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Nanotech Solar Cell Minimizes Cost, Toxic Impact

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the now-if-we-could-just-make-it-small dept.

Power 95

bonch writes "Researches at Northwestern University have developed an inexpensive solar cell intended to solve the problems of current solar cell designs, such as high cost, low efficiency, and toxic production materials (abstract). Based on the Grätzel cell, the new cell uses millions of light-absorbing nanoparticles and delivers the highest conversion efficiency reported for a dye-sensitized solar cell."

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Oh neat! (5, Insightful)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094561)

More ground-breaking world-changing solar technology that will neither break ground or change the world because it will never make it to the consumer.

Re:Oh neat! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094589)

... because neither the oil companies nor their bought politicians would allow that to happen.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094659)

How does solar power compete with oil? I can understand coal, wind, nuclear, and hydro, but oil?

You need to think a little more clearly on this topic.

Re:Oh neat! (4, Informative)

balzi (244602) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094695)

Actually, with the rise of the electric car, renewable electricity is directly lined up against oil in a HUGE way!

Sometimes thinking clearly needs a minute or two to kick in

Doesn't help (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094831)

The sun shines all day - when my car is in the underground car park - at work.

So home Solar and electric cars don't work together in any useful way.

Re:Doesn't help (3, Insightful)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094885)

The sun shines all day - when my car is in the underground car park - at work.

So home Solar and electric cars don't work together in any useful way.

Electric cars have a long way to go before they can replace combustion engines but your post doesn't really mean anything. The solar cells don't have to be on the car.

Re:Doesn't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094915)

You're correct, but explain why your company would lay out the money (assuming they own their building) to put solar cells on the building and charge stations in the parking garage?

Re:Doesn't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094955)

Why would your company buy you a car? Why would they pay for your health insurance? Why would they pay you more than minimum wage?

Re:Doesn't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40095153)

I don't know, but why would they have to? While it might need better batteries than we have now there is no reason in the long run not to put them on your house and "time shift" the energy. It is also true that the new battery tech just being announced will take 5-10 years to filter into availability for consumers, but the stuff produced 5-10 years ago is turning up now for us to use.

Re:Doesn't help (3, Insightful)

dhalgren (34798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095253)

Why would this be up to the company? There's still a grid out there. Maybe we just need more options for feeding it.

Re:Doesn't help (2)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096395)

You've apparently never heard of grid-tie solar. The idea is to have solar panels on roofs everywhere, feeding excess power into the grid during the day, when demand is high. So if you plug your car into the wall at work, the power might well be coming from solar panels, and certainly *can* come from solar panels.

Re:Doesn't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40095027)

Solar and electric cars don't work together in any useful way for me.

FTFY

Re:Doesn't help (1)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#40097311)

what's not to like about having your car charge in the work carpark all day so you can cruise around all night?

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40095063)

Directly lined up? No. Electricity is fungible. That means nothing is directly lined up as a competitor. If your electrical production is 50% coal, 20% nuclear, 15% hydro, 10% natural gas, and 5% non-hydro renewables, then only 5% of your power is competing with oil in an electric car. If you double non-hydro renewables, then only 10% is competing.

Big Oil may be afraid of electric cars, but it doesn't give a shit about solar power or wind power. With an electric car, the #1 enemy of oil would be coal. Anything that can bump up the price of electricity and make it less likely that people will buy an electric car would be good for oil.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#40097787)

I'm sorry but you are wrong unless by "electric car" you are talking about building lines in the road like a trolley. the electric car will NEVER be feasible until we have a MAJOR breakthrough in batteries. the Lithium batteries we have now 1.-weigh too much, 2.-Do NOT take extremes in heat and cold well at all 3.-cost more to replace than the car will frankly be worth.

So i'm sorry but electric cars are horseshit, just a big giant money pit. Now if you want to talk something like bio diesel or fuel cells or something like that? then YES with current technology we could make it work. But the batteries simply make electric cars a non starter for the poor which considering we have a country where nearly half pay no taxes because they fall below the line? Its just another waste of cash.

In fact as i have said before if you REALLY want to change the USA in a big way its not electric cars, its a "people's car" that gets 40MPG+ (if its diesel so it can be run on bio fuels so much the better) that comes in at under $10k. If you look up the stats you'll see the average age of a car on the road now is 11 years and the average MPG is barely 20, so by doubling that and at the same time making it cheap enough most of the working poor could afford one (and if you were to offer a cash for clunkers deal then, again so much the better) you could toss all those big gas hogs practically overnight and cut way the hell down on our need for oil.

But $30K+ electric cars are just toys for those that want to "feel green" and thanks to the battery issue its even doubtful they'll ever end up on the used car market in any real numbers so long term it don't do shit, sorry. Personally i'm all for saving energy but the electric car is just a bad idea all around.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | about 2 years ago | (#40099275)

In fact as i have said before if you REALLY want to change the USA in a big way its not electric cars, its a "people's car" that gets 40MPG+ (if its diesel so it can be run on bio fuels so much the better) that comes in at under $10k. If you look up the stats you'll see the average age of a car on the road now is 11 years and the average MPG is barely 20, so by doubling that and at the same time making it cheap enough most of the working poor could afford one (and if you were to offer a cash for clunkers deal then, again so much the better) you could toss all those big gas hogs practically overnight and cut way the hell down on our need for oil.

