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Silicon Valley Startup Prints $1/watt Solar Panels

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the printing-money-and-energy dept.

Power 519

GWBasic writes "A Silicon Valley start-up called Nanosolar has shipped its first solar panels — priced at $1 a watt. That's the price at which solar energy gets cheaper than coal. While other companies have been focusing their efforts on increasing the efficiency of solar panels, Nanosolar took a different approach. It focused on manufacturing. 'The company [has developed] a process to print solar cells made out of CIGS, or copper indium gallium selenide, a combination of elements that many companies are pursuing as an alternative to silicon.'" The outfit also happens to be backed by Google, a fact that's getting some attention at tech media sites.

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Consumer offerings? (3, Insightful)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780200)

i was reading their webpage the other day and they only seemed to sell to large corporations or utilitiy companies. when will they start offering a consumer version.

Re:Consumer offerings? (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780298)

Once their production capacity outstrips their manufacturing obligations. As per their website [nanosolar.com] , which I've been following (slowly) over the past couple years, you *could* get one right now [ebay.com] off ebay -- their #2 print. However, it's being sold as a collectible item, a piece of history, with the proceeds going to charity. So, needless to say, the price is rather steep ;)

This is huge news. Punch $0.99 a watt into the calculator [daughtersoftiresias.org] , and even good chunks of Alaska become economical for installations.

"Charity" (0, Offtopic)

Besna (1175279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780396)

So what charity gets the money? Is it the usual suspects--sick kids and Africa? Why not the EFF, or FSF? Why not Wikipedia? It seems that often a charity needs to be identified in order to get rid of money. ThinkOfTheChildren usually results.

Re:"Charity" (1)

Lord of Hyphens (975895) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780496)

So what charity gets the money? Is it the usual suspects--sick kids and Africa? Why not the EFF, or FSF? Why not Wikipedia? It seems that often a charity needs to be identified in order to get rid of money. ThinkOfTheChildren usually results.
You inconsiderate clod, do you honestly think I would trust Wikipedia [theregister.co.uk] with money [theregister.co.uk] ?

Re:"Charity" (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780514)

So what charity gets the money? Is it the usual suspects--sick kids and Africa?


I dunno. Is it?

Why not the EFF, or FSF? Why not Wikipedia?


Shouldn't you do the work to find out that it isn't those things before you whine about it not being them?

Anyhow, here's the deal: you come up with something that people are willing to pay money for you and that you are willing to donate the proceeds from to charity, and you can decide which charity it goes to.

Re:"Charity" (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780628)

They'd probably reject it for being non-notable, original research or some other such reason.

Re:"Charity" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780848)

Ken Lay memorial defense fund?

Re:"Charity" (0, Offtopic)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780980)

What's wrong with donating to help sick kids and Africa? Didn't you or anybody you know ever get hospitalized as a kid? Think about the people who can't afford such care because of the broken health care system in the US; or the lack of health care in some countries.

Re:Consumer offerings? (5, Insightful)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780576)

This is a huge milestone. However, the summary gets a couple things wrong: First, $1/watt panels aren't "cheaper than coal". Large coal consumers buy 2,000 pounds of coal for $50. Burn that in a crappy Bush-endorsed power station, and utilities can print money at $0.07/KWh. That's why coal is the #1 enemy in the global warming battle - not oil. The $1/watt goal makes solar utility power feasible in areas that currently have excellent sunshine (say southern CA), and expensive fuel (say natural gas). It's a huge step, but not the last step.

The second error in the summary is the current price. The company claims they could sell $1/watt panels, but with 100% of their production for 2008 already purchased, what are the odds they're selling their stuff 4X below market value? Not a chance. The revolution's happening, but it will take a while.

Re:Consumer offerings? (5, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780846)

Yes, it is cheaper than coal power, almost everywhere in the US. You can run the numbers [daughtersoftiresias.org] for yourself. The problem with coal is that once you burn it, it's gone. The problem with traditional solar is that the capital costs are so high, you'll never catch up with the interest. When you cut the capital costs on solar significantly, it wins hands-down.

Re:Consumer offerings? (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780956)

Also, I assume they have a patent on this process so we're not going to see any competition. At best we'll see them license the tech out to others... but probably with some kind of non-compete clause. Like the the licensee can't charge less for the panels or some dumb crap like that.

Re:Consumer offerings? (1)

noname4444 (972861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780302)

From TFA:

In a previous interview, Roscheisen said all of Nanosolar's anticipated production in 2008 has already been ordered.
So my guess would be not until 2009 at the earliest...

Yahoo! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780318)

I don't really know whether global warming is real and dangerous. Now just maybe I don't have to care.

Can we conver Arizona with these (and use ultracapacitors for night power)? Please?

