderation cellar for this, but COME ON guys, don't be so damn lazy about your language. See my sig below.

That kind of mistake is a huge cognitive speed bump for many readers. You're blowing your chance to communicate with your audience when you make (and belittle complaints about) adolescent mistakes like this.

Vs. vs. vs (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552079)

I know I'm heading to the moderation cellar for this, but COME ON guys, don't be so damn lazy about your language. See my sig below.

That kind of mistake is a huge cognitive speed bump for many readers. You're blowing your chance to communicate with your audience when you make (and belittle complaints about) adolescent mistakes like this.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (1)

thornomad (1095985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552357)

That took me a minute - but often the best comebacks involve a delayed response. Bravo.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552497)

There's a difference between a decision of style (vs vs vs. - both are OK, it's a common stylistic choice not to use a period when an abbreviation ends with the last letter of a word, as in "Dr" or "Rd"), and an actual spelling mistake.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (1)

xelah (176252) | more than 5 years ago | (#28555671)

It's more than style. There's an important difference between, say, 'St' and 'St.' (saint and street - ever come across 'Liverpool Saint Station'?). Abbreviations end with a dot, contractions without. There's no problem at all with 'vs' for 'versus'.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (4, Informative)

BKX (5066) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553375)

Just so you know, in most non-US English-speaking countries, abbreviations that end with the last letter of the world don't get a period after them. Examples:

Mr
vs
Dr

versus:

Mich.
Univ.
Rev.

In the US, we just got lazy and started using periods everywhere.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28553949)

The last letter of the [i]world[/i].....

SCNR

Re:Vs. vs. vs (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28554669)

Just so you know, in most non-US English-speaking countries, abbreviations that end with the last letter of the world don't get a period after them.

Oh, COME ON You make it TOO easy.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (1)

Sinbios (852437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557301)

Oh, COME ON You make it TOO easy.

Re:Vs. vs. vs (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558651)

Only an American would be called lazy for doing something that adds clarity, and takes more work.

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552083)

Oh boo hoo hoo.

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552103)

I think spelling and grammar mistakes like that communicate something quite clearly, just not what the writer intended.

Re:It's vs its (1)

DotDotSlashDot (1207864) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552219)

Yes, and those things owned by you are Chriss rather than Chris's. Possession is 9/10 of the law. Chris is.

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552261)

I think you mean Chris'.

Re:It's vs its (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552485)

Either is accepted, "Chris's" seems to be more common, and neither is wrong.

Re:It's vs its (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552571)

I'm sort of an idiot and followed the discussion thread wrong... both "Chris's" and "Chris'" are acceptable; "Chriss" and "Chrises" are both not.

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28554067)

For Chrissake [urbandictionary.com] , guys...

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28553819)

I was under the impression you dropped the s after the apostrophe only in plurals already ending with an s.
So
Chris's
The cats'
The people's

Re:It's vs its (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553925)

I was under the impression you dropped the s after the apostrophe only in plurals already ending with an s.

You can also do it for singluars ending in s if you want.

Quick rundown of the rules:

For a singular possessive, if the word doesn't end in s, add 's. If it does end in s, add either ' (i.e. just an apostrophe) or 's as before. So either Chris's or Chris' is okay for a singular possessive.

For a plural possessive, you just add an ' after the s in the plural form, or 's if the plural doesn't end in an s already (as in people's).

(To justify my statement, Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference (4th ed, 1999) says the following: "If pronunciation would be awkward with the added -'s, some writers use only the apostrophe. Either use is acceptable. )

My impression is that the use that omits the final s is dwindling, but I still think it would be wrong to consider it incorrect.

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552317)

No, "Chris" is a singular noun, and therefore the possessive form is "Chris's." And yes, the period goes inside the quotes, despite logic's demand that it go outside as any stronger sentence-ending punctuation (question mark or exclamation mark) would.

Re:It's vs its (1)

Sinbios (852437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557353)

And yes, the period goes inside the quotes

Maybe in your locally mutilated version of "English".

Re:It's vs its (2, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552395)

They are ALL lazy. Not just Slashdot. Since everything went online the quality of spelling and grammar has hit Elementary school levels. AP, Reuters, The New York Frikkin' Times, etc. ALL have various errors these days.

My mind seems to auto-correct for these mistakes pretty quickly while I am reading, but it does make me wonder if we would not be better off hiring 3rd graders to write these things out instead of journalism majors.

