IBM held its Third Annual "Five in Five" which looks at emerging trends as well as what IBM itself is developing in their own labs around the world. Here's the vid.
While previous predictions given by these "Five in Five" releases can be somewhat fanciful (like mind-reading cellphones for instance), this latest list has the refreshing feel of being very near and very possible.
Solar technology will be built into everything
IBM states that within five years we could be seeing thin-film solar technology built into everything around us. This includes sidewalks, driveways, paint, windows and even clothing. Their belief is that thin-film solar will get so cheap that it can be applied everywhere in our lives. It's ability to be flexible also makes it easy to wrap around our daily devices which could benefit from a little extra power boost. It's interesting to think that while some people are clamoring for white asphalt and roofing tiles to reflect the Suns energy and save on lighting, another faction will emerge that will want solar film instead. Of course the question remains: are you going to want to hook a battery up to your clothing?
Your health can be pre-determined
Mapping DNA keeps getting faster and cheaper as the years go along. It only makes sense that very soon people will begin to use that genetic information to look for hereditary traits that could impact your health. In finding out you have a high chance of becoming diabetic, you may try and change your diet to avoid or delay its effects. Basically, it's the movie GATTACA without being able to actually alter the DNA before birth. I wonder how you'll take the news when they tell you that the junk food you so love is literally killing your body and taking years off your life.
The Energy Scanner Daily Top 5 highlights some of the best energy category scans submitted to the Future Scanner community.
Portugal’s Agucadoura commercial wave project Scan by fantasywriter
-The long-term view on wave power potential is positive. But engineers are still trying to figure out the best way forward given the diversity of ocean/tidal currents across regions in the world. Scaling standards for kinetic wave energy could be a challenge.
GridPoint grabs more attention, money
Scan by Mielle Sullivan
-The big near future disruption to electricity grids is the potent combination of ‘storage’ and ‘software’. GridPoint is a highly regarded ‘smart grid’ company worth watching. The other thing worth watching will be the calculated reaction of utility companies to the changing landscape of power generation! Big battles ahead as business models will be challenged around distributed power management. Storage and software are big disruptors!
Congress moves forward on Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for alternative energy-
Scan by Mielle Sullivan
-Emerging industries always need public sector help during early stages of development. Clean coal is getting help, deep water drilling is getting help. Alternative energy is no exception. We’re watching as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) legislation works its way through Congress. And the world solar industry is watching to see what happens to the US tax credit extension.
Has China developed the ultimate vehicle? A cheap, solar powered car? Not quite.
While the ‘solar car’ concept makes a great viral story for web readers, it is not a revolution for the auto industry. Powering electric cars takes a lot more than putting solar panels on the roof. We need viable infrastructure and tremendous amounts of stored energy density to make a real transition into electric vehicles.
The vehicle was demonstrated at the 29th Zhejiang International Bicycles and Electric-powered Cars Exhibition. The solar panels are simply placed on the roof and not integrated into the vehicle’s body. And it reportedly takes 30 hours of direct sunlight to charge the batteries that will drive up to 90 miles.
Electric Vehicles need Energy density
The good news is that electric vehicles are coming. We have highlighted recent electric vehicle commitments of production vehicles (2009-2011) from automakers GM, Nissan, Tata Motors-, BYD, and Chevrolet.
So why is this solar powered cars more a gimmick, than a revolution?
Ohio State University researchers have designed a new conductive plastic material that absorbs all the energy contained in sunlight, and loosens electrons in a way that makes them easier to capture.
Why is this important?
This materials breakthrough could help expand the efficiency of solar energy. One of the major obstacles in solar power generation is that most photovoltaic systems only capture visible light which is a small portion of the entire light spectrum.
The colors that we see with our eyes are really different energy levels. Most solar cell materials capture only a small range of these frequencies of light. The Ohio State material is the first that can absorb all the energy contained in visible light at once.
Solar panels create electricity when entering light excites the atoms of the material knocking some of the electrons in those atoms loose.
The team of chemists combined electrically conductive plastic with metals including molybdenum and titanium to create the hybrid material which could change how we look at solar-electron reactions.
SolarWorld has opened North America’s largest solar cell manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregon. The facility is expected to reach a capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) by 2011.
Oregon’s Cleantech / ‘Green’ Jobs
The cloud covered Pacific Northwest is not the first place one might think of ideal for a solar manufacturing base. But there is tremendous local talent in technology and higher end manufacturing. The region is ideal for German-based SolarWorld.