Re:Yahoo! (4, Interesting)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780640)

You sir are a genius. No really I mean it. I wish there were more people like you that put the ad nauseum hashed debate about warming or climate change or whatever to the side. There is a legitimate argument for a lot of different viewpoints about the climate. The area where there is no room for different viewpoints is on the limited nature of fossil energy resources. Whether or not you buy into anthropogenic climate change or not, you should support more efficient non-fossil fuel energy sources. Diversity is the key. For two long we've all of our eggs in one basket, and it hasn't been until recently that we've realized that come back and bite us. Cheap solar like this could go a long way to broadening available energy as we start to see the real issue with energy arise, namely how do we support a rapidly industrializing third world and a world population that will reach nine billion in fifty years. Quantity is a real problem. We've built our economies on cheap energy, and now we're gonna have to work to keep that going.

Re:Yahoo! (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780802)

Quite a few problems with that. :)

For one, I can't picture production capacity catching up with demand enough to lower prices to that level for at least a decade, and even that would take a trenemdous expansion rate. There's no way Nanosolar is going to *sell* at $0.99/W when the current market price if $5.80/W and they don't have enough production capacity to meet supply. They stated that they can *turn a profit* selling at $0.99/W. They'll sell for $5.70/W, $5.60/W, or whatnot -- whatever's the most they can charge and move all their capacity. They're not idiots. They're going to earn every last dollar they can, and pump it into new production facilities. Only as the market becomes saturated will prices drop.

Secondly, global warming is going to happen even if all killed ourselves today. There's too much inertia behind the problem. What we effect today is what things are going to be like in 2050, 2100, not the next decade or two.

Third, this doesn't address vehicles. Still have to take care of that gorilla in the corner. It also doesn't address industry CO2 pollution unrelated to power demand, such as steel production. Still, it's a great start.

Fourth, you don't need to cover a big expanse of desert at all. There's more than enough rooftop space in the world to meet demand. Example: China has 32521 square kilometers [peopledaily.com.cn] of urban area. Assuming 11% efficiency on these cells and 25% of that urban area being able to be coated in cells, and assuming an average insolation of 200W/m^2, we get a total power production of about 180 terrawatts. Current *world* demand is only 10 terrawatts. See where I'm going with this?

Fifth, ultracapacitors are too expensive for power storage currently. We're still going to need baseload power production until a cheaper method of storing power can be found. One concept that I find interesting relates to electric cars. To charge a car quickly in your garage, you're going to need a home charging unit. Your house just can't deliver power nearly fast enough for a five to ten minute charge. The idea I read is to use those for power balancing: have them charge themselves when there's a glut of electricity and discharge into the grid when there's a shortage. In exchange, utilities would give consumers a significant discount on their power bill.

Re:Yahoo! (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780888)

Minor correction: cells this cheap would probably lay flat, aren't going to be heliostat mounted, and I didn't consider the derate factor, so that production figure is probably more like 70TW or so instead of 180TW. Still, you get the picture. Rooftop space is way more than enough to meet our needs.

Re:Consumer offerings? (1)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780336)

That's what I'd like to know. If we can get the average consumer homeowner to get these installed on the rooves of their own houses, it will help contribute towards significantly lowering CO2 emissions. Hell, if it's cheap enough to get most people doing it, maybe the US will actually have a chance of meeting the targets of a climate change agreement for once...

Re:Consumer offerings? (1)

blake1 (1148613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780358)

Probably around the time that you add an extra couple of 100 square metres onto the sun-facing side of your roof so that there's enough surface area to absorb a worthwile amount of energy, or not until they improve the efficiency side of things.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell [wikipedia.org] "...a solar cell of 12% efficiency with a 100 cm2 (0.01 m2) surface area can be expected to produce approximately 1.2 watts of power."

Re:Consumer offerings? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780966)

Probably around the time that you add an extra couple of 100 square metres onto the sun-facing side of your roof so that there's enough surface area to absorb a worthwile amount of energy, or not until they improve the efficiency side of things.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell [wikipedia.org] "...a solar cell of 12% efficiency with a 100 cm2 (0.01 m2) surface area can be expected to produce approximately 1.2 watts of power."


Average household consumption is about 2kwh per hour. So, lets so you need 4kwh of solar cells to produce this. So, to make the math easier, lets say 1.0 watts per 0.01m2, thats 4,000*0.01m2, or 40m2. No, that's roughly 430ft2. I'm pretty sure most roofs are about that large. You won't be able to get all you power from the cells, but that's what your grid connection is for (and for selling back the excess power)

Re:Consumer offerings? (2, Insightful)

MrLogic17 (233498) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780512)

$1/watt? Cheaper than coal? I'm confused.

Coal you burn once, and you're done. Easy price calculation.

With solar, you buy the solar cells. And the regulators (Sunlight's variable ya know). And the battery packs, assuming you're not going directly back into the grid. And maint of said batteries.