Let's face it. If you don't get a red line underneath what you are typing we know just assume that its okay to submit.

Re:It's vs its (1, Funny)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552665)

"Let's face it. If you don't get a red line underneath what you are typing we know just assume that its okay to submit."

Is that so? I wonder if you could come up with an example of this phenomenon for us, perhaps a time when you, say, added an extra letter to the word you intended, thereby turning it into another correctly spelled word which made no sense in context. I'd bet you're pretty good about not doing it though, since you're clearly better at spelling than all the people at AP, Reuters, The New York Frikkin' Times, etc.

Re:It's vs its (2, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28554261)

Wooooooooooooosssssssshhhhhhhhhhh!!

Re:It's vs its (1, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28554071)

just assume that its okay to submit.

Does anyone else see the irony in this post? No? Well that's because all of us have the great advantage of the neocortex. You see, when you see a word in context, even if it's spelled wrong its meaning is properly interpreted. I know it's useless to yell at you grammar Nazis, but I have this small shimmer of hope that this message will make the following posters WRITE ABOUT FUCKING SOLAR ENERGY.

Re:It's vs its (1)

Sinbios (852437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557393)

I believe you're the one missing the (intentional) irony. You should get that neocortex checked out.

Re:It's vs its (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28554175)

Actually, spelling grammar and punctuation was always horrible. It's just that 15 years ago, the 90% of people who are the poorest language-users, didn't usually publicize a lot of text.
The Internet didn't make people worse -- it just made them a lot more visible.

Also, it reduced geographical boundaries, english is my third language, it's not reasonable to expect the same knowledge of ones third language as a mother-tongue. Yeah, I make more mistakes than many native english-speakers, but no, it's not because I'm particularily lazy.

Re:It's vs its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552575)

I suggest you take a look at #3.

http://www.cracked.com/article_17522_p2.html

At the heart of the real-life OCPD sufferer seems to be an irrational fear that the rest of the world is sloppier, dirtier and more disorganized than it should be, that it's rapidly getting worse, and that the world will fall to pieces unless someone straightens it up.

Re:It's vs its (1)

Sinbios (852437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557425)

On the Internet we call it 'sperging.

Re:It's vs its (1)

embsysdev (719482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552951)

Either the editors have already corrected it, or you have it backwards. "It's" is a contraction for "it is" and "its" is the possessive form.

Re:It's vs its (1)

WhyMeWorry (982235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28555029)

For the record, you can read the original post in firehose. The spelling there is definitely wrong.

Re:It's vs its (1)

XnavxeMiyyep (782119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557359)

That kind of mistake is a huge cognitive speed bump for many readers.

You are assuming that many readers actually RTFS. I, for one, take offense to that notion!

what am I missing here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557985)

I must be missing something, because they used "its" correctly in the original post. "its" is for possessive because "it's" is reserved for the contraction of "it is". "Its" is more similar to "his" or "hers" than "gadget's" or "cell's". but since you've been modded informative instead of funny, I'm guessing my understanding has been eclipsed by the greater /. audience's wisdom. Perhaps someone would condescend to tell me what I'm missing? Perhaps the original post has been edited since this comment was made? Knowing my luck I'll get modded 5 funny for my quaint naivete....

Re:It's vs its (1)

rrhal (88665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558247)

Its about time we all agreed to stop using the apostrophe. Its nothing but a syntactic speed bump that grammar Nazis cling onto for what ever reason.

Greater than any previous *single junction* device (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552067)

Multi-junction cells are over 40%.

Re:Greater than any previous *single junction* dev (3, Informative)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552437)

It's true. The Fraunhofer Institute itself has produced more efficient cells. And all use multiple junctions.

Examples:
Fraunhofer - triple junction [fraunhofer.de]
NREL - triple junction [nrel.gov]
University of Delaware - bream splitting [udel.edu]

All claim to be the record because there is no standardized way to measure power efficiency. However, the concept of quantum wells used in solar cells is a new concept.

Re:Greater than any previous *single junction* dev (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552451)

Right, and since this thing is already made of GaAs, why not go all out and use a triple-junction cell? Their goal is to tune it to a specific wavelength, but triple-junction cells are already absorbing more wavelengths.