The only way to meet that price point is to abolish all the safety and environmental regulations that make new cars so obese and expensive. (Do I REALLY need a catalytic converter in North Dakota?) The fuel economy standards are what killed off the station wagon and pushed people into SUVs. Right now you can buy 4 seater dune buggy's that cost $8,000 new. Slap on another $1,500 to $2,000 in bodywork so it is completely enclosed for bad weather and you might be able to pull it off for $10K. Something like that would work for an around-town car.

http://gokartsusa.com/BMSDuneBuggy1000-2.aspx [gokartsusa.com]

50 HP, 5 speed manual tyranny.

Perhaps someone could just built the old VW bugs with a slightly modernized design. At a low enough price point people would buy.

I really think that new cars for the poor is a fools errand though as I doubt people would buy such a car. (Though I think companies should be allowed to try.) What I think would be more productive is cheaper cars for the middle class, around $15K perhaps, so that 5 years from now they will be abundant and affordable on the used market for the poor to buy.

What really infuriates me is the government safety mandates on things like airbags. The research that I find shows that they cost 3 times more than the economic benefit they give, but more importantly, what newer and more effective safety technologies are we NOT getting because the money is forcibly being spent on airbags? I would argue that because of airbag mandates we are NOT getting foam metal crumple zones in our cars, which would increase the structural integrity of the car, increase effectiveness of seat-belts, and allow cars to be built lighter for improved MPG. Not only are we not getting them, but the research into it has probably been slowed because of money instead going into airbags.

Let the insurance companies figure it out. If someone wants to buy a car without airbags then let them and let their insurance company charge them accordingly. I honestly think it would be a wash, yes airbag cars are slightly less safe, but the cars are less likely to have to be totaled in a minor crash.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#40102011)

Well I just use the 10k number as a starting point, as I said one could sell it and use a cash for clunkers (or offer special government financing for the poor to get the hogs off the road) that would bring a 15k car into the realm of even those on minimum wage. the point is not so much the exact price point but getting truly green cars into the hands of the masses and getting away from 'rich people green toys" which as we can see by the numbers of many of those cars other than the hipsters nobody wants them. After all if I'm making a half a million a year am i really gonna give a shit if gas is $4 a gallon?

But notice how i got modded down for pissing on a sacred cow, the electric car. i do hope you agree that that tech is a dead end with current tech. the best numbers I've seen put the batteries for those at 12 grand A PIECE and since most cars on a used car lot are between 5 and 12 years old (and most studies I've seen put the lifespan of the batteries at 7 years max, more like 5 in some place like the south with the hot summers or ND with the crazy winters) then in all likelihood these cars will NEVER in up on used car lots, they'll go straight to the dump instead. There just isn't a way to make the math work when a single battery costs 12k and the average used car is between 4k and 8k, it just doesn't make sense to replace the batteries out of warranty.

so let the "greenies" mod me down for taking a big whiz on their sacred cow but you can't make black into white, straw into gold, or make math that just doesn't work work, you just can't do it. What are you gonna do, have the government give away free batteries for 20+ years? We know how to make VERY clean and efficient diesel cars NOW, this can be done with current tech with no major hurdles. those same vehicles can also run on biofuels so you could theoretically (if you can bring enough of that carbon converting algae plants online for instance) get this country completely off gas without destroying the economy or forcing everyone to live in Megacity 1. if they are serious about wanting change and AGW then you'd think they'd be behind something that could actually be built as opposed to sacred cows that end up only rich people toys, wouldn't you?

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | more than 2 years ago | (#40108517)

Well I just use the 10k number as a starting point, as I said one could sell it and use a cash for clunkers (or offer special government financing for the poor to get the hogs off the road) that would bring a 15k car into the realm of even those on minimum wage.

Our main disagreement between you and I on this seems to be the method to help the poor have cars. If you only make $8 an hour, you are too poor to be even considering buying a new car. That is not cruel, that's just reality. The LAST thing you would want is the government foisting debt onto the poor. In my view, the way you get those gas hogs off the road is not by having the government blow more money, but by making new cars cheaper to the middle class so those cars exist in greater abundance on the used market. That greater abundance of cheaper, more fuel efficient cars will make the gas hogs unprofitable to keep on the road because people will have an alternative.

But notice how i got modded down for pissing on a sacred cow, the electric car. i do hope you agree that that tech is a dead end with current tech.......

As far as I can see. Electric cars are dead end tech period. Physics itself says that electric cars will always suck because of energy density. Gasoline, Diesel, and even LNG are very energy dense methods of storing energy. Batteries are simply too bulky and heavy to ever compete. Even at 100% effeciency an electric car will still suck because the batteries physically can't store enough energy to matter. Check out the chart.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Energy_density.svg [wikimedia.org]

To electric car proponents: Note that Lithium Ion is the best battery tech we have today and it's at the bottom left of the chart. Then compare with Gasoline. "Better batteries" are not going to solve the problem as we are already at about 50% of the theoretical maximum density from current battery tech. Bettery Tech needs to improve by 30 times to even START competing with gasoline and that is physically impossible. Batteries do lots of things well. Powering a car is not one of them. If you want to build/ buy an electric car, go ahead. Just do not expect me to subsidize it.