And the solar cells aren't producing 100% output for 12 hours/day. And the lifespan of these solar cells are an estimate.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for this. I'm just very suspcious of an apples to oranges comparison used in marketing speak.

Re:Consumer offerings? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780694)

To get apples to apples, compare the cost of the panel (1$ someday) with the production (mining, transport) cost of 1 Watt of coal.

Re:Consumer offerings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780828)

That would be 1 Watt Hour of coal vs 1 Watt Hour of solar.

Seems good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780234)

So who all here's going to put their money where their mouths are, and snatch these things up? Or is copper indium gallium selenide not environmentally safe enough?

In any case, capitalism once again is the solution to our energy woes.

Re:Seems good. (5, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780522)

It is a rather safe formulation. That's one of the reasons why it's more popular among new companies than cadmium telluride cells.

Nobody can "put their money where their mouth is" and "snatch these up", because all of their capacity is currently being eaten up by a 1MW german PV installation. And, one correction to the article: they're not being sold for $0.99. The company has stated that they can turn a profit on them selling them at $0.99. But as long as there's a glut of demand and shortage of cells, it seems unlikely that they'll hit that price. What it *does* mean is that Nanosolar never has to worry about money again. Venture capitalists will be throwing money at them if only Nanosolar lets them. They'll have no problem scaling up production; we just need to be patient.

What's in your stocking? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780240)

Of course coal also works at night.

Re:What's in your stocking? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780428)

A solution is a global energy grid. Sure, it may be daytime in the US right now, but it's night-time in India. Of course, there would be transmission losses, never mind the cost of insulated undersea high-voltage power lines, the cost of ninjas to fight the pirates who would threaten to hold the power lines hostage, and the cost of robots to keep the ninjas at bay.

Seriously, though, power usage at night is much lower than during the day. We have other non-fossil-fuel energy sources that can be used to produce power at night. It's funny how solar power works during the day, when our usage also peaks... it's too much of a coincidence to believe that could happen naturally. I think mayhaps His Noodly Appendage has touched the power generation industry.

Re:What's in your stocking? (1)

rah1420 (234198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780604)

A solution is a global energy grid. Sure, it may be daytime in the US right now, but it's night-time in India.


And if the electric companies have any sense at all, a "global energy grid" should be keeping them up at night. If I were a betting man, I'd say within the next couple hundred years we could see feasibility studies on a global grid.

Re:What's in your stocking? (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781018)

I think we'll see studies as soon as we have the capacity for economically feasible distributed energy production (such as the solar cells mentioned here ramped up in scale). I think feasibility studies will be happening in the next fifty years. Decentralized power production is really what the power companies fear.

Re:What's in your stocking? (1)

hansonc (127888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781008)

I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure my energy use peaks in the evening.... you know when it's dark and I have to turn on lights... and I'm home... and I'm heating my home... and doing laundry or washing dishes...

Re:What's in your stocking? (5, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780516)

So do rechargeable batteries.

This makes me think once again that the 20th century was an abberation.

Before the 20th century if you wanted to know what time it was you pulled a clock out of your pocket. In the 20th century you looked at the clock on your wrist. After the 20th century you pulled your phone out of your pocket.

Before the 20th century musicians made their money by performing. During the 20th century many musicians made their money by recording music. After the advent of the internet musicians will once again make their money by performing and use their recordings as advertising (as everybody but the RIAA bands do now).

Before the 20th century there were few wires. During the 20th century wires were everywhere - strung from poles, on your phone, TV, computer eqiopment, everything that used electrity. After the 20th century everything is wireless.

-mcgrew

Re:What's in your stocking? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780654)

WTF? That's the most retarded logic I've seen this side of the White House.

How practical (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780246)

Will they last, are they durable, is it flexible or rigid? Lot of questions left to answer on the solar front.

However, if I can shingle my roof with these things, all the better!

Re:How practical (4, Informative)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780344)

They have a 25 year warranty, so hopefully they'll last at least that long.

They are printed on aluminum instead of glass so yes, they are flexible.

Re:How practical (1)

Xenius (626318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780382)

The first paragraph of the article states: "Well-financed solar start-up Nanosolar on Tuesday said it has started shipping its flexible thin-film solar cells, meeting its own deadline and marking a milestone for alternative solar-cell materials." So they're certainly flexible. I'd also imagine they last as least as long as other solar cells if they're building a 1 megawatt power plant with them.

Are they fire resistant? Toxic when burning? (4, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780414)

Will they last, are they durable, is it flexible or rigid? Lot of questions left to answer on the solar front. However, if I can shingle my roof with these things, all the better!

If you are going to shingle your roof then "are they fire resistant" and "do they release toxic fumes when burning" should be two more explicit first questions.

Re:Are they fire resistant? Toxic when burning? (2, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780662)

sooo.

