HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
  |  REGISTER  |  LOGIN  |  HELP
Blogs
Guest Blogs

Photovoltaics Evolve Amid Cost Challenges

Molex
11/17/2011  
15 comments
NO RATINGS
1 saves
View Comments: Threaded|Newest First|Oldest First
Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Blogger
Interface Importance
Alexander Wolfe   11/17/2011 9:17:09 AM
NO RATINGS
One interesting point that this post speaks to is that fact that core electronics functionality is worth nothing if you can't interface it to the outside world. Here we read about the importance of connectors for photovoltaics, particularly robust connectors for the harsh environments in which PVs cells are typically used. But this also applies to the internal construction of the PVs themselves, in terms of the bus-bar foils and the adhesives used in assembling the different layers of the PV cell. Interesting stuff!

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Interface Importance
Ann R. Thryft   11/17/2011 12:46:19 PM
NO RATINGS
Connectors and cables are often one of those overlooked areas in a system design, or at least looked at last when there's no more budget left to do them right. In consumer electronics, it seems that the cheapest parts are spec'd in as the "afterthought" components. I agree, Alex, interconnects are vital, all the way from the chip's internal connections to the panel's external ones.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Interface Importance
Charles Murray   11/17/2011 9:11:39 PM
NO RATINGS
Given the PV market's current level of overcapacity, every cost-reduced component -- connectors and cables included -- is important.  

Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Interface Importance
Alexander Wolfe   11/18/2011 10:41:23 AM
NO RATINGS
Great point, Chuck, about overcapacity, which presages an expected shakeout in the PV market, particularly insofar as high-flying startups are concerned. For a relevant article on this, take a look at Loring Wirbel's recent post, Solyndra Seeds Doubts About Photovoltaic Manufacturability.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Interface Importance
Ann R. Thryft   11/18/2011 12:10:36 PM
NO RATINGS
Isn't it ironic that it took so long for the PV market to reach the high volumes needed to drive down cost-per-watt, the solar power holy grail, and the next step is oversupply? But actually, that's the way of semiconductor-based technologies, and the majority of PV solar cells are based on polycrystalline wafers. It will be interesting to see how different the curves may be for thin-film or some of the more exotic competing technologies.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Interface Importance
Ann R. Thryft   11/22/2011 2:03:25 PM
NO RATINGS

It took a really long time for the polycrystalline wafer-based PV market to achieve the solar power holy grail of volumes high enough to drive down cost-per-watt. But then it seems like a very short time elapsed before it went to oversupply. This isn't atypical of semiconductor-based markets, but it is disappointing.


Jerry dycus
User Rank
Gold
Re: Interface Importance
Jerry dycus   11/18/2011 3:16:16 PM
NO RATINGS
  The overcapacity problem like in Lithium batteries too, means one needs to make their own market with added value as the price of PV, less than $1.50/wt now retail well shopped, means making money on just panels puts them in the commodity braket, also like lithium batteries.

So how does one stand out? By taking money from other pies.  For instance installing PV it's no longer the panel price that is the big cost but instalation.  So PV makers need to build 1-1.5kw modules that are plug and play, ie, fold out hinged  or maybe bolt together panels prewired with a built in grid tie inverter.   Then one can set it up in the front/back/side yard and plug it into any 120vac outlet.

These will be profitable at $3/wt now and cut installed costs for the customer by 40% or so.  At these prices for homes, buildings in many places that pay retail power prices  is already at parity in many places.

And if all the real costs of coal, oil were in them, not only wouldn't you need to subsidize RE but RE would cost less by a good amount.

Or build, own solar farms and sell the power for profit.

It's kind of like the homeowners now who can't sell their homes because no one can get a loan. But they could do the loan themselves and sell at a better price and faster.

The bottom line is if the market you are in is soft, get another market or steal market share by innovation!!

przemek
User Rank
Gold
Re: Interface Importance
przemek   11/20/2011 7:43:50 PM
NO RATINGS
You can't just plug in voltage-generating stuff into any 120vac outlet---it could back-feed the distribution network beyond the pole pig transformers during a power outage, and kill someone.

Jerry dycus
User Rank
Gold
Re: Interface Importance
Jerry dycus   11/20/2011 9:39:09 PM
NO RATINGS
 

przmek, have you ever done the math, studied or think about in any way what you just wrote?

First grid-tie inverters only work when the grid is up.  Next even if it didn't stop, as designed  from no grid signal, the load of the downed grid would short out any inverter rated at 1kw.

Many PV panels now come or equiped with a Microsine inverter that works the same but only 230wt.