The company and Oregon leaders are hoping to tap growth in the solar industry as it grows to $74 billion in 2017 from $20
billion in 2007, according to a projection by Clean Edge Inc., a market research firm focused on clean technology.
SolarWorld’s 480,000 square foot facility will develop integrated solar silicon wafer and solar cell production facility will fuel this burgeoning market. The company expects to employ 1,000 people at the Hillsboro, Oregon facility by 2011.
Headquartered in Germany and founded in 1977, SolarWorld has production facilities in Germany and the United States,
including in California, Oregon and Washington, and is establishing a joint venture for module production in South Korea. The company delivers its products to market from sales offices in Germany, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and the United States.
Recently we featured a story of SolarWorld opening a 500 MW facility in Hillsboro, Oregon. We also covered a research breakthrough in solar material that captures 100% of the solar light spectrum. Now another solar plant for Oregon is in the works, this time in the Renewable Energy and Technology Park of Salem, where a new solar ingot and wafer manufacturing plant will be built. Construction of this SANYO plant will begin in a year’s time and should be under full operation in under six month’s time, by April 2010. At full capacity, the plant will produce approximately 70 MW, “bringing the total for ingot and wafer production capacity in America approximately 100 MW” (Source).
This factory is only part of SANYO’s goal of an annual capacity of 600MW by 2010. SANYO’s goal competes with North America’s largest solar-cell manufacturing SolarWorld facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, only a little more than fifty miles away. SANYO has invested about $80 million in its Salem plant and upon its completion, should provide Oregon with two hundred green jobs.
Ausra, Inc executives standing next to California Eco-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched the company’s Kimberlina Solar Thermal Energy Plant in Bakersfield, CA. It is the first solar thermal plant in the state in nearly 20 years.
Solar Thermal vs Photovoltaic panels
Unlike photovoltaic solar panels, which convert the light from the sun into electricity and are commonly rooftop mounted, solar thermal facilities use large fields of mirrors to concentrate and capture the sun’s heat, converting it into useful forms of energy. In Ausra’s technology, heat is focused on tubes of water to create steam that drives large power turbines, generating clean, reliable electricity and high-temperature, “process” steam for industrial applications.
Ausra recipe for success? A Series of Tubes for scaling the sun’s power
The Palo Alto, CA based company expects the full output of Kimberlina to generate 5 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 3,500 homes in central California. While Kimberlina is small compared to most utility plants, Ausra’s next generation solar thermal technology, is ready to scale. The company is also developing Ausra’s 177- megawatt Carrizo Plains solar power plant with California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). When completed, Ausra’s Carrizo facility will generate enough electricity to power more than 120,000 homes.
People in Austin, Texas pride themselves on being a forward looking island in a state dominated by a traditional ‘hydrocarbon’ industry of oil. And now it has put a stake in the ground around the future growth of low cost thin film solar.
Austin-based solar company HelioVolt has opened its first thin film solar energy factory. The 122,400 square foot facility is expected to generate 160 new jobs. Those wages are certain to support Austin’s other major industry- breakfast tacos.
Inkjet printing high efficiency solar
The factory marks the first commercial implementation of HelioVolt’s proprietary FASST reactive transfer printing process for solar thin film production. Confirmed through independent testing, FASST delivers copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells exceeding 12 percent conversion efficiency in a record setting six minutes. HelioVolt is using FASST to develop both conventional modules and next-generation building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products for the global solar energy market.
“Clean and renewable energy technologies likely represent the single greatest economic opportunity of our generation. We at HelioVolt are proud to be contributing to job creation, market growth, energy stability and environmental sustainability—the combined benefits that makes this new clean economy a positive direction for our country,” said HelioVolt’s CEO and Founder, Dr. B.J. Stanbery.
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.
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.
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies has a spiffy new remote control car that runs on hydrogen. It uses solar power to convert water into hydrogen which the user then empties into the car. Platinum plates then compress the hydrogen to get the needed electricity from it. While the car can only run for about four minutes, it’s a step toward making our toys and gadgets that much more energy efficient.
Horizon itself is a very interesting company. They started out with the intention of being specialists in everything hydrogen and pretty much did just that. they offer a wide variety of products from small hydrogen fuel cells to portable ones for camping trips. The one that caught my attention was their development of a hydro-bike (video below) with puts a small fuel cell on a bicycle in order to power it. I want.