I can has my tin foil hat and be environmentally friendly at the same time?

Re:Are they fire resistant? Toxic when burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780756)

Does a regular roof burning not release toxic fumes while burning?

Re:Are they fire resistant? Toxic when burning? (1)

Alari (181784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781010)

> solar cells made out of CIGS [wikipedia.org] , or copper [wikipedia.org] indium [wikipedia.org] gallium [wikipedia.org] selenide [wikipedia.org]

So they melt. =)

Re:How practical (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780732)

well since the title of TFA is "Nanosolar prints flexible solar cells" I would think that means yes

Re:How practical (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781000)

I read that they were printing on aluminum. So it sounds like it would be pretty rigid... and even usable as shingles.

Solar power. (-1, Flamebait)

pheared (446683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780250)

When will people learn?

Eventually. (5, Insightful)

xlsior (524145) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780254)

From the article: Roscheisen said the manufacturing process the company has developed will enable it to eventually deliver solar electricity for less than a dollar per watt

Re:Eventually. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780862)

At least it's better than 'éventuellement'.

Re:Eventually. (1)

YouTookMyStapler (1057796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780890)

If the printed panels are effective at collecting solar energy, combined with a low cost of manufacturing, it will make solar panels affordable for almost every income level, not just the incredibly wealthy.

Of course its cheaper! (0)

weaponx86 (1112757) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780256)

It generates cash at the rate of $1/watt!

Re:Of course its cheaper! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780610)

Yes, but now you're paying not per watt, but per watt hour.

Hopefully this will just be the start... (4, Interesting)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780296)

Once they get their manufacturing up to speed, prices will most likely get even lower.

Too bad they're already sold out for the first 18 months of production, because at those prices, you could make a typical house solar for about $1500-2000 for the panels, plus another few grand for installation and hookup. At that price, it makes a lot of sense.

Re:Hopefully this will just be the start... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780470)

I think you're off by almost two orders of magnitude. A typical, all-electric house (no nat gas, LP or oil) is going to have a minimum of one 200A-240V panel, and will likely have two (50- or 100kW total). Iirc, the rule of thumb for inverters and storage is a dollar of that backend stuff for every dollar of panel (that could also be off by quite a bit...and probably not in the homeowner's favor). Once you get that part figured out (say $100k) then all you have to do is get 4000SF of southerly facing rooftop, and you're good as gold.

Re:Hopefully this will just be the start... (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780684)

Is it just my observation, or are there way too many stupid people in the world?

Everyone laments the number of stupid people, but no one stops wonder if they're one of them. :)

Re:Hopefully this will just be the start... (1)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780826)

I love the assumptions. Flat roof vs. Pitched. Southern facing walls can also hold solar panels. Solar panels can go in the yard, on storage buildings, carports etc. I know a few people right now who have solar only houses, with Propane for cooking and back-up heat, with a lot less than 4000 SF of solar panels. A lot less. Perhaps you, or the majority of USians would need a) more, or b) to use much less. The rule of thumb you quote would not necessarily hold true for a new technology. The inverter is a fixed cost, and storage is a slowly moving cost, mostly moving to cheaper depending on what technology you are pursuing. The need for storage is not a given for most people, as most are already grid connected and the grid is therefor a very economically viable alternative to other methods of storage. I could get a $.13 per kWh credit as a producer without actually selling any of the power I produce (ie, I get paid to produce it and I still get to use it all). Alternatively I could net meter and sell the power I feed to the grid at the same price I buy it for later. While there are real concerns about viability of solar depending on many variables, your straw man is very disingenuous and not helpful for any part of the debate.

Re:Hopefully this will just be the start... (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780842)

Just because someone has a 100kw panel doesn't mean they use 100kw. You'd pop every circuit breaker in house if you used that much.
 

Re:Hopefully this will just be the start... (2, Interesting)

leet (1202001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780824)

I've been looking seriously into going solar on my house. I live in Arizona and it costs about $18,000 to $20,000 for the initial installation. You end up with about $4,000 out of pocket once the conversion is done and you've gotten the tax breaks, etc. The process of installation takes about 6 months. I don't have the start up capital to do it.

As soon as I can I'm going to because I'm sick of the high electric bills in the summer. I can do nothing about it because you have to run your air conditioner when it's 115 degrees outside. I'm very energy conscious but I still end up using over 3000 kW-Hours during the worst months. I'm not a greeny either, I just don't like the cost. I long for the day when I don't have to worry about this anymore and I can run whatever appliances I want, whenever I want. As it is now I try to run my vacuum cleaner and laundry on weekend only when the power rate is lower. I would very much like to do things on my schedule and not the power company schedule.

For me solar is about freedom and convenience. I don't give a rip about the environment because I don't think man could destroy it even if he tried. The doomsday people have been wrong for decades, but the earth just keeps on healing itself no matter what the going wisdom is at the time.