Hydrogen is a no-go for numerous reasons as well. The cheapest way to produce it is by cracking natural gas, you might as well just have dual fuel gasoline/LNG powered cars if you are going to try that. Then there are the problems of a hydrogen storage tank vs a natural gas one, again relating to energy density.

We know how to make VERY clean and efficient diesel cars NOW, this can be done with current tech with no major hurdles.

My dad's 1989 Chevy Sprint got 50 MPG without too much effort. They were actually surprisingly safe for front seat passengers, i know several people who totaled theirs, one at 75 mph. (Bit of a death trap for those in the back, but one has to weigh risks.) He parked it out at my uncle's farm about 10 years ago because the clutch wore out. I keep thinking about what it would take to put it on the road again. New clutch and some new hoses is about all I can think of.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#40102347)

Bio-diesel is an absolute non-starter. Even if every inch of arable land in the Untied States were converted to 100% bio-fuel crops it still would not be enough to replace just the current transportation fossil fuel usage. **THAT'S** how much petroleum we're using.

My friend's 1982 Honda Accord got 42 mpg. Today's Accord, even the hybrid ones, are still below that. Did you know that in 1910 an electric car, running on lead-acid batteries, had the same range as today's Leaf electric car? The problem isn't that the technology isn't there, it's that consumers don't want that kind of vehicle any more. Elizabeth's Accordion (as she called it) was a tin can that couldn't maintain its speed if going uphill. The early electric cars topped out at 35 mph. Both vehicles would be sufficient for 80 percent of the driving that 80 percent of the people do, but good luck having happy consumers in either case. People's expectations are just too high.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40108167)

So i'm sorry but electric cars are horseshit, just a big giant money pit.

The problem is that we're trying to make an electric version of a vehicle that is highly inefficient to begin with. Why does a 75kg person need a 1800kg vehicle to get to the shops and back? If it really came down to it, *most* of us could get by with an electric bicycle.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094713)

Anything that might one day compete with oil is the enemy.

So it is written, so shall it be.

They'd ban charcoal and hamburgers if they could.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

AZURERAZOR (472031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094899)

How does solar power compete with oil? I can understand coal, wind, nuclear, and hydro, but oil?

You need to think a little more clearly on this topic.

There are still oil powered electric plants... Hmmm?

Re:Oh neat! (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096027)

If I'm not mistaken most of the electricity in Hawaii is generated from oil.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40099779)

Hi I'm from slash dot and I believe in global warming and conspiracies while making fun of Tea Party people and InfoWars, your conspiracy kids is no different than anyone Else's so get over your self import garbage on here.

Re:Oh neat! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094701)

You're right, no improvements to solar panel technology ever reach the market. That's why the cost of solar power has been in freefall for several years.

No wait, I forgot, it's all the Chinese, right? They flooded the market SO HARD that it broke the space-time continuum and made solar prices fall even before they entered the market at all!

Re:Oh neat! (2)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095389)

For whatever it may (or may not) be worth to an anonymous coward that apparently failed entirely to get the point of my statement, I actually am *opposed* to the currently restrictive and self-destructive import tariffs the US has been placing on exported Chineese solar panels. I'm sick of the pissing contests and the vapor ware. I just want more cost-effectively cheap solar panels and frankly I long ago stopped caring where they even come from. I don't necessarily speak for my other US brethren, but I would be willing to bet that most of us would be HAPPY to buy chineese solar panels sold at a loss if it meant being able to afford solar paneling our places of residence for the first time ... basically EVER. See, you might not know this but (in the US at least) solar power is so fucking expensive that (ironically) only people who could give a rat's ass about the rising cost of using the existing electrical grid can actually afford to buy into it. /rant

Re:Oh neat! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095505)

You are a short sight ass. You would make great CEO material.

The expensive part of solar is the installation.
I suspect you lack the financial acumen to look 20 years down the road. Again see my first statement.

But you keep ranting about your short sight misconceptions on the Internet, I'm sure looking like an idiot will help you're case.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095839)

Lemme guess, own stock in Big Oil? Lucky you...

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095967)

Come on. I'm serious here. Certainly you've got a better counter-argument than "if you can't afford a solar panel array that takes 20 years to pay for itself you don't deserve one."

Re:Oh neat! (2)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096423)

Anything that pays for itself in 20 years can be paid for on time. There are companies forming around this very idea today. You buy the panels, install them at someone's home, and they pay you monthly for the panels. You deduct interest and depreciation, and suddenly the panels cost a lot less than they did. The only sad thing is that this can only be done by businesses—private individuals can't write the panels' depreciation off as a business expense.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096603)

No it can't. Let me introduce you to an idea from economics. Suppose you have some resource, any resource. It costs 200 kAh (kilo-ampere-hours) to place, and pays 10 kAh per year in useful capacity.

At moment 0, you're down 190 kAh, and you've got to wait 40 (! not 20) years to build another. If you're useful lifetime is 20 years, it's essentially useless and merely exposes the owner to a large amount of risk with no actual benefit.

You see the problem (I'm using kAh instead of dollars to make it clear that you can't borrow any of this : it's not like money, it's more than a number)

"But they're building them ! They must be good !"