Re:Greater than any previous *single junction* dev (3, Insightful)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552713)

My guess is that it's a lot more expensive. Semiconductor devices have to be processed in vacuum conditions and often at high temperatures; and the more precessing you use (triple junction has minimum 4 layers), the higher the cost. This is why there's interest in alternative, non-semiconductor devices like dye-based and conjugated polymer cells. Easy to produce in solution and at low temperature, no vacuum. There's a plethora of other undesirables in semiconductor solar cells too, like weight, inflexibility, etc.

Re:Greater than any previous *single junction* dev (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552987)

multijunction cells can also perform worse then single junction cells in non-optimum light conditions. A cell's output is effectively throttled by the lowest producing junction (similar to why it's so bad to allow a shadow to fall on part of an array). So if its cloudy or something and most of your light is reflected, you can get more power out of a low-wavelength single junction cell then you can out of a triple junction one.

Re:Greater than any previous *single junction* dev (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28554489)

Eh, beat me to it! And there have been incremental increases in efficiency across a whole range of cell technologies on a regular basis, including the use of quantum wells, (and other quantum effects), in other materials. In fact, the only reason it's even possible to insinuate any big hoopla about GaAs cells is that they've been around so long a lot of experimenters have stopped trying to improve them. Badly worded article/summary for sure...

Efficiency VS Cost (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552081)

Efficiency doesn't really matter. What we really want is the lowest cost per kWh. What's the price of these?

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (2, Insightful)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553283)

I hesitate to say because it feels too goddamn obvious but higher efficiency leads to lower cost-per-kWh, so you really should care. What you (or the manufacturer) really should be looking for is the pay-off point - where the improved efficiency matches or beats the older tech in cost-per-kWh terms.

The other point to make however is that irrespective of cost, more efficient technology can mean wider applications - where previously it would be pointless to put a solar panel because of, say, space limitations, the more efficient ones can possibly find an application.

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (3, Informative)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28554181)

More efficient technology does not mean wider applications irrespective of cost. Technology is defined as being more efficient BY what it costs; if it costs less it is more efficient. The science is still interesting but from a practical standpoint whether or not these will be used widely is directly related to the average cost of the electricity it produces. There is a reason that we don't use people pedaling on bicycles to produce electricity; because of the cost. If labor were much cheaper than burning coal then we would use that instead. Unfortunately the cost of labor is influenced by the COST of living.

If the super-efficient solar panels are constructed of rare materials that cost millions of dollars, then the higher efficiency will not necessarily lead to lower cost-per-kWh. The OP does care, they're just being realistic and not jumping to conclusions, which is what you should do when analyzing any investment.

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556337)

More efficient technology does not mean wider applications irrespective of cost.
In some cases it does, because some applications can only be enabled when power output per limited surface area is above certain critical treshhold. Solar planes, solar blimps, solar-charged portable electronic devices to lesser degree.

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556469)

More efficient technology does not mean wider applications irrespective of cost.

True, but solar cells are costly because of the material it is made with currently. If they can take the same material and use less of it to produce the same amount of power, then the price overall goes down.

Now if they invent another material that is more efficient but more costly to produce than the price goes up.

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (1)

Cross-Threaded (893172) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556981)

There is a reason that we don't use people pedaling on bicycles to produce electricity; because of the cost.

Wait, I see the problem with this. Try this approach:

1. Open a facility with lots of stationary exercise bikes connected to generators.
2. Advertise your facility as a new kind of fat farm.
3. Charge people a competitive rate, in relation to other weight loss facilities, to come lose weight.
4. Profit! (For you, and for the no longer fat people.)

(Sorry for the lack of the obligatory "???")

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (2, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556447)

I hesitate to say because it feels too goddamn obvious but higher efficiency leads to lower cost-per-kWh, so you really should care.

That's partly true. However, there's an interplay between peak/average efficiency and environmental factors of the light. This means that two panels with the same peak efficiency might produce wildly different ammounts of energy. For example, a panel that maintains its efficieny in dim light would be better suited to the Pacific Northwest or other cloudy climates, while one with a high peak efficiency only in bright light is best for Southwestern sunny states.

But as you yourself said, the important part is the cost-per-kWh break even point. This is completely unrelated to efficiency. A panel with 50% efficiency compared to some standard panel that has 10% the cost per area is more cost effective per kWh. Same with a panel that costs 4x as much but only produces 50% more energy. The question is, which kind of efficiency do you care about? Typically quoted efficiency (ammount of energy converted) is essentially a measure of space efficiency: how much area it takes to meet your power requirements.