Inaccurate summary (4, Informative)

Chainsaw Karate (869210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780310)

From the article: "Roscheisen said the manufacturing process the company has developed will enable it to eventually deliver solar electricity for less than a dollar per watt"

Nowhere in the article does it mention the price of the first run of panels. I'd imagine they are much more expensive than $1/watt.

Here is the link to the auction on ebay (1)

Evan Meakyl (762695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780342)

To mark the occasion, Roscheisen said the first commercial panels will get special treatment: the first that came off the rolls will become part of a Nanosolar exhibit; the second will be auctioned off on eBay

And here is the link [ebay.com] !

Re:Here is the link to the auction on ebay (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780528)

Read the fine print before bidding: the winning bidder can't have the thing til mid 2009.

Why the govt is helping more (1)

Widowwolf (779548) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780364)

Even with piece as small as a sheet of plywood size for each house, this would dramatically decrease the demand on the utilities in California. With all of his greenhouse emissions standards for california http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/20/california.emissions/index.html > I hope this is somethign the ahnolds looking into more. If this was subsidized for the average household, it would be a boon for california

DOH! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780372)

Here in Springfield, our power plant [sj-r.com] runs on coal. Since my electricity's cost is not only the coal, but the maintenance and transmission of electricity, it should be cheaper to line my roof with these things than to buy it from Mr. Burns [cwlp.com] (he's the one in front of the giant check, on the left. He's also the one in the first linked picture, also on the left).

But at a dollar per watt I'd pay $20,000 for a single circuit... oh wait my math is wrong. At 100 volts that aould be $200. So I could power my whole house for a one time investment of less than $2k?

Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?

Re:DOH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780484)

That catch is you can't buy it.

You also still need to be on the grid, and hope you're in a state where you can feed back into the grid your surplus. Check your bills for the rates you can expect, it's the fuel cost rate. You'll still be paying for the privilege of being hooked up.

The return rate is 3-5 years if they can actually deliver, and you live in a sunny area.

But, the catch is you can't but it.

Re:DOH! (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780510)

So I could power my whole house for a one time investment of less than $2k? Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?

Powering it at night :-)

Re:DOH! (1)

kevmatic (1133523) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780544)

200W at 100V is only 2 amps. Most household circuits are 15A, so that would place the wattage at 1800W... So $1800/circuit, not including inverter losses.

But then solar panels only make juice during the day, so you'd need at least double that to power the whole circuit all day.

Realistically, you could power a house off of an average 8 kilowatt without much conservation, and probably get down to around 5 or so with it, and lower still if you make some sacrifices.

But then you have to get that power on AVERAGE. You probably get enough sun to get that 1watt a third of the time. Less if you live an area like I do (Pittsburgh, which has VERY few sunny days).

Or is this $1/watt taking into account the downtime?

Re:DOH! (2, Informative)

Tiroth (95112) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780568)

You were right the first time: 220V * 100A = 22000W = $22000 @ $1/W.

Of course, most designs would require a much smaller up-front investment, because you'll run off the grid when you are using the dryer/stove/ironing/AC, but take advantage of cheaper power for the base load (lights, computer, fridge).

Re:DOH! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780572)

I need coffee, can't tell my right from my left. In the above post change "left" to "right". Damned lithograph class I took in college fucked me up for life!

Re:DOH! (4, Informative)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780582)

You have to clear the snow off of it, it only works when the sun is out so you need a crap-load of batteries or $15-20k worth of automated switching equipment which allows you to be simultaneously connected to the grid without electrocuting the lineman who is working on your pole and thinks the power is off, you probably need to multiply your number by at least 4, because you need to generate power for the 75% of the time you're not getting good sun in the 25% of the time that you are, and you need some pricey inverters if you want to run devices designed for 110V AC...

Additionally, they're not actually $1/watt. That's the theoretical cost if they are able to ramp up production as planned. If you had $1 for every startup that failed in that phase, you wouldn't care how much your solar panels cost.

Re:DOH! (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780950)

An entire grid-tie solar installation for my house was bid at $18-20K.

If the grid-tie switching equipment costs $15-20K, I must be getting the panels and labor for free.

Re:DOH! (2, Informative)

hypnagogue (700024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780746)

So I could power my whole house for a one time investment of less than $2k? Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?
Depends on what your expectations are. Were you planning on actually having power during the other 20 hours of the day? If so, then you'll need to have a very large battery array, and about 6 times the solar capacity you've calculated in order to fully charge the batteries during the relatively brief peak hours. Add in a massive charge controller and inverter, and you are pretty close to working.

We have lots of people here in South Park (no, not a joke) that run solar; but none run solar exclusively (that's impossible). In order to do things like laundry or the dishes, most of them have to fire up the generator. And, during the winter, peak solar hours are shorter, and weaker, so the batteries start to sulfate from over-discharge if you don't keep them topped off -- more generator time. During some months we have a regular parade of people bringing their generators in to town for service.