Well the same is true for women's shoes.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

mellon (7048) | about 2 years ago | (#40100125)

Amp-hours? That's not a measure of energy consumed. You must have meant watt-hours. So suppose you have a solar panel, which costs 200KWH to place, and pays for that energy consumed in four years. Then after 20 years, it has generated five times as much energy as it consumed on installation. So if you amortize its cost over 20 years, without any tax deductions, at, say, 5% interest, then you have to pay 2.4KWH per month. And for the life of the solar panel, you get back 4KHW/month. Your net profit is 1.6KWH/month for the entire 20 years. And if you can deduct depreciation and interest, it's effectively more.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#40108443)

And if you could borrow watt-hours from some magical source, that would be a great way to think about it.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096057)

Shareholders care about short term stock price increases. Anything long term is a problem for whoever they sell thier shares to.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | about 2 years ago | (#40099597)

That is only true of companies that pay no/little dividend. People who own those are speculators.

I own stock in several Canadian oil and gas companies that all pay more than a 5% cash dividend. (One has an 11% dividend because I bought it at an undervalued price.) The stock going up or down from month or month doesn't matter to me, what matters is the dividend yield relative to what I paid for those shares and what the company is doing to maintain or increase the dividend over the long term. One came out with a plan to reduce the dividend for two quarters to pay down some debt with the intention of eventually being able to increase the dividend. The price dropped by about 10% IIRC as the short termers were flushed out, I didn't budge. Sure enough, 6 months later they had the debt paid down and returned the dividend to "normal". 6 months later they increased the dividend per share.

If you buy stock just because you think it will go up, you are a speculator, not an investor. If you buy stock because of good P/E and good dividend, then you are investing.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096117)

You are a short sight ass. You would make great CEO material.

By the way... Thanks! I'm totally putting that on my resume.

Re:Oh neat! (3, Insightful)

Xeranar (2029624) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096759)

Of course the expense in solar power is installation but we've proven that for middle and lower economic class citizens cost of entry is usually the barrier for most advances. Picture the advance of the automobile. At the turn of the 20th century most people used mass transit (both public and private) by the turn of the 21st century that was relegated to the poorest of our society only, yes, I know exceptions exist but fundamentally I am speaking about the vast majority of Americans that live outside of the Big-5 cities. The cost of covering most dwellings in the US is negligible compared to the power savings they would generate if the government subsidized the initial installation. As panels would wear out unevenly cost of replacement would become manageable for the average middle-class household. Single high quality panels are sub-$1000 and in my area are hovering around $5-600. That's a manageable cost compared to the 25K+ it can run to install. Thus it is simply a question of how do we get the entry barrier low enough to make the argument feasible. New construction would be an obvious choice as tacking 25K onto the asking price of a home already north of 150K is minimal considering the immediate savings gained. But currently built homes would need the most government initiative to make it function. I picture essentially the TVA done over. Incur the debt today to increase productivity tomorrow.

Then again replying to Geekoid is pretty much feeding a troll if his past comments are anything. He's a walking encyclopedia of stupid thoughts and insults laced together to appear pseudo-intellectual.

Re:Oh neat! (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40099365)

$25k to install, WTF? Why does it cost so much? Seems like it should be possible to DIY if you have the electrical knowledge...

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 2 years ago | (#40099691)

Electricity is dangerous.

So you need to have it at least validated by a licensed electrition if you are in a municipality.

Also, if you don't set it up right, when power fails, you are sending power into lines which the technitions think are empty.

This requires a switchback circuitbreaker. Which means your entire house has to be brought up to code and costs (at last check) between $2k and $3k.

Do it yourself types can do a lot of the work but currently- all the panels I know require soldering (sp) - I think for efficiency reasons. What I would like is plug and play. Just mount the units on a frame/roof, then plug them together.

My current best thought (being in a hot climate) is grid independent daytime solar powered air conditioning. This would keep your house cooler (no damage to wine as a bonus!) and prevent your central AC unit from turning on-- or running all day.

One note, the risk of fatality falling off roofs is very real for solar installers. More die from that than die from any electrical problems.

I will put in some solar when it hits the right price. Right now, I can put the money I would put into solar into a tax free muni bond and end up with "free electricity" plus an extra $950 per year cash in my pocket.

Re:Oh neat! (2)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#40102537)

Almost no one does any more. My neighbor had an electrician at his house one day. I asked him what was up and he said that an outlet broke in the kid's room so it had to be replaced. Not a stupid man, nor a rich one, but the idea that he didn't need to pay for something like that was utterly beyond him. He didn't seem to believe me when I told him that I had completely re-wired our previous house by myself.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Xeranar (2029624) | more than 2 years ago | (#40213577)

It was a general nice round number. Most of that cost is honestly the panels themselves. You told just buy 10 for a house, you buy more like 15-25 and then you're paying 5-10K for installation which is still fairly cheap for actual roof work on the scale it's being done at.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Specter (11099) | about 2 years ago | (#40100443)

"New construction would be an obvious choice as tacking 25K onto the asking price of a home already north of 150K is minimal considering the immediate savings gained."

I think you should run your numbers again. Adding $25K to a typical 30 year mortgage at 3.6% is going to add about $115 dollars to your mortgage payment per month and that number's already low because I'm assuming you have excellent credit and I'm not including the effect on your property tax.

What's the average electricity bill for an average home in the US? I don't know but let's stack the deck in your favor and assume it's about $300 which is probably a gross overestimation. (In the dead of summer in TX most newer McMansions are going to run in that range.) Let's also assume your $25K (materials and labor) installation is exactly matched to your energy consumption needs over the course of the year (so any net metering zeros out). That means that you're paying $115 per month against $300 in energy costs netting you $185/mo. in savings. That's about $2200 a year and since your $25K installation actually costs you about $40K by the time you're done paying off your mortgage you're looking at a return on investment in about 18 years. (Your ROI is 7 years assuming you just pay the $25K out of pocket.)

