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Cheap Solar Panels Made With An Ion Cannon

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the fresh-from-the-daystrom-institute dept.

Power 395

MrSeb writes "Twin Creeks, a solar power startup that emerged from hiding today, has developed a way of creating photovoltaic cells that are half the price of today's cheapest cells, and thus within reach of challenging the fossil fuel hegemony. As it stands, almost every solar panel is made by slicing a 200-micrometer-thick (0.2mm) wafer from a block of crystalline silicon. You then add some electrodes, cover it in protective glass, and leave it in a sunny area to generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. There are two problems with this approach: Much in the same way that sawdust is produced when you slice wood, almost half of the silicon block is wasted when it's cut into 200-micrometer slices; and second, the panels would still function just as well if they were thinner than 200 micrometers, but silicon is brittle and prone to cracking if it's too thin. Using a hydrogen ion particle accelerator, Twin Creeks has managed to create very thin (20-micrometer), flexible photovoltaic cells that can be produced for just 40 cents per watt; around half the cost of conventional solar cells, and a price point that encroaches on standard, mostly-hydrocarbon-derived grid power."

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395 comments

Ion Cannon (5, Funny)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342273)

And here I thought ion cannons were only useful for disabling Star Destroyers [youtube.com] . Now we can use them to disable the evil Oil Empire!

Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342279)

Wake me when you have the problem of energy storage solved. #kthxbai

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342409)

Even with the losses, I always though hydrogen would be the way to go for excess energy stored up through the day. Of course, on a large scale, I wouldn't be using photovoltaics but perhaps some type of concentrator and steam electrolysis. Molten salt may also be a way to go at that level.

On a small level, how problematic would hydrogen be to store if used for things like heating a house? I realize it wouldn't power cars at its density level (natural gas already takes up too much space).

Another solution may be storing the energy as compressed air.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

dgp (11045) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342453)

Agreed. Electrolysis of water to release hydrogen is easy to perform and well understood. Getting electricity back out with a fuel cell is a bit harder.

Fuel cells are overrated. (4, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342545)

You can burn the hydrogen in a combined cycle plant and get 70% efficiency. Fuel cells are overrated.

Re:Fuel cells are overrated. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342669)

Actually if you store the hydrogen for heating, efficiency of burning hydrogen will be as good as any boiler, with the advantage that you don't havy any soot.
Batteries are more efficient if you want to store for overnight electricity.

Re:Fuel cells are overrated. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342851)

Stored heat in an insulated molten salt reservoir is far more efficient than chemical batteries for overnight base load production. But you are right about hydrogen, A heat engine is a heat engine. It would not take that much extra equipment to pipe heat from burning hydrogen though the same boiler system for longer term stored energy.

Re:Fuel cells are overrated. (3, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342903)

Ultracaps... that's where we need to go for short term storage. If they can stem the leakage they're prone to, then long term as well. Other than storage density, they're really a spectacular well of desirable characteristics already.

But these new solar cells... the question is, when can we buy them, as it always seems to be with these breakthroughs. And for my area, how well will they withstand hail?

Re:Fuel cells are overrated. (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343003)

Shh. We do not talk about hail.
Oil has no place left in a green society.
It is not enough that we use sustainable sources when it makes sense. We must destroy oil in the process.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342469)

Flywheels, the most efficient means of energy storage we have. Large ones, in sealed units, buried underground like a septic tank, that remain there 50 years or so, and can power your house for week or two in case of outages.

Several companies are working on exactly this.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342549)

Do they use magnets to get the energy back out of flywheels these days somehow or mechanical linkages?

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342685)

You want electricity, right? If so you need to convert kinetic->electric somehow.

If you just want to heat your home, you could just use friction, but....

