Solar energy has emerged as one of the most viable forms of renewable energy. But to make it even more prevalent and a standard part of power grids, solar-energy harvesting technologies need to perform at a higher level, achieving more efficiency, or a higher ratio of electrical output to the incident energy in the form of sunlight. Manufacturing the cells also must become more cost-effective and less labor-intensive to further promote their widespread use.
Click on the image below to check out some of the latest ways researchers are working to improve the performance and manufacturing of solar cells.
A group of German and French scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti, and the Helmholtz Center Berlin recently set a new world record in efficiency of 44.7 percent in a solar cell. They achieved this percentage with a four-junction solar cell that took them three years to develop. The solar cell is comprised of four solar subcells based on III-V compound semiconductors for use in concentrator photovoltaics. (Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE)
I appreciate your input. Can you give me some specifics?
What state are you in? How big a system did you put on? How much did it cost? How much of your subsidy was federal and how much was from the state?
How effective is your system? What was your electric bill before and after installation? If you don't want to share that, what is your average usage in Kwh before and after installation? (i.e. how much electricity have you produced?).
This will tell us your payback.
How about maintenance? Do you have to go up on the roof and wash off the panels? Do you have snow? Have you thought about what's going to happen when you have to reshingle your roof?
Al Klu, two year back I had installed PV and solar energy generating system over my roof and I got 60 % subsidy from local government. Moreover, they have the buyback policy for the excess generated energy to grid.
I would love to put solar panels on my roof here in Connecticut. We have a perfect, unobstructed, south facing roof. However, even with all the government subsidies, our payback is targeted for about 15 years (optomistic sales pitch, the reality is that it would be much longer). After this time, I would expect the equipment to start needing repairs, or even replacement, which basically says that we are not saving anything. A big hidden expense will show up when we need to re-shingle our roof (about 5 to 10 years from now). They would have to come out, take off the panels and supports, then put them back on after the roof is shingled. This quoted cost is about $2000 dollars - wiping out any savings from the panels.
There are a few companies that are popping up that will put the panels on for "free", but basically, we would be paying near normal rates (no savings), for them to make money on our roof. And we would still need to pay the $2000 for the re-shingling of our roof.
I would take the plunge if the payback was 5 years or less. That would need a few more incremental steps in cost reductions. I don't know why you think individuals in Middle Class America have more money for this huge investment than our government. I certainly can't "opt" to purchase PV outright at the present time.
And you are asking the Government to just "give away" money (that's what subsidies, grants, and tax rebates are really doing) with no return on investment. My way, at least the government power bill will be reduced - hopefully by the amount of the investment.
"You and I are saying the exact same thing, except I am proposing that the government help make the technology popular. You are waiting for "someone else" to make it popular first. "
Al Klu, would you think government will invest for it, I won't think because it requires huge investment. I feel the best way is government or local states can offer subsidies for citizens, who are opting for outright purchase of solar PV cells and other components.
The chicken and egg thing again. You and I are saying the exact same thing, except I am proposing that the government help make the technology popular. You are waiting for "someone else" to make it popular first.
If the government is procuring solar panels, and putting them on roofs of local government buildings (schools, town halls, courthouses, military complexes), the image of solar panels in use becomes widespread and therefore more popular. As the general public sees this technology as common, and hopefully effective, they are more likely to participate by buying into solar.
If you see solar panels everywhere, wouldn't you be more likely to buy some for your own home? As more people buy solar, there is more money going into the businesses, inlcuding manufacturers, and there will be more competition.
A precedent for this process is the entire space program, especially in the 60's. How many new products and product improvements came from the government sponsored space program? My company was one of the very first companies to develop the electron beam welding process for industry. And this was because the government purchased space equipment that needed the EB weld technology.
"As the design and manufacturing processes improve, costs will go down. This is exactly why the government should be putting its money where its mouth is. In other words, the governments should be buying solar for government buildings, miltary bases, etc. "
Al