Also understand that this special class of individualist burns wood for heat, and owns no air conditioner. The solar powers the well and the freezer, and not much else. Most of the power they use is delivered in the form of wood and propane.

Springfield runs on coal? (2, Funny)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780782)

Here in Springfield, our power plant runs on coal.
I could have sworn Springfield had a nuclear power plant...

Re:DOH! (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780868)

The catch? you still can't get one to power your house with. That's a pretty big catch (complete unavailability of the advertised product or service)...

$1? (1)

tajmorton (806296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780376)

I read both the linked articles, but I didn't see a ref to $1/watt... What did I miss?

Re:$1? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780530)

The article says "will enable it to eventually deliver solar electricity for less than a dollar per watt." I think the summary is misinformation. You can't buy them, and if you could, they couldn't make them for that price.

We need a good acronym like YACC, YASC? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780402)

I have always appreciated the self deprecating humor and the jolly view of things indicated by that unix tool, Yet Another Compiler Compiler. I wish someone would name their solar cell, yet another solar cell, just for the kicks.

Cost per watt is based on what time frame? (1, Interesting)

holysin (549880) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780482)

Have to ask, the gurus or would be gurus:

When companies report that their solar solution costs $X a watt, is this figure a steady watt/hour figure (e.g 1000W = 1kw/h) during which time the sun is shining on the pannels, or watts generated per hour of direct sunlight, 8 hrs of direct sunlight, every odd Tuesday, what? I always assumed it's a steady watt/hour figure but in this case $1000 would give you 1KWH while they were running, which gives you (assuming you have a battery storage solution) a production of 180KW/H a month (assuming 6hrs of "good" sunlight a day for 30 days.) If this is the case then sign me up, I'll break even in less than a year with my current evil power hungry mode of life. But the question is.... is this the case?

Now back to cooking that turducken (damn electric ovens)

Re:Cost per watt is based on what time frame? (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780652)

When companies report that their solar solution costs $X a watt, is this figure a steady watt/hour figure (e.g 1000W = 1kw/h) during which time the sun is shining on the pannels, or watts generated per hour of direct sunlight, 8 hrs of direct sunlight, every odd Tuesday, what?


Watt is a unit of power, not energy. So its watts (presumably, in some specified lighting conditions), not "watt/hour".

I always assumed it's a steady watt/hour figure but in this case $1000 would give you 1KWH while they were running, which gives you (assuming you have a battery storage solution) a production of 180KW/H a month (assuming 6hrs of "good" sunlight a day for 30 days.)


Assuming it was average output per 6 hours of usable time a day (which its probably not, its more likely the peak at the best conditions), and presuming also that surface area limits are not an issue (which they may well be), and that $1/watt was the current cost, rather than an estimate of what the technology would eventually provide, yes, $1000 would get you panels that would produce ~$180 kW-h (not kW/h) per month.

Re:Cost per watt is based on what time frame? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780666)

All the solar panel outputs you typically see quote peak output - i.e. with full sunshine, zero haze, with the sun shining directly onto the panel square on (rays at 90 degrees to the panel). Even a little haze (say, some high cirrus, or 7 miles visibility) typically reduces output to 70% of the peak output. A bright overcast day and you're lucky to make 20% of peak. That's with the current most efficient panel design that's easily available (monocrystalline silicon). There's no information that I've seen saying how this new type of solar cell performs in non-ideal conditions that are found in the real world.

However, *if* they can produce it for the price they think they can (note the weasel word eventually in the article) then given the amount of unused roof space that's available, it may not matter unless they are desperately worse than current technology.

Re:Cost per watt is based on what time frame? (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780724)

The cost per watt is average. But even then, this average is subjective because the amount of sunlight one gets depends on location.

Regions near the equator would obviously harness more energy more cheaply than say the Canadian arctic where some areas get a few hours of light depending on season.

Breakeven point (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780486)

Assuming the current price of electricity is $0.10/kWh it will pay for itself in ~1.14 years. However, that does not include the cost of installation, a rectifier, or batteries/controller.

Re:Breakeven point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780894)

True, but you didn't take into account the social or environmental saving either.

Units Please! What's the cost per watt hour (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780562)

It's not just the cost of the panel that matters, but the anticipated life of the panel. Traditionally, it has taken more energy to make a panel than that panel will return to the grid. That's not as big a deal if you're truly off grid - say in the boonies, or in space - but it matters if you want to make it viable in a business sense. And it can't just be equal, it's got to be a significantly low fraction. Otherwise you're creating an energy storage medium (and a very limited one in the case of a solar panel) instead of a power generator.