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342777)

I'm asking because I disassembled my magnetic resistance excercise bike recently and seen that they use a flywheel along with magnets that come move closer or farther to vary the resistance, and just wondered if that is how they generate the electricity from an industrial level flywheel these days or if a generator is mechanically attached.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

Artraze (600366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342965)

I might be misunderstanding your question, but:

Normally a flywheel is spun by a motor, which can also be used as a generator. So you (super basically!) just wire the flywheel motor into your circuit and when you have excess power it accelerates and when you have excess draw it decelerates.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (3, Interesting)

Fallingwater (1465567) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342725)

I was thinking flywheels too. They can't easily be adapted to automotive use, but if you can dedicate a whole room to a flywheel system size and weight are no longer a concern. However, they'd have to be more underground than the average basement, so if a flywheel breaks apart the resulting destruction doesn't bring the whole building down. Tons of potential kinetic energy stored in such a small area makes for a spectacular show if released all at once.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342845)

Position them vertically, and you won't have to worry about destroying your basement when it fails.

I must be missing something here, that solution is just too simple... ;)

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342995)

And so what?

The combination of storage costs plus manufacturing/deployment/maintenance costs will kill solar.

It's the hidden costs that are terrible, and why I wouldn't bet on solar taking over for anything except very niche markets.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342779)

There's some work being done in Denmark where the energy is stored in low-pressure plastic bins inverted over water (the water column supplies the pressure). The low pressure makes the storage safer as the energy density is so low.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342865)

yes, ideally bonded to medium-length chains of carbon atoms for stability, ease of transport, etc.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

gorzek (647352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343005)

Pumping water uphill is a surprisingly effective energy storage technique. This isn't practical for most people's houses, but on a large scale it works very well.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342595)

If they could make flexible solar panels, the first place they go into are laptops and tablets, one on the outside, and one under the screen display surface. Like literately, if they could make LCD screens also be solar panels on portable devices, you've just solved the "how do I get rid of large batteries" problem.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342905)

But then, everyone would have those cell phone clips on their belt so they can soak up sun instead of keeping it in their pocket. How will we be able to tell the douche bags who already have those cell phone clips from normal people?

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (2)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342625)

Hydrocarbons created by energy from renewables or thorium LFTR power, using atmospheric CO2 (or coal) and water.

You're welcome.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (1)

jasno (124830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342693)

Well, here in California we pump water uphill at night and let it go down during the day.

Re:Hegemony, schmegemony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342703)

No, you wake me up when you have the problem of fossil fuel depletion solved. Finite resources such as gas and oil are going to be around maybe 50 more years. Coal maybe a few hundred. What are you going to do then? How will you make petrochemicals? What kind of life will we have without this stuff?

And following this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342283)

We can expect very soon to see yet another flurry of false advertizements about "Clean Coal [wikipedia.org] ", and how wonderful it is.

Cost of machinery (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342293)

What about the cost of the ion accelerator itself? Is it cheap enough to make this manufacturing method scaleable?

Re:Cost of machinery (2)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342773)

Ion implantation has been used by semiconductor industry for years. It's initial purchase cost is high, very high.

cue(sic) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342297)

The confusion with power vs energy.

Get ready for....nothing! (3, Insightful)

Rossman (593924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342305)

Man how many times have we seen these stories already - "cheap solar power discovery, will make solar pv affordable" but then years later nothing has changed.

It would be great if some of these things actually got productizd, I would set up solar pv all over my property if it was just a bit more cost effective...

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342385)

Because the story comes out when the technology is still in fairly early stages of development, and then it takes 5-10 years from that point for people to work out the engineering difficulties to actually bring it to full-scale production (or it turns out not to be practical).

Also, oblig xkcd [xkcd.com] .

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (3, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342529)

Well, to use the common argument against drilling, if it will take more than just a few years to see the benefit, then why even bother with it?

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342629)

Uh, that's not the argument against drilling. The argument against drilling is that the benefit will be short term, i.e. that it will only last 1-2 years. The benefit of R&D lasts much longer - even when this technology is obsolete, the next one is likely to be based on what was learned developing it.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342951)

As I say every time a solar breakthrough story is posted, the problem is it's always 5-10 years away. In 5-10 years, it'll still be 5-10 years away. Perpetually. Which drives me batshit crazy. Because solar seems to make the most long term sense. More solar energy bounces off the earth every day than we use. FFS, we should be single-mindedly trying to harness that energy.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342539)

The payout doesn't work. $.40 / watt manufacture means about $1.20 / watt to customer. Customer pays $.12 / watt for electricity so a ten year payout on an item with a seven year depreciation rate.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342729)