The more important question for most people, I believe, is 'how much does the energy cost?' and that's where the cost per kWh value comes from. Ideally this measure will be determined accross the panel's lifetime, meaning the value is directly comparable to your current power cost. Do the panels provide energy at 1 cent per kWh cheaper? If so, there is no (economic) reason not to use as many as is practical. You might not get as much energy as with 'high-efficiency' cells, but your total bill will go down.

Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28555509)

It does not matter at all when solar cells take more energy to make than they will generate through their entire lives. Which was at least true for solar cells a decade ago. Maybe even today.

What is the ratio (energy produced):(enery to make)?

Re:Not really (2, Insightful)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557281)

A manufacturer does not sell a product for less than it costs to make. The cost to make it includes the cost of the energy that it takes to make it.
Assume I buy a 1 watt cell for $3 (No, you wouldn't buy a single watt cell). At $0.05/kwH, if half the cost was energy, it would take 30 kwH to make the cell. How much energy will I get out of it? Assume 6 hr/day, and the cell lasts for 20 years, then it would produce 44 kwH over its lifetime (1w x 6 hr/day x 365 day / year x 20 years).
Of course, I'm just making these numbers up, YMMV, etc. But, I can't see any way that it takes more energy to make than it will produce based on the math.

Re:Efficiency VS Cost (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556313)

Efficiency DOES matter to enable lots of applications, especially when your sunlight-exposed real estate is at premium. For example, PHEVs and EVs getting their top-up charge from roof-mounted panels, solar panels on top of laptop cases and so on.
Most importantly it matters for applications like solar flight [solar-flight.com] . Solar planes of course wouldnt use heavy GaAs silicon cells, but the best of the breed thin-film cells.

No prices given... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552113)

"The commercial market doesn't just want high efficiency, they want the device to be optimised to the environment," he says. "In the past we measured performance in dollars per watt. Now it's cents per kilowatt-hour that's more important."

This actually sounds like they're on the right track, but until I see prices I'm not convinced the process is a cost-saver. Also it sounds like it's only useful in concentrating designs.

But what about price? (1)

bezking (1274298) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552117)

If it's expensive nobody will buy it. Regardless of how well it works. For example, if the prius cost $80k the environmentalists wouldn't even buy it. I think that these enviro-tech things just have a zero shot at catching on if they are too damn expensive. Just a thought.

Re:But what about price? (2, Funny)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553057)

Don't underestimate the hippies' addiction to smug. [wikipedia.org]

GREAT SCOTT! (0)

greatica (1586137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552119)

Call me when we get to 1.21 Jigawatts...

Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552133)

They're quite environmentally sound. They're made of arsenic, and many caustic chemicals being used to refine and produce them. In short -- not suitable for mass alternative energy (like just about every other thing called "green").

Reality: Solar power's only economical use right now is for remote sensors and in locations where the power grid cannot reasonably be extended and delivering fuel is impractical.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552177)

Solar panels are actually very cheap to get. Drive down a freeway with those solar-powered emergency phones, knock down a few of the poles, take the panel from on top, and install it on your home. They're free to anyone who has the gumption to get them, courtesy of your state highway department!

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552229)

But what if you injure yourself? How would you call for help if you have wrecked the phone?

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552507)

But what if you injure yourself? How would you call for help if you have wrecked the phone?

Sit in your car and tap out S.O.S. using your brakes.
Anyone able to read it while cruising past at 65 mph will have a ham radio in their trunk and a whip antenna curved over the roof.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (0, Offtopic)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552515)

But what if you injure yourself? How would you call for help if you have wrecked the phone?

Use the banana phone. But beware, it carries a terrible curse...

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Funny)

daryl_and_daryl (1005065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552913)

Just pull out your cell phone and send a tweet, asking someone to call for help

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553021)

. . . and if they see you doing it, they'll even give you free bracelets! :)

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Insightful)

BigPeen (1357715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552185)

Umm, TONS of electronics use As, that doesn't make them dangerous. When its covalently bonded to things like Ga its pretty safe.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552345)

Umm, TONS of electronics use As, that doesn't make them dangerous. When its covalently bonded to things like Ga its pretty safe.

The bonds do eventually break down...