That's your best case: low interest rates, excellent credit, no PMI, really high energy bills, no opportunity cost calculations, no tariffs on cheap solar panels, and no property tax or maintenance considerations.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Xeranar (2029624) | more than 2 years ago | (#40213495)

Thank you for breaking down the numbers. If anything if you can afford a $1200+ mortgage the addition of of what amounts to less than 10% increase per month should be negligible for the household. On top of that if we built up the smart grid that funneled most of the excess residential electricity into offices during the day and then used smaller power plants or battery packs using the offices downtimes (early evening, early morning, weekends) to offset some houses may see a net gain as they sell their electricity to the grid. In other words cost of entry is still by far the worst issue we face with solar panels and green energy. Until we decide on a TVA-like program we'll never be able to free ourselves from coal as such because large scale power companies enjoy the monopoly they have over generation and distribution.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40098277)

"The expensive part of solar is the installation."

Hmm, I better go write someone a check because for my install because it was not the expensive part.

I laid out 50% of my install costs on the panels alone.

If you hire COMPETENT electricians you get it done quickly and no more expensive than having a generator put in.

Re:Oh neat! (2)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 2 years ago | (#40098721)

I've wanted to go solar for a long time.

Here's the problem.

Right now, given $40k, I can get a consistent, tax free, risk free return of $1,800. I'm getting that now in fact.

That's more than my electric bill.

Due to the drop in natural gas prices, 10 cfl bulbs, six LED bulbs, and some shopping around, my electric bill is down to $880 per year- and that's locked in for three years. That's in a climate that is over 90 degrees for about 100 days a year.

Right now, I've gotten a much bigger return from buying six quality LED bulbs and putting them in the lights in my house which are on a lot than I ever could from solar. And I can afford that for $23 per bulb.

I still want to go solar. But it doesn't make sense financially.

Alternatively, I was planning on going solar without batteries to just lower the "premium" portion of the electric bills but at this point, my annual savings would be under $200 at a cost of over $5000.

If they ever get a turnkey system that costs $1000 and will drive a 13,500 btu window unit- with a durable capacitor instead of batteries, that might work. I've seen examples with 6 or 8 panels driving one successfully.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40099753)

Where are you getting a tax free, risk free rate of 4.5%? And is this 4.5% after inflation? I like your logic, and theat is the appropriate way to look at it, but I am having a hard time with a triple-net return of 4.5%

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 2 years ago | (#40105097)

It's not after inflation.

4.5% tax free municipal bonds which are A to AA rated come on the market at least once a week. You have to look at the municipality and do a reality check of course (I wouldn't be buying detroit bonds unless they were over 8%.. and probably not then!)

I avoid AAA rated. Insurance causes falsely high ratings.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | about 2 years ago | (#40098369)

Having the most expensive electricity in the world according to wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_pricing [wikipedia.org]
I am looking forward to getting my 20*250Wp panels installed next month.
Even with current prices, my installation will have paid for itself in 7 years, since I can use the grid as a "battery".

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40098837)

You live in Tonga?

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40098265)

No it made the rich CEO's of the few US solar companies whine like babies to Congress.

Wah, I cant afford a new Mazarati every 4 months! make the bad china people stop! WE cant let solar get to the point that the poor can afford it! WAH!

Yeah, I'm pissed as hell at the US cell and panel makers for being whiny bitches and refusing to compete.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40104449)

Compete how? By shipping their manufacturing to China?
Do you have any clue just how much money China has ponied up in support of solar companies?

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40097151)

Why is slashdot so anti-solar? I don't get it.

Some facts about photovoltaics from a pro-nuclear solar installer:
  - over 20 years of amortisation 1 kWh solar costs around 16 cents. If you use most the solar generated electricity yourself, thats grid parity in most regions.
  - the cells themselfs make only about half the costs of the total PV-plant.
  - As long as solar is below 10% or so of the total electricity consumption storage is not really an issue.
  - Solar won't replace every form of energy.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | about 2 years ago | (#40099731)

-Why is slashdot so anti-solar? I don't get it.

-
It's not that we are against it. We are against subsidizing it. Many of us are in touch with reality and see that aside from limited situations it is not cost effective.

- over 20 years of amortisation 1 kWh solar costs around 16 cents. If you use most the solar generated electricity yourself, thats grid parity in most regions.

That's more than twice as expensive as what I pay for electricity here in North Dakota. Average price in the US is 12 cents per kWh.

You also don't mention that if you end up having to redo your roof halfway through, because you installed the panels halfway through its 20 year life, you destroy any cost savings. Unanticipated repairs can also easily destroy any cost savings.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40099935)

That's more than twice as expensive as what I pay for electricity here in North Dakota. Average price in the US is 12 cents per kWh.

That is what I hear. But when I itemize my total tax bill I pay $5 fixed per month plus about 20 cents pew kWh. This with the bill saying I am paying 8 cents per kWh. There are other variable charges that bring in the other 12 cents.

Re:Oh neat! (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | about 2 years ago | (#40100015)

That's more than twice as expensive as what I pay for electricity here in North Dakota. Average price in the US is 12 cents per kWh.