Uh, what? Customers don't pay for power, they pay for energy. $0.40/watt, assuming 8 hours of useable sunlight per day, means about 3kWh/year. Customers pay $0.10/kWh in places where electricity is cheap. After one year, customers would pay at least $0.30, so the payback period is one and a third years, make it two years to cover installation / transmission costs and so on. In some places in the USA, electricity costs $0.40/kWh, so this would pay for itself in 4 months.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (1)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342875)

I thought customers pay for the energy (watt*hour), which is power (watt) * time (hour). And the energy producers buy machine with power, and keep the machines working for some long time.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (5, Insightful)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342557)

Yes, we here many of these stories, and then years later nothing has changed... Other than the fact that the cost/watt of pv has continued to drop a significant percentage year after year after year. If that doesn't suit one's definition of progress, redefine "nothing has changed"...

(..), I would set up solar pv all over my property if it was just a bit more cost effective...

If I'm not mistaken, pv already is cost-effective if not cheaper than conventional energy sources in a variety of places, be it with a significant upfront investment (but with cost-effective = including that investment). Any progress in the cost/watt department will simply increase the # of places where it pays to put up solar panels.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342571)

Eh? Solar power has made huge strides in terms of decreasing costs even in the face of inflationary pressure. Solar used to be $5 a watt. Now it is common to find panels for $1 a watt (sunelec.com). This technology looks to cut that in HALF.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342577)

I looked at solar panels for my house two years ago, and I looked again recently. The efficiency of the available cells has increased by about 50% for the same cost. So saying nothing has changed is a bit misleading.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342755)

Really, the problem is that Solar cells used to be 10x too expensive to be worthwhile for most people. Now they're only 2-3x too expensive. In a few more years they could actually start to become commonplace.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342957)

With the subsidy factored in, they're actually a reasonably good investment now. The problem is that the current rate of development means that if I wait for a few years I'll get a much better system. This isn't a problem for something like a computer, because it's relatively cheap and I'll replace it in a few years anyway. Something like a solar power system I'd want to last for at least 10 years. If I can get one twice as good for the same price in two years, it's worth waiting...

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342599)

PV is affordable. I can buy retail (well single unit wholesale) for around $3 a watt.
Im off grid and I power my house with solar. I bought 4 panels for the price I paid for 1 panel 4 years ago. I just got a 55" LED TV. Spend $15,000 now and you will buy plenty of solar panels to power your house and your electric car and free yourself from oil and fossil fuels for ever.

A process to make existing cells thinner seems to be something that should be pretty easy to bring to market.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (3, Informative)

Teppy (105859) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342603)

The prices we're seeing today are based on discoveries/improvements made several years ago. Look at how module prices have (mostly) dropped over the years: http://solarbuzz.com/facts-and-figures/retail-price-environment/module-prices [solarbuzz.com]

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (2, Interesting)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342881)

how much of that price drop is accounted for by Chinese government subsidy and market flooding?

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342645)

how many times do we have to listen to people parrot anti-solar crap that's 5 or 10 years out of date?? Solar is economically superior for up to ~40% of generation in about 60% of the world. Stop paying deadbeats for 0.12 $/kWh install cost and look at the real numbers, because sure as shit utilities all over the world are and they are now getting total installed system costs approaching 0.08 $/kWh. Yeah run those numbers in your "model". Make sure you neglect the comparison to other new generation because the only thing you'll find that beats this is a 40 year old 32% efficiency, non-scrubbed coal plant LOL. You also better neglect that more solar and wind are being installed than all other converters combined... Yup, solar must be a real dog. Oh right, then we can talk about subsidies. Go run a few calcs on the ridiculous profit machine that is SREC in the north east. 5-9 yr payback on a power plant with basically zero OPEX. LOL...

Call me when we get to 10% net generation by solar and then we can start to worry about storage R&D, if batteries aren't cheap enough by then. My god, the industry beats its targets year after year for ASP and production increases and still idiots beat on this drum like its 2002. Good reason why the US will just switch energy dependency from the saudis to chinese. We're idiots. The only new generation cheaper than solar right now is natural gas assuming 2011-2012 gas prices. If gas goes to 2008 or 2005, it spells doom for them too. Idiots in georgia, france, and finland promised nukes at 0.09 $/W and the latter are already 2x over budget. What a freak show. YEah show me some of that 0.09 $/kWh coal too, going to be a wonderful investments for the idiots in kansas,

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342753)

In two years, the price of solar panels has dropped by 50%, meaning that quite a few of the stories we've seen in the past years have made it into production.
If you don't want to read about the fundamental research that inevitably predates commercial improvements, go read a marketing magazine.