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1, Troll)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552307)

Reality: Solar power's only economical use right now is for remote sensors and in locations where the power grid cannot reasonably be extended and delivering fuel is impractical.

What version of reality do you live in?

Solar power is economical for large-scale deployments. That's why Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing has a $52 million backlog.

Oh, damn it. It appears I've fed the troll.

But, you know, keep on fighting the good fight against environmental responsibility. Future generations will thank you for it!

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552433)

Solar power is economical for large-scale deployments. That's why Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing has a $52 million backlog.

For an industry that in 2007 had an operating revenue of $253 billion in this country? They're going to need a few more zeros in their backlog. It was only this year that the solar cell industry celebrated break the $1/watt barrier. Meanwhile, I'm getting power piped into my home at a few cents a kilowatt from a nuke plant ten minutes drive from here. And the power plant will last a lot longer than solar cells stapled to some roof will.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552569)

That's one company. Globally there is a much larger backlog.

Furthermore, it's very disingenuous to compare a commercial large-scale energy source with a localized energy source. Retail costs of solar production are not an apt comparison.

Finally, you need to understand that your electricity is heavily subsidized if you live near a nuke plant. Nuke plant power costs would be around 18 cents per kWH for new plants in the US (and that's a conservative estimate; costs to build plants are skyrocketing, all current projects in Europe are WAY over budget and it gets worse every year). Solar farms in good locations consistently produce power at 22-25 cents per kWH. Note this include materials, construction, maintenance, etc.

Yes, there's a cost gap. But that gap is closing.

Also, in checking my numbers, I came across this article [cnn.com] from earlier today about the skyrocketing costs of nuclear power. It mentions estimated prices of 12 - 20 cents per kWh. My figure of 18 cents is the Keystone Center's midrange estimate.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Insightful)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552919)

It was only this year that the solar cell industry celebrated break the $1/watt barrier. Meanwhile, I'm getting power piped into my home at a few cents a kilowatt from a nuke plant ten minutes drive from here. And the power plant will last a lot longer than solar cells stapled to some roof will.

Don't spread FUD here if you can't get your physical units right! You get "power" for a few cents per kWh, not kW (they sell you energy, not power actually - the difference is important). The thin-film solar cells have broken 1$ per Watt installed - i.e. per measure of power which will produce energy year-in, year-out (viz. 1 kWh every 42 days) and thus might end up being as cheap as nuclear energy if you count in the nukes' externalities like reprocessing, security, radioactive waste that are mostly dealt with by the government...

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553499)

...and thus might end up being as cheap as nuclear energy if you count in the nukes' externalities like reprocessing, security, radioactive waste that are mostly dealt with by the government

In the US at least, nuclear power plant operators are required to pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund [blogspot.com] for just this purpose. "As of March 31, 2005, the total revenue paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund amounted to $24.9 billion. Of that amount, only $8.9 billion has been spent on program costs, leaving a balance of $16.02 billion that has been collected, but not applied to the used nuclear fuel disposal program." So there is a big (and growing) pile of money for whatever long-term solution we eventually settle on.

I am not sure of the degree to which security costs are externalized. I think they pay their own dedicated protective forces, or pay the NRC a security fee. But after 911, the National Guard also got involved, which sounds like an externality, though I don't know whether that was permanent.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28554407)

When you say $1/Watt, do you mean, at the installation time, or at end of life? The amount of degradation and its speed is particularly important. Also, is the $1/watt the peak power of the panel, or the average over a cloudless year at some reference lattitude?

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28555085)

The $1/watt is for the panel only, without installation, and it is a peak figure - so actually you don't really get 1kWh from a $1 panel in 42 days (that was just for illustration) but about an order of magnitude less. But over the lifetime, this still ends up being very cheap, as the panels now live 25 years without too much degradation (only 20% or so) or a lot of maintenance. (The wiki [wikipedia.org] has some cost estimates: 5 to 20 cents per kWh depending on insolation and installation costs.)

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1, Informative)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553497)

I'm getting power piped into my home at a few cents a kilowatt from a nuke plant ten minutes drive from here.

Without subsidies [cato.org] , never mind the cost of cleaning up, that nuclear power plant isn't profitable.

And the power plant will last a lot longer than solar cells stapled to some roof will.

And leave a lot of hazardous waste. Meanwhile as technology improves those solar cells can be replaced.