That is what I hear. But when I itemize my total tax bill I pay $5 fixed per month plus about 20 cents pew kWh. This with the bill saying I am paying 8 cents per kWh. There are other variable charges that bring in the other 12 cents.

Well then that is your own personal situation and by all means you should do what makes financial sense for you. For the majority of the country though, it doesn't. If it makes sense because of subsidies, expect people like me to be strongly against it.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40100505)

"around 16 cents" [per kWh]

I'm getting around 10 cents a kWh from my provider and that's with paying extra for 20% green energy. I know from asking around I could go lower than that but I haven't had the time to pursue it.

Re:Oh neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40098473)

Sure it will. There is already a market for solar cells, so clearly there is a market for improved solar cells. They'll get to the consumers as a slight improvement over old solar cells. No revolution now - that might happen if solar cells eventually gets much better. But these will fall into the niche market that already exist for solar cells.

In fact... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40104387)

even if said technology was free of cost, in all ways, capitalistic dogma insists that it would cost as much to the consumer as the lowest cost alternative. i.e., we'll always be screwed.

nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40094719)

i keep throwing money at my monitor and nothing is happening

Re:nice (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094739)

Try bitcoins.

Re:nice (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094875)

I would, but they haven't invented hardlight holograms yet! Perhaps I should write out the contents of my bitcoin encrypted wallet on some paper, and try throwing that?

Re:nice (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#40100561)

i keep throwing money at my monitor and nothing is happening

You get much better results when you throw your money at strippers.

Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094721)

He mentioned that this new solar cell design was intended to solve (among other things) the "low efficiency" of current designs.

According to TFA, the new design has a 10.2% conversion efficiency, as opposed to the 11-12% efficiency of the "Gratzel cell" it was supposed to improve upon.

It was further noted (in TFA) that traditional cells have up to 20% efficiency.

Re:Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (4, Interesting)

balzi (244602) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094819)

It's important to note though, that if you can make twice as much panel area for less money, then you are being more efficient.
At the end of the day they are aiming for two different efficiencies:
1. A lower $cost/output
2. A higher output/environmental-footprint ratio.

I've heard that currently the rule-of-thumb for Photo-Voltaic arrays is 4 years operation before they pay for themselves. Maybe this new technology will lower that significantly

Re:Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095001)

It's important to note though, that if you can make twice as much panel area for less money, then you are being more efficient.

This is true, assuming you don't have a limit as to the area of panels you can deploy (rooftop solar installations are slightly limited by the area of the roof).

Note though that TFA specified high cost and low efficiency as problems solved by this design. In spite of the lower efficiency of the design, and without bothering to mention the actual cost at all...

In other words, lot of hype, not much else...

Re:Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (1)

balzi (244602) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095589)

This is true, assuming you don't have a limit as to the area of panels you can deploy (rooftop solar installations are slightly limited by the area of the roof).

I agree. If I gave them the benefit of the doubt (deservedly or not), I'd say that they are at least hoping to provide a cheap and environmentally friendly choice when space is not the issue.

In context I think they are working from this starting point: "the Gratzel cell is a great concept, but it leaks, so let's see if we can improve on it so it's viable for the mass-market."
If they succeed, at worst we'll have an "green" alternative to current Silicon-based PV arrays, and at best we'll have a system that's cheaper to make, is more efficient, is more rugged, etc.
If they land in the middle, it'll be a great outcome!

Re:Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095433)

It's important to note though, that if you can make twice as much panel area for less money, then you are being more efficient.

The prices for PV panels are already low enough to start considering other factors. For instance: available area for PV panels installation - it starts to matter for "domestic solar energy producers" (my current situation now, having to decide what offer I should go with).

Re:Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40099769)

I've heard that currently the rule-of-thumb for Photo-Voltaic arrays is 4 years operation before they pay for themselves. Maybe this new technology will lower that significantly

That's a near meaningless number. That's for very large scale industrial installations. For residential its closer to 12 and possibly as good as 7 if you have an extremely large home (basically a mansion) and are completely off the grid. Which is still an improvement as it wasn't so long ago it was closer to 15-25 years.

Even still solar is bad for the environment and rarely makes economic sense for the typical residence.

Re:Did whoever wrote the summary read the article? (4, Informative)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095953)

The first part wasn't directly comparing the new cells to Gratzel cells. They said that solar cells *in general* suffer from problems like low efficiency, high cost, short lifetime, and toxic and/or rare ingredients. Most designs suffer major drawbacks in at least one of these areas.

This new cell seems to address all of the above, while giving reasonable 10% efficiency. In particular, it avoids costly and energy-intensive crystalline silicon, and the most obscure element they mention is cesium, which isn't all that rare.

If they really are able to cheaply stamp long-lived cells out by spreading an electrolyte solution between a couple of plates, it could indeed become a big deal.

Is it just me (0)

imbusy (1002705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094939)

or every bit of news about solar arrays is pretty much the same - better efficiency, lower cost. I'm getting tired of reading the same thing every week.

Re:Is it just me (3, Funny)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095277)

or every bit of news about solar arrays is pretty much the same - better efficiency, lower cost. I'm getting tired of reading the same thing every week.

To each his own...