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342767)

*ahem*:
"Complete Hyperion 3 systems are available for shipment."
from http://www.twincreekstechnologies.com/technology/hyperion.html

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342805)

My money's on a near future story hailing cheap ultra super-efficient thin solar cells that enable cold fusion to power a perpetual motion machine that can guarantee peace in the middle east ;-)

Re:Get ready for....nothing! (4, Informative)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342841)

The $/watt number refers to the cost of the PV chips. So it costs them $0.40 to create a chip that outputs 1 watt.

At $0.40/w you're paying $400 for a 1Kw panel. At that cost it will take 4000 Kwh @ $0.10/Kwh to pay for itself. That's about 2 years if it gets ~8hrs of sun a day. Everything produced after that 4000Kwh is "free", and since panels last for 10, 15, even 20+ years, that's a lot of "free" power. If grid electricity costs more than $0.10/Kwh, then payback is even faster. (I'm assuming perfect efficiencies to keep the math simple, but you get the point)

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342315)

Also Awesome

no way (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342337)

whatever, I'm sure this was all true a year or 2 ago before module ASPS plummeted. however, these guys are now working against a commodity and china has demonstrated they are cool with 7% GM on modules. Polysilicon prices fell off a cliff and economies of scale have worked. wafer costs are 57c for the Chinese leaders now and their targets are under 50c by 2013, which means the competitive advantage of this process is zilch. This idea had legs in 2007-2008. No longer. Heck, even CdTe thin film lost its production cost advantage compared to China. Regular multi / quasi-mono cells will deliver terawatts of power. This other shit is a side show.

How much energy does the particle accelerator use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342343)

So the question is... can they run the hydrogen ion particle accelerator with their own solar cells for a truly 'green' energy company?

Great, now lets build them in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342349)

Great, now lets build them in China

Watt vs KW/hr (2, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342357)

I assume the listed price of 40 pennies per watt is a watt per hour at peak performance? So to compare against a currently offered grid tie in system at 300 watt hours this seems to be about 1/10th the price. Granted, that's comparing a full system with alternators and a tie in system to feed unused power back into the grid, but given how PG&E prices per KW/hr in a tiered system (more power you use, more it costs per watt) this seems like a good deal.

So a new excuse to put off installing solar panels for a while longer! Yay!

Re:Watt vs KW/hr (4, Informative)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342793)

No. The $/watt number refers to the cost of the PV chips. So it costs them $0.40 to create a chip that outputs 1 watt.

At $0.40/w you're paying $400 for a 1Kw panel. At that cost it will take 4000 Kwh @ $0.10/Kwh to pay for itself. That's about 2 years if it gets ~8hrs of sun a day. Everything produced after that 4000Kwh is "free". If grid electricity costs more than $0.10/Kwh, then payback is even faster. (I'm assuming perfect efficiencies to keep the math simple, but you get the point)

Re:Watt vs KW/hr (1)

silenthorn (2594609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342873)

I assume the listed price of 40 pennies per watt is a watt per hour at peak performance? So to compare against a currently offered grid tie in system at 300 watt hours this seems to be about 1/10th the price. Granted, that's comparing a full system with alternators and a tie in system to feed unused power back into the grid, but given how PG&E prices per KW/hr in a tiered system (more power you use, more it costs per watt) this seems like a good deal. So a new excuse to put off installing solar panels for a while longer! Yay!