 

przemek
User Rank
Gold
Re: Interface Importance
przemek   11/20/2011 10:59:10 PM
NO RATINGS
Jerry dycus, why so insulting? I am not EE but I do understand the physics of this. I think we both agree that the electrical code requires protecting the network from back-feeding ("islanding"): http://homepower.com/article/?file=HP130_pg28_ATE_2 You are right that under most circumstances 1kW would just short but one could easily come up with a scenario where it wouldn't, e.g. when all the other neighborhood's transfer switches turn off, and the feeder wires are down, and the Pepco crew shows up to repair it. Unlikely, but possible, which is why UL 1741 is there. Standard gensets use electro-mechanical transfer switches to accomplish that. You point that new grid-tie systems have automatic transfer switches; the link above describes how they do it, with small 'hunting' around the feed V/f, which I didn't know about---quite clever, that. Still, using your 20A wall outlets seem like a wrong way to go; limited current, and just the sheer inconvenience--there are no outlets on my house anywhere near where I might put the solar panels up. The only sane way to wire them would be a dedicated circuit going up into the attic, which I would wire permanently with a disconnect in or near the distribution panel.

Jerry dycus
User Rank
Gold
Re: Interface Importance
Jerry dycus   11/21/2011 1:44:15 AM
NO RATINGS
 

     As I said the GT inverter already has shut down circuits and can't by code.   There isn't a way for it to hurt a lineman.  Please show in actual gridtie equipment how that can happen?   And as I said even if it did it would short out.  Basic physics.

         I live in Fl and would have went into production of RE but only utilities can sell electricity here by our gov bought and paid for.  Not only that but the ratepayers have to pay $.03/kw for 10 yrs to buy Progress and FPL 2 new nukes each for free!  So I'm doing EV's instead.

Jerry dycus
User Rank
Gold
Re: Interface Importance
Jerry dycus   11/21/2011 1:44:15 AM
NO RATINGS
 

     As I said the GT inverter already has shut down circuits and can't by code.   There isn't a way for it to hurt a lineman.  Please show in actual gridtie equipment how that can happen?   And as I said even if it did it would short out.  Basic physics.

         I live in Fl and would have went into production of RE but only utilities can sell electricity here by our gov bought and paid for.  Not only that but the ratepayers have to pay $.03/kw for 10 yrs to buy Progress and FPL 2 new nukes each for free!  So I'm doing EV's instead.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Selling Power is Illegal-?! REALLY-??!!
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   11/20/2011 10:11:06 PM
NO RATINGS

On the topic of “selling back” power for profit, I was astonished to learn from a close associate who retired from 35 years as an EE and launched a small State-Licensed Solar contracting company in South Florida, that selling power back into “The Grid” has been declared Illegal in Florida. (Really-?!) I have encouraged my associate to seek anti-trust counsel.  Learn more at http://schroedersolarenergy.com

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Selling Power is Illegal-?! REALLY-??!!
Ann R. Thryft   11/21/2011 12:06:19 PM
NO RATINGS
Jim, that's incredible. Although back in the 70s and 80s we experienced similar resistance, to put it mildly, from utilities here in California about buy-back, it's now an established practice. 

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Storage?
Charles Murray   12/2/2011 4:58:46 PM
NO RATINGS
Grid parity is certainly a worthy goal, but questions remain about the real cost of building back-up systems to prevent blackouts when the sun's not shining. A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal stated that renewables need "up to 90% of their capacity back up to revent blackouts." As long as we pay twice (or at least an extra 90%) for our power generation, solar will be a niche.  

Partner Zone
More Blogs from Guest Blogs
Iterative design — the cycle of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product — existed long before additive manufacturing, but it has never been as efficient and approachable as it is today with 3D printing.
People usually think of a time constant as the time it takes a first order system to change 63% of the way to the steady state value in response to a step change in the input -- it’s basically a measure of the responsiveness of the system. This is true, but in reality, time constants are often not constant. They can change just like system gains change as the environment or the geometry of the system changes.
At its core, sound is a relatively simple natural phenomenon caused by pressure pulsations or vibrations propagating through various mediums in the world around us. Studies have shown that the complete absence of sound can drive a person insane, causing them to experience hallucinations. Likewise, loud and overwhelming sound can have the same effect. This especially holds true in manufacturing and plant environments where loud noises are the norm.
The tech industry is no stranger to crowdsourcing funding for new projects, and the team at element14 are no strangers to crowdsourcing ideas for new projects through its design competitions. But what about crowdsourcing new components?
It has been common wisdom of late that anything you needed to manufacture could be made more cost-effectively on foreign shores. Following World War II, the label “Made in Japan” was as ubiquitous as is the “Made in China” version today and often had very similar -- not always positive -- connotations. Along the way, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Pacific-rim nations have each had their turn at being the preferred low-cost alternative to manufacturing here in the US.
Design News Webinar Series
11/19/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
11/6/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
10/7/2014 8:00 a.m. California / 11:00 a.m. New York
12/11/2014 8:00 a.m. California / 11:00 a.m. New York
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Nov 17 - 21, Analog Design for the Digital World
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Last Archived Class
Sponsored by Littelfuse
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service