Re:Units Please! What's the cost per watt hour (3, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780692)

The current generation solar panels have an energy payback time of 6 years in the real world, and typically last for at least 25 years.

Presumably, what makes this technology potentially less expensive is it requires less resources to make than silicon solar cells, so it's fairly likely that they have a faster energy payback than silicon cells.

Re:Units Please! What's the cost per watt hour (2, Interesting)

matt_martin (159394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780808)

For sure, usable life is an important part of the cost/benefit and energy balance calculation.

However, I've seen energy payback quoted anywhere from 1-3 years for conventional silicon photo-voltaic solar panels including the glass and metal packaging. As they are supposed to have a life > 20 years I'm not sure your second statement is correct. Do you have a source ?

Indium (4, Insightful)

RikF (864471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780574)

This stuff is already hard to come by. We won't all be covering our houses in this stuff!

vaporware, anybody? (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780588)

From the ebay auction:

This solar panel is currently in Seller's possession but it will be held in escrow until 6/1/2009 before local pick-up by the winning bidder (or shipment at cost to the winning bidder).

Um...what?

Re:vaporware, anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780932)

Also note that they require you to sign an agreement that you not reverse engineer it. So what are they selling you, a license to have this in your back yard to show off? Anyone who falls for this is a damn fool.

You really don't want to smoke these CIGS. :) (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780592)

This body deliberately left blank.

I need a loan... (1)

jon.wolf (938920) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780634)

Can anyone loan me 1.21 Gigadollars? Is that right? I wonder if they offer volume discounts...

Break out point very near? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780636)

We need a good way to store electricity because solar power is intermittent. The flywheel battery [nasa.gov] is not yet ready for transportation applications. Not crash resistant. But for domestic and office use one can bury this 10 feet below ground to "contain" it in the event of failure. A cheap solar cell installation and a reliable storage system will take many homes to reduce their load on the grid.

Despite all that, our transportation sector still relies too heavily on imported oil. Till we find a solution to that, we will be sending billions of dollars to marginally stable dictatorial nations for our oil.

We can reduce oil imports by 30% if we capture the methane from farm waste, reduce odor pollution, and get organic fertilizer too. Plug in hybrids can relieve another 30% of the load on oil imports.

But the oil producers cut the oil price and make the investors bail out and then raise the oil prices again. We need dedicated investors who will stay in wait for a real long time in the oil-replacement technologies.

Though stories of breakthrough in solar cell technology is running almost like a cron job in slashdot, this time it is slightly better because this time it is shipping already. It is not a story about what a technology that is 5, 10 or 20 years from the market.

We have everything you're looking for. (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780992)

Right now. We have the Tesla car. We have cheap solar. We have several different electricity storage solutions including the aforementioned flywheel batteries, and lithium ion batteries, and even new nanotechnology based super capacitors. Alternately, I never understood why we don't have zeppelins as they are clearly a very practical and efficient mode of transportation for many applications. I mean, 40+ people survived the Hindenburg, and all passengers routinely die in plane crashes. I imagine wifi and GPS guided autonomous carbon fiber zeppelins could solve most of our transportation issues, and safely too. It's really just a matter of engineering.

The only problem is, you'd have to pass these ideas past Mobile, Shell, Exxon, Dow, Viacom, and every other corporation that owns this government, and they all stand to lose greatly. I'd say you could vote their paid lackeys out, but apparently, the votes are not currently being counted. I'm behind you in spirit though, and would love to buy a giant live-in autonomous carbon fiber zeppelin, if you come across one. Might as well cover the thing with the new cheap solar panels, too..... I'm tired of living in a house anyway.

rhY

Watts per meter of earth (1)

bonkeydcow (1186443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780638)

Even if solar panels were completely free, they still would not meet our power needs. The sun only puts out X watts of power per square meter per hour, during the day. Even if you covered the whole earth with solar panels, it would not supply the power that is currently used. And of coarse, we can't cover the whole earth for several reasons. I have nothing against solar, but to imagine that it can provide all the power we need is unfortunately not possible.

Re:Watts per meter of earth (2, Informative)

giafly (926567) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780984)

Even if you covered the whole earth with solar panels, it would not supply the power that is currently used.
Yes it would, 1000 times over. There is plenty of renewable energy, the issue is cost, which is where these cells come in. "The total solar energy available to the earth is approximately 3850 zettajoules (ZJ) per year ... Worldwide energy consumption was 0.471 ZJ in 2004." - Solar Energy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Watts per meter of earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21781024)

I think you missed several zeros in a calculation somewhere. Global power usage is tens of terawatts, and the sun delivers a hundred petawatts to the Earth. That's 10^17 / 10^13 = 10,000 times more power than humans use now.

Consumer use? (2, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780660)

Since they are focusing on cheap manufacturing instead of light conversion efficiency, these things may not produce much output per unit of area.