Right sentiment, but wrong units: "Watt per hour" or "KW/hr" is not a unit that makes practical sense. This may help clarify: Watts or kilowatts are units of power, which is an instantaneous measurement. A 40 Watt lightbulb draws 40 Watts when it's on, no matter how long it's been on. Watt-hours (Wh) or kilowatt-hours (kWh) are units of energy, which is the product of power and time. If you leave that same 40W bulb on for an hour, you've used 40 Wh, or 0.04 kWh. If you leave it on for 100 hours, that's 4 kWh. If you had two 40W bulbs, they would draw a combined 80W, and would consume the same 40 Wh in just 30 minutes. For most homeowners, your electricity is billed in kWh. The utility doesn't care much if you run 1 bulb for a month, or 30 bulbs for a day, it's (roughly) the same amount of fuel to provide that energy. Larger facilities may have a "peak demand" charge, "power factor" charge, and time-of-day usage.

Re:Watt vs KW/hr (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342891)

There's no 'per hour' in this figure. At peak power, an area that will produce 1W costs 40 cents.
Install this area, then yes it will produce up to 1 Wh in 1 hour.
To compare to a grid-tied system you'll need to split its price into panels and electronics. As a shortcut, you can usually find the price per Watt of the panels since that's the easiest way to compare different panels. It bypasses the need to calculate the panel's efficiency vs. cost and gives a single metric to gauge the panel's economic feasibility.

Re:Watt vs KW/hr (2)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343007)

Watt per hour and watt-hour is not the same thing. watt-hour is energy. watt per hour is... change in power? You buy capacity, or power. I.e., a 500MW coal plant. if it runs for an hour, it produces 500MW-hours of energy. 40 pennies per watt means it will produce 1 watt of electricity under peak conditions for every $0.40 you invest into capacity. How much energy you'll actually put out over a day is another question altogether.

a couple reports last year said something about $5/Watt installed would be the tipping point. So, $0.40/Watt looks damn good, but I'm sure that's just an optimisting unpackaged cell cost.

So this is the year? (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342369)

So this is the year of the solar panels? Hope it goes as well as the year of Linux desktop.

Re:So this is the year? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342909)

In my part of town, pv panels are quite common. I can see three sets just from my bedroom window (mine are above it). It's happening.

"Hydrogen ion" AKA proton (1)

Kazymyr (190114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342391)

Is it fancier to call those hydrogen ions? Because they're protons. Proton accelerator, sounds nice enough to me.

Re:"Hydrogen ion" AKA proton (1)

Intropy (2009018) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342899)

It probably accelerates deuterium and maybe some tritium along with all the protium. So generically "positive hydrgen ion" is fine.

Re:"Hydrogen ion" AKA proton (1)

EngrBohn (5364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342961)

I think they're calling them hydrogen ions to clarify where the hydrogen bubbles come from.

Wait, WHAT! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342401)

WE HAVE ION CANNONS?!?!?!

Conflicting statements (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342403)

"thus within reach of challenging the fossil fuel hegemony" vs "leave it in a sunny area"

  I can run my lights all night long, which ironically enough is when I need them.

And don't call it "Green" when there are some nice large battery stores that need to be dealt with in a few years.

Re:Conflicting statements (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342877)

Store it as heat in a 55-gallon drum of molten salt. Pump water uphill.

These are not hard problems when you don't have to stuff it all into a car.

Selling the Shovels (4, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342421)

This company isn't a solar panel manufacturer, per se, but rather a company that wants to manufacture semiconductor wafers that are thinner than you can get right now, with less waste. So, they are like those enterprising fellows that sold the shovels and pickaxes to gold prospectors back in the day. They didn't care who struck it rich so long as they could sell the equipment and supplies to all comers. They aren't Xerox or a publishing company; these guys want to sell reams of paper.

This is great stuff – an innovation that can benefit the whole industry. There are other companies that are working along similar lines, though with different technology. 1366 Technologies [1366tech.com] is one that comes to mind.

Re:Selling the Shovels (2)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342989)

not even that - they aren't going to make wafers - they are building and selling the equipment to make the wafers.. so this is like the company that sold the laths to make handles to the company that made the pickaxes to sell to gold prospectors.

normally i'd look at something like this and say "someone will buy and bury it" except it has more than one industry.. while it has the potential to drop solar panel costs.. it also has the potential to drop semiconductor fab costs.. so if someone wants to buy and bury it.. you will have oil vs. chip/tech.. going to be a hard fight.. so if this thing actually works and does as it says it does.. give it a few years and we might actually see the prices dropping considerably on solar panels..

right now the pay off for complete solar is 30-35 years where i live.. if that gets into the 10-12 year.. i'll be game to switch.