Sometimes I think every bit of news about linux is pretty much the same - new experimental gui that will solve its desktop penetration problem. I'm getting tired of reading the same thing every week. ;^) ;^)

Re:Is it just me (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096401)

No kidding. It is almost as bad as CPU news. Fast processing, lower cost. At least recently, they have started to throw in some better efficiency, but man did the 80's and 90's suck for processors.

Re:Is it just me (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40099447)

I like reading it, every time I hear this it means solar power is a little bit closer to being financially relevant to me.

Not bad, actually (5, Informative)

tocsy (2489832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40094997)

Before we get a lot of comments saying "what's so good about this?" it's actually pretty interesting. I did some undergraduate research with dye-sensitized solar cells (and am currently a graduate student researching inorganic semiconductors) and the basic thing you hear is that if you can get an organic solar cell to 10% efficient, they will be viable because they're so much cheaper than inorganics. While this may be true, the problem with dye-sensitized cells is, like they say in the paper, that they degrade in a rather short period of time. I saw this first-hand doing research on them - we had to make sure our batches were kept in darkness while making them otherwise the solution would degrade in a matter of hours, and after they were made I believe they only lasted a few months. If you can make 10% efficient organic solar cells that will last as long as inorganic ones (typically 20-30 years), you have a very attractive alternative to brittle, expensive and often toxic inorganics. I didn't see in the paper how long their new cells are supposed to last but anything you can do to make it more stable is going to help.

Re:Not bad, actually (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#40096285)

Unlike the GrÃtzel cell, the new solar cell uses both n-type and p-type semiconductors and a monolayer dye molecule serving as the junction between the two. Each nearly spherical nanoparticle, made of titanium dioxide, is an n-type semiconductor. Kanatzidisâ(TM) CsSnI3 thin-film material is a new kind of soluble p-type semiconductor.

The Ti02 part has been known for at least a decade - the new bits are the CsSNI3 parts. IIRC many used platinum here instead.

Re:Not bad, actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40099455)

Well, I'm a college drop out and agree with 'Is it just me'.

I won't be rushing out to buy one yet (5, Interesting)

barv (1382797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095085)

There are three factors that must converge to make it economically sensible to go solar electric.
1). Grid parity. This is when the amortized cost of power from the solar electric system costs less than power off the local grid.
2). When the cost per KWH per year stops dropping so rapidly. A corollary of Moore's law applies.
3). Storage. We need a low cost & efficient power storage system. Flywheel, hydro, battery, even hydrolysis. Lightweight batteries or hydrogen fuel cells that could be swapped into the car would be best.
At the current technology curve, it should be here within a decade in the sunny parts of the world.

Re:I won't be rushing out to buy one yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40097717)

Grid parity means (S=cost of storage + E=cost of solar cells) <= (C=cost of coal for the developing world, or cost of fracked NG for the developed world). Within a decade? Doubt it. Solar cells will hit fake "grid parity", meaning 1000 MW of solar = 1000 MW of NG peak production, but there's nothing on the horizon which will drive grid-scale storage down enough to make (S+E)<=C, and without storage, the usability of 1000 MW of peak solar is limited to running office building lights and AC on sunny afternoons, in rich countries where "green" states can afford to build two power grids, the real one that always works and the fake one which works 30-50% of the day, weather permitting. The 5% of the energy grid equipped with these potemkin renewables will cut carbon by maybe 50-70% of that 5%, so 2-3% overall. The rest of the world will run on the energy of the future - coal. Thanks to the antinuclear movement, for the next century or two we'll be getting the vast majority of our energy by digging up rocks and setting them on fire, like the Flintstones, and then we'll build the nuclear plants anyway when the rocks run out, or perhaps hit (S+E)==C [likely as C goes up toward the end] and build out real renewables globally, if nonlinear climate effects don't sterilize the planet somehow before that. So buy stock in mining related industries, you might not live long enough to see grid parity.

Re:I won't be rushing out to buy one yet (1)

barv (1382797) | about 2 years ago | (#40098073)

You, sir (or madam) are a pessimist.

Re:I won't be rushing out to buy one yet (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#40100799)

(2) I don't know how much that factors in except psychologically. If going solar makes sense according to (1) then go for it. Yes, it will likely make even *more* sense next year, but that's a year the current system could've already been paying for itself. Prices need to be falling pretty fast to make that a good deal, especially now that the break even period is in the 5-10 year range.

It's much like buying a computer - yes, I could get an even better system cheaper next year, but that doesn't help me today. The real question is will a year of use be worth a year of amortised cost? It's a major consideration when deciding when to upgrade, but much less so when looking at an initial purchase.

(3) Yes, we definitely need this eventually, though fortunately we do have some lead time for a grid-tied system. We can probably hit 20-30% of total generating capacity before storage starts to become a limiting factor.

I think looking at car-friendly options for grid storage is a waste though, cars demand major consideration in terms of mass, volume, and collision safety, all of which generally require considerable compromises, whereas for a battery in your basement you really only care about $/kWh and operating safety. A stationary storage system also allows for technologies such as flywheels, gravity storage, and liquid-metal batteries which don't like being moved around.

