Intel’s investment arm announced its first major solar investment in China with a $20 million equity investment in solar maker Trony Solar.
Solar’s Roadmap: Lowering Manufacturing Costs
The solar industry must pursue two simultaneous paths. Researchers must continue to expand efficiencies, while manufacturing engineers figure out ways to scale production and drop costs.
Intel has mastered manufacturing and specialty materials development in the semiconductor world, and its involvement in solar is welcome by most industry advocates. In June 2008 Intel spun-off SpectraWatt to manufacture PV (photovoltaic) cells for solar panels with $50 million in funding from Intel Capital and other investors. In July, Intel Capital led funding for a German thin-film solar company Sulfurcell with $35 million to expand production capacity. Intel has also invested in specialty chemicals maker Voltaix which is also working with XsunX solar startup.
New solar material captures entire light spectrum
China’s Solar is gimmmick
Rustbelt to Greenbelt, Michigan goes solar
XsunX plant closer to commercialization
SolarWorld opens Oregon plant
Helios opens Austin Texas solar plant
Researchers have demonstrated the highest efficiency to date of a lower cost method of converting sunlight into electricity patterned around photosynthesis.
Alternatives to silicon solar cells
There are many ways to make solar cells that capture light and produce electricity. One alternative to expensive traditional, but expensive, silicon based solar cells is known as dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) that use lower cost light collecting compounds to improve performance. These systems can be used in flexible thin film solar cells.
Low cost solar cells
Swiss Resseachers developed the Gratzel cell, or dye sensitized, in the early 1990s in an effort to mimic the basic photoelectochemical process of photosynthesis. Dye Sensitized Solar Cells use cheap titanium dioxide (TiO2 ) particles coated with a dye to absorb a wide range of wavelengths given off by sunlight. University of Washington researchers have described the structure as ‘popcorn’ solar cells (Image).
The core problem of these solar cells is that the material breaks down rapidly after being exposed to sunlight. But last month Chinese and Swiss researchers reported the highest efficiency to date (9.6-10.0%) using thin film of titanium dioxide (TiO2) solar cell that retained over 90% of the initial performance after 1000 hours of full sunlight soaking at 60 °C. In September Michael Gratzel’s group reported 11.3% efficiency.
If researchers can continue to overcome the basic performance barriers, dye sensitized solar cells could lead to an era of lower cost solar energy. There are a few notable commercial applications. Earlier we posted a story of solar startup Konarka’s plan to open a 1 gigawatt manufacturing plant in 2009.
Research teams from Spain’s IMDEA Nanoscience and the University of Hamburg have developed a hybrid material using nanoparticles (quantum dots) and carbon nanotubes in an effort to create more efficient light emitting diodes and solar cells.
Why is this important to the future of energy?
While most energy analysts expect to see tremendous growth in solar based energy (thermal, photovoltaics, thin film), there is still much we do not yet know about photoconversion. It could be another decade or two before we feel the disruptive potential of commercializing nanoscale structured energy devices that offer unprecedented performance at a low cost.
European researchers have now developed a solar system tapping the electrical and light gathering properties of carbon nanotubes with quantum dots exhibit outstanding optical properties compared to organic dyes, and carbon nanotubes.
This is the third major scientific announcement in the past month from the global solar scientific community which included significant stories from US researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Ohio State University, and Asia-European teams working on low cost dye solar cells.
The color of solar is black, not green. And the future of the solar industry depends largely on our ability to produce and re-purpose this black piece of ‘polycrystaline’ material at a low cost.
China is now expanding its polysilicon production capacity with the hope of becoming a low cost manufacturing base for the global solar energy industry.
3 Types of Solar
The solar industry can be divided into three growth areas. ‘Solar thermal’ taps the power of the sun to heat liquid filled tubes that generate steam for electricity producing turbines. ‘Thin film’ solar is based on flexible, durable strips of plastic solar cells that can be integrated into materials used in buildings and products. And then there is the familiar (higher efficiency) ‘solar panel’ based on glass modules that convert photons into electricity. The key ingrediant in these ‘crystal’ solar panels is black polysilicon.
Chinese-Italian contract for solar wafers
The industry’s growth depends largely on the ability to expand polysilicon materials that go into solar wafers at a low cost. The key for solar panel makers is to sign long term, fixed price contracts.
China-based LDK Solar Co has announced a seven-year contract to supply multicrystalline solar wafers to Italy-based Helios Technology
Beginning in 2009, LDK Solar will deliver approximately 70 MW of multicrystalline silicon solar wafers over a seven-year period and extending through 2015.
LDK Solar’s headquarters and manufacturing facilities are located in China, with operations in Sunnyvale, California.
Image – Wikimedia
December 08 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets Year: 2009 Rating: 1
A train station in Tokyo, Japan has put up a demo LED display which is powered by pedestrians stepping on a spring-board type power generator. "A person weighing 60kg (132 lbs) can generate 0.5W by stepping on the panel twice." The small panel you see above generates enough power for the LED screen to light up and display how much power has been generated so far. Although it will be removed by the end of the year, it still shows the potential power we can generate from the human body.
The greatest thing about this demo is it's sheer practicality in the real world. So many have been talking about solar panel highways or body-heat generating mobile devices, but not so much about kinetic energy. The energy-generating springboard has the additional benefit of being comfortable on the feet and back, something cement and pavement clearly lack. If these were installed in every pedestrian zone (heck, even on roads) it would feel like walking on a basketball court which are in themselves springy. If it proves to be more beneficial instead of developing a solar asphalt, it may just take over ground-level solar production.
via Digital World Tokyo