Goooooood luck with that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342481)

[...] within reach of challenging the fossil fuel hegemony.

Well, I guess it was nice knowing Twin Creeks in the short amount of time between when they came out of hiding and when they became next on the list to be made examples out of by the fossil fuel industry's hit armies. They seemed like such nice kids, too; no idea why they decided to anger the gods like that.

watts/sq. ft? (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342515)

There's lots of technology that has gotten better price per watt ... but they all sucked at watts per area, so it wasn't worth installing them. (as you have similar installation cost for labor, with a longer payback period)

Its all moot!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342525)

The world is ending in December...

Followup Twin Creeks Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342621)

Chevron purchases Twin Creeks to add to their Ovonics portfolio.

Challenge the fossil fuel ..??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342687)

Unless you can show me these electric 747s and batteries to match, fossil fuels are here to stay as long as we can suck them out of the ground.

Re:Challenge the fossil fuel ..??? (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342803)

You don't have to solve every problem on day 1. Simply reducing the load on Coal power plants and letting more people charge their (electric) cars off of solar would already make a huge dent in the fossil fuel consumption across the globe. Maybe in 5-10 years such a setup will be practical, depending on advances in battery and solar technologies. It's hard to predict. Airplanes will still use fossil fuels (or maybe biofuels if that pans out), but that's alright because the pressure on them will be lessened from several other sectors of the economy.

Incomplete article (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342705)

Here are a few points that the article do not mention;
1. What is the cost of the hydrogen ion particle accelerator?
2. Is the low cost only taking into account the cost of materials and power and not the amortized cost of the machine?
3. What is the efficiency of the panels? The hint that it is less due to the reflective surface but how much less is an issue. Lower cost is great but if it uses 4 times the area it might not be viable. I love this quote "Sivaram says the company has implemented an alternative anti-reflection technology that allows its solar cells to perform as well as ones made with the conventional process." If the process is not yet implemented it is only a theory and may not work.
4. How resistant are these wafers to the elements?

Yet another "release" that appears to be a technology article but really is a thinly veiled attempt at gathering investment capitol.

Isn't light absorption the problem with Si? (2)

feranick (858651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342711)

As far as I know, the reason silicon-based solar cells need to be thick is essentially because of the poor light absorption. Si is an indirect band semiconductor, which means that in order to have a splitting of electron and holes due to light, you need a thick layer of active material. Therefore, a thin solar cell would not provide enough photon to electron conversion. This is normally why direct band semiconductor solar cells (GaAs, CIGS) are usually thinner (about 1 micron) than Si. Bottom line: it's OK to make Si thinner, but what is the performance hit due to reduced sun collection?

They don't make cells, they make machines (4, Insightful)

Kagato (116051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342737)

Twin Creeks doesn't make solar cells. They make machines used for making the major component of the cells. They have production ready machines for sales right now. According to the Wall Street Journal article they are quite happy to sell the machines to Red China and the WSJ thinks that's who's going to buy most of them given they have the capital and they don't have irrational politicians that think "green" is a bad word. We could be making the cells here in the US. But that's not going to happen because it's more politically expedient to sell out the countries future for short term gains. The end result is this technology will create a few hundred jobs in the US to make the specialized machines. Most of the end products will be purchased by European and Asian customers who have a long term energy policy.

Twin Creeks = Great Private Enterprise (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342765)

Read the article and it immediately came to mind of all the recent solar failures like Solyndra.

Twin Creeks illustrates perfectly why no government can be the one to pick a "successful" technology, because it never is known who the winners will be until later.

and i'll bet you.... (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342975)

They also last half as long as today's cheapest cells.

the ONLY cells that have any longevity are the grown crystal types. The garbage that you see at the low price end lose 20% of their power generating capacity each year.

the 45 watt harbor freight kit will be generating 2 watts in 4 years, even in a northern climate.

Call me when these new "cheap" solar cell techniques will last 40 years under airizona sun. I still have 4 old panels from the 80's that have turned dark brown and they generate 70% of their new rated capacity, and they were retired from a solar farm in 1993.

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