Re:I won't be rushing out to buy one yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40102467)

Grid parity is not simply a function of technology and physics. It is a function of economics and politics. The true costs(by which I mean how people value just the thing itself without the external factor of desire to avoid violence) of electricity are absurdly distorted by subsidization, state backed franchise utility monopoly, and laws and court precedent that actively prevent accountability for pollution costs and the like.

source: http://mises.org/daily/5978/The-Libertarian-Manifesto-on-Pollution

With this in mind, I would argue that identifying when and what technologies are optimal is therefore impossible. Unless each significant cost that is added or removed due to threat of violence is factored out, the prices we see today do not reflect the reality of the technologies themselves. Instead we have an equation for a politicized service.

Re:I won't be rushing out to buy one yet (1)

barvennon (2643433) | about 2 years ago | (#40104451)

I am a Norton libertarian. http://www.barvennon.com/~liberty/index.html [barvennon.com] Rothbard (your citation) is not economical with words.

So far as I read he was concerned with pollution. CO2 aside, I suggest that governments should tax pollution to reduce it's incidence. Preferably at a rate that would cover the cost of cleanup. Regulation doesn't work: the miscreant just pays the fine and starts somewhere else.

As for grid parity. Read your electricity meter. Divide the billed amount by the KWH used. Look at the cost of a KW solar cell array. Divide the cost of that together with installation cost by the life expectancy of the solar array. If grid KWH > solar KWH then you have not reached grid parity.

"economics and politics" only affect the billed price (via CO2 taxes etc) or the solar cell price (via subsidies etc). If a greenie hand makes the electricity cost more (at taxpayer's expense) or subsidises solar arrays etc (again at taxpayer's expense) then they will cop the electoral judgement. CO2 pollution mostly excluded, I would not object to most other pollution taxes.

Still needs work (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095275)

From TFA, it is only 11% to 12% efficient nearly half, of conventional solar panels which are themselves woefully inefficient. If you want to be commercially viable, you have to meet or exceed that target, not what prior iterations of your own method produce.

Re:Still needs work (2)

Spodi (2259976) | more than 2 years ago | (#40095345)

Not really. If you can be 50% less efficient than the competition, but for significantly less of the price, it is still a better deal for a lot of people. Efficiency only matters when the desired generated energy demand is too great for the available area. Since most buildings do not have solar on them, there is plenty of places to throw in lower-efficiency solar panels.

Re:Still needs work (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40098251)

Until you discover the traditional Monocrystalline and Poly panels also will last 30 years and these have no proven longevity so you have to assume they will be dead in 5. Suddenly they have almost no value.

Re:Still needs work (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 2 years ago | (#40098575)

You would think so, but if you can sell these for $10 instead of $100 people won't care than they generate half the power and last 1 year instead of 30. If people cared about quality Wal-Mart would have trouble pulling a profit.

Re:Still needs work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40099965)

Not true. Walmart sells many projects sold in other stores. Usually at competative prices. What you're really saying is, no store would sell anything if they cared about quality.

You seriously need to learn more about how Walmarts work. It very clearly does not operate as you seem to believe.

Re:Still needs work (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | about 2 years ago | (#40100247)

You would think so, but if you can sell these for $10 instead of $100 people won't care than they generate half the power and last 1 year instead of 30. If people cared about quality Wal-Mart would have trouble pulling a profit.

Wrong, If people thought the quality of Wal-Mart products was unacceptable, THEN they would have trouble pulling a profit. Given the price, the quality is acceptable for most people.

"Quality" is relative. A $30 microwave may indeed only last 4 years and have a 5% defect rage compared to a $100 microwave that lasts 8 years and has a 1% defect rate, but the consumer may value the extra $70 more than the lower defect rate and longer lifespan and so choosing the $30 microwave is the correct choice. Not to mention that buying two $30 microwaves is still cheaper then buying the higher quality $100 one.

(Not to mention most people don't keep their microwave clean.)

Re:Still needs work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40108159)

Another factor here is that the installation cost is very significant for solar panels. So you want to be up replacing/servicing panels as little as possible. A panel that was 1/10th the price but lasted 1/30 of the time is bad on its own but horrible when you factor in that the costs to replace it (professionally) might cost 10-20x what the cheap panel costs.

Toxicity of nanoscale materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40097575)

When you go nanoscale the properties of materials change dramatically. This is why it's done and happens because of quantum mechanics take precedence over Newtonian physics of the macro world. One of the property changes is toxicity. This is why materials which have been known to be non-toxic should also be tested before applied in nanoscale. See e.g. http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2008/05/nanotechnolog-1.html [lowtechmagazine.com]

When techno-optimists and greedy investors hurriedly work together the consequences are often dramatic and sad.

Re:Toxicity of nanoscale materials (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#40100551)

So you found an article that is against nano-technology on a website that is devoted to being against progress in technology.

Perhaps if you found a less bias source it would be taken more seriously.

What about longevity? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40098241)

If it wont last 15+ years it's a failure.

Just like this thin film crap all over the place from china, works great but loses 40% of the output in 12 months and then slowly dies within 5 years.

Re:What about longevity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40098781)

This is why I like /. people use real numbers here and have experience.

Regarding this solar cell, I'm not sure what the difference is between it and what DYESOL is already making tbh...

Re:What about longevity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40102089)

40% efficiency loss isn't a problem for some applications, such as cheap consumer devices like the solar powered e-ink reader.
As it happens the ink itself also degrades when flexed/rolled but one way to decrease the cost is to use coloured oils in place of the black oil currently used so colour can be displayed.

Also, some panels can be repaired by gentle heating and compression, as it is the delamination which causes the failure.

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