Falcon

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Informative)

fwr (69372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556721)

While technically correct, a subsidy is more commonly used to describe an outright grant of money, with no requirement to pay it back. Such as the government subsidizing PBS, or the Arts programs, or giving grants for medical research. A loan guarantee, which is what the article is talking about, is not what most people would call a subsidy.

You could also say that solar technology is highly subsidized by the government, and otherwise isn't profitable.

Solar Financing, Subsidies, and Incentives [thesolarguide.com]

Some of them are financing, which if just a loan guarantee is what people are talking about for the nuclear industry in the future, but some are outright tax breaks (grants, or real subsidies).

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552671)

Yeah, let's wait for a perfect, 100% pure solution before replacing the ugly, dirty, nasty coal energy plants we have right now.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (1)

daryl_and_daryl (1005065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552889)

Think of it as sequestering arsenic. You just need to think outside the box on this 'green' thing.

Re:Environmentally sound... hehehe. (2, Funny)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553207)

Along the same vein, I justify driving my old, fuel-inefficient sports car by taking the dinosaurs' viewpoint. They were wiped out by global cooling, man! Releasing all this sequestered carbon dioxide is just my way of saving the planet. Someday when your grandchildren are living in the subtropical paradise that Antarctica will become, you'll thank me.

Wanted: cheap, not efficient (2, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552141)

30%? 40%? Efficiency only matters if you're constrained by space (airplanes) or by weight (satellites). 15%-efficient solar cells are good enough that you can power your house with them by covering your roof -- or would be, if they were produced cheaply and in quantity.

Re:Wanted: cheap, not efficient (3, Insightful)

jcaplan (56979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552481)

The article mentions the efficiency of the cell at 500x normal sunlight, so the idea here is to use inexpensive mirrors to concentrate the light onto expensive cells. The setup is bulkier, but could be cost effective, even with very expensive cells, since you buy fewer cells. With mirrors and high efficiency cells, you also can get the same power out of a much smaller installation. This setup might not be ideal for residential rooftops, but would work for large flat-roofed buildings and desert installations.

What about average efficiency? (2, Interesting)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552159)

Not to belittle this accomplishment, but I'd prefer to see an increase in average efficiency. According to the article the peak efficiency is found when panels are exposed to light 500 times that of normal light. How does that translate to efficiency under normal operating conditions (such as a semi-cloudy day in the midwest)? The article is rather short on details concerning how well the solar cells operate when they are "tailored to their locations."

Re:What about average efficiency? (2, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552361)

Not to belittle this accomplishment, but I'd prefer to see an increase in average efficiency. According to the article the peak efficiency is found when panels are exposed to light 500 times that of normal light. How does that translate to efficiency under normal operating conditions (such as a semi-cloudy day in the midwest)?

It translates into an acre of cheap mirrors instead of an acre of expensive solar panels.

Re:What about average efficiency? (3, Informative)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553249)

If you're already buying an acre or more of heliostatic mirrors, it'd probably be cheaper and more efficient to use a solar fired steam turbine to do the generating. Then, if you use a molten salt reservoir, you have some energy storage for night-time power generation as well.

Re:What about average efficiency? (5, Informative)

cpotoso (606303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553327)

It translates into an acre of cheap mirrors instead of an acre of expensive solar panels.

Not quite the same: concentrating mirrors suck in anything but a perfectly clear day (i.e. no clouds), but a simple non-concentrated PV panel still works quite well with some (not much) cloud coverage. In other words: unless you live in AZ or some other desert, stick with non-concentrated PV panels.

Re:What about average efficiency? (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552381)

Mirrors are cheaper then solar cells. Being able to focus light onto a solar cell can be a cost effective way of generating electricity - if the solar cell is designed to handle the extra light. The other possible application would be for satellites. Thin reflective foil is much lighter then a solar cell. You would have a similar setup where the foil focuses the light onto a central solar cell.

Re:What about average efficiency? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552471)

There is no average efficiency, because unfortunately the bastard that designed this version of Earth didn't make solar radiation distribution gaussian. You could file a complaint with Him, but I understand there's quite a backlog. In the meantime, I'd suggest moving to a desert near the equator if you want to eek out those few extra watts. Whatever you do, don't move to Minnesota -- For some reason, snow and solar panels get along like a big house on fire.

Re:What about average efficiency? (2, Interesting)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552637)

There is no average efficiency, because unfortunately the bastard that designed this version of Earth didn't make solar radiation distribution gaussian.