So it may be one of those scenarios where you would have to cover your entire roof, as well as those of your two nearest neighbors, to generate enough power for a single house. In other words, they may be intending this for use in solar farms out in rural areas, where real-estate is not a concern.

Dan East

Eco-friendly gaming system (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780676)

Cool, now for $750 one-time fee I can power my gaming system in an eco-friendly way.

But only on sunny days.

Now to power my DeLorean properly I'll need to take out a $1.21G loan from Google.

depends on your latitude and time of year (1, Offtopic)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780718)

Beware of headlines.

While the sun might be strong enough at some locations to provide the headline power output for the price paid, is this only going to be on the equator in high summer?

Considering that (in most countries) more power is consumed during the winter months to keep warm, the power output from solar power is at it's lowest so more cells are needed than would be the case to generate the same amount of power during the summer. Likewise, the industrialised countries tend not to be in the areas of the globe that get the most sunshine.

What we really need to know is the cost (i.e. number of square metres) of cell needed to generate 1W of electricity at a given latitude at a given time of year.
Until you get these numbers, all you have is marketing hype.

Some calculations (5, Informative)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780738)

In hotter climates people use solar roofings already, especially for electric water boilers. But with sufficiently cheap and available coating, people could make entire roofs covered with solar panels. You'd also of course have to think about things like durability and waterproofing.

(Up front, I apologize to all the yanks for being an insensitive clod that doesn't use imperial measurements).

Earth's surface is absorbing ~90 petawatts of electricity any give time (Wikipedia), and with 510 million square kilometers of surface area, an incredibly rough generalized calculation says that each square meter absorbs 175 watts (this is a 24-hour average, even though obviously it's all absorbed during daytime). Of course, not all or even most of it can be converted to electricity, but still, that's a huge resource tap. I'd estimate an average home to have a roof surface area of about 50 square meters, which means that on average the sun sends 8kW on your roof. Next, the average American household uses 8900 kWh/year, which produces, again, an average usage of about 1 kilowatt per household. If you tile your entire roof with solar panels, you'd need to be able to convert 12% of heat/light energy to electricity in order to be fully self-sufficient.

An extra bonus is that the more you absorb the sun's energy as electricity, the less of it is converted to heat which dissipates around the planet, and that in and of itself reduces the effect global warming. So you are being twice as productive - not rely on heat-trapping coal, and reduce the amount of heat that saturates on the planet in the first place.

Of course, this would have to be done on a truly massive scale to have any effect, but every bit helps, and if the industry can make it profitable to the consumer (and of course overcome the interests of evil megalomaniac neofascistliberal Big Oil corporations, as any /. troll will point out), it'll grow on its own.

CdTe vs CIGS (2, Insightful)

savuporo (658486) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780742)

Anyone followed First Solar ( FSLR ) IPO ?
They were the first to bring CdTe cells to market, and guess what happened [google.com] ..

Now, several companies have been working furiously to get the competing CIGS cells going. Miasole, Nanosolar, HelioVolt, just to name a few. FSLR of course beat them to market, and is already a winner, but i am waiting for IPOs for the CIGS companies too ..
Anything that doesnt use crystalline silicon is going to be huge, and in some instances, already is.

Honda (2, Interesting)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780772)

Honda has been develloping CIGS technology for a few years now. I believe they are already selling these type of solar panels in Japan. http://world.honda.com/news/2005/c051219.html [honda.com]

Corrections (5, Informative)

abramsh (102178) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780774)

  • They are not selling at $1/watt, that is their goal. They would be selling at $2.12/watt, but they are sold out for the next 18 months.
  • They are not backed by Google, they are partially backed by some of the Google founders.

Watt, Watt Hour? (2, Insightful)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780792)

I'm confused by the $1 per watt and "cheaper than coal"...

Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I thought a watt was a measure of capacity whereas a watt-hour was what we actually paid for from our electric company as a measure of (what? power? energy?)... So a watt-hour is something like "continuously using one watt for one hour".

For solar, there's no fuel cost. So the $1 gets you a "perpetual" 1 watt. If it lasted forever (which it won't), that'd be an infinite amount of watt-hours.

But coal plants have a fuel cost. So $1 only gets them so much coal, and only so many watt-hours.

Or is that comparing the cost of building a coal plant to building solar panels? Or is it some kind of TCO figure?

How many watts per sq. meter? (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780812)

How much juice can these things generate? Can one be self-sufficient with, say, covering a home + garage with these and putting a battery in the basement/shed?

Hot Damn! (0)

Cleon (471197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780818)

The main problem with solar power technology so far has been cost-efficiency; it's cost more to manufacture them than they produce, both in terms of money and in terms of energy. Last time I checked, the technology for that to change was still a good decade or two off.

If this is for real, it could very well revolutionize how the world is powered. Major props to these guys, and here's hoping the trend continues.
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