Perhaps not, however the light that actually reaches the panels is in no way constant. Some days will be cloudier (or smoggier for that matter) than others, so it is great that we have really good peak efficiency with these new cells, but how often will that peak be reached and how well does it operate at less than optimal light conditions? I'm looking for practical, non-commercial applications.

For some reason, snow and solar panels get along like a big house on fire.

What about solar panels pointed at burning houses coated in magnesium? Maybe the peak efficiency will be useful there ;-)

Re:What about average efficiency? (1)

daryl_and_daryl (1005065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552995)

Typically big houses and fire work quite well together

Re:What about average efficiency? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552543)

The Quantasol device can cope with much brighter light without becoming overloaded, making it possible to use a very small solar cell to absorb light collected by a system of cheap lenses and mirrors.

Re:What about average efficiency? (2, Insightful)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552593)

Yes, thank you, you've successfully tested my ability to read and recall memories. What I'd really like to know is how many of these cheap lenses and mirrors will now be necessary vs how many I was using before, and how much more efficient will the operation of storing energy be on days when the sky is not absolutely cloudless? I realize that the solar cell is more efficient at absorbing light, but how can this be applied to a "normal" usage pattern (when we're not talking about 500x the normal amount of light)? I don't mean for a satellite, or a solar farm, or anything like that. I'm talking about non-commercial usage, such as an individual home.

Re:What about average efficiency? (1)

foxylad (950520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552981)

This might be a good thing, cost-wise - you use a parabolic mirror (cheap) to concentrate normal light 500 times onto this collector, instead of needing a normal collector 500 times bigger.

Good for Obama (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552327)

Good news for POTUS Obama, given the number of people who believe the sun shines out of his ass.

Silicon efficiency (4, Informative)

ender06 (913978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552377)

Current silicon cells are about 15-20% average efficiency, NOT 10-12%. They peak at just over 25% efficient as demonstrated by the research lab at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

SunPower A300 silicon cells average about 20% per bin.

Routing problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28555755)

Isn't the difference that you cannot use the entire surface area as solar converters and that the dead areas mean you're wasting ~2/3 of the surface to routing energy to the output?

The Solar Panel in My Soul (0, Offtopic)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552401)

How would it adapt to the darkness of my soul?

Re:The Solar Panel in My Soul (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28552567)

Grow a pair gothy faggot.

Re:The Solar Panel in My Soul (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553281)

It won't, for the simple reason that it, like everything else in this world, cannot understand the pain you feel.

I suggest installing one of these novelty light-up toys [liteupnovelty.com] instead.

500x normal sunlight. (2, Interesting)

Jartan (219704) | more than 5 years ago | (#28552917)

It sounds like the interesting part here isn't the efficiency but that it's efficient enough and can handle a lot of extra sunlight via mirrors. The article fails to give any info though on what kind of efficiency other solar cells can achieve with mirrors focused on them. Without any reference it's hard to get an idea for whether or not this is even useful though.

Re:500x normal sunlight. (3, Informative)

ender06 (913978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553447)

Spectrolab has the solar cell world record with their triple junction GaAs cells at 40.7% at about 400x or 500x. Amonix Corporation has the silicon world record at 27.6% at approximately the same concentration level.

The Magic 5 Years (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28553835)

And no doubt these new improved cells will be available for commercial use in only 5 years - for the next 25 years!

Article Short On... Well, Everything. (1)

Teufelhunden25 (1589897) | more than 5 years ago | (#28555599)

I'm not trying to berate the accomplishment or the effort, but 28.3% efficiency vs. 10 - 12% and light 500x brighter than sunlight? Where on Earth will that occur? Also, Mr. Arthur states that the new cells can "generate." Solar cells generate nothing. They convert one form of energy into another. As a matter-of-fact, you can neither create nor destroy energy, you can only convert its form. I'm sick of folks talking about "generating" energy. I have occasion to build solar-powered repeaters for relay from remote locations. My first complaint is the size, second is efficiency. The solar cells are about 3'Hx1.5'W and have an output of around 19VDC for a 12VDC photocell. What do I do with the extra 7VDC? It's wasted as heat. I have to use a charge controller to regulate the voltage down to a useable amount. This increases my cost and decreases the over-all efficiency of the site. How much to you really need to convert when you cannot use but a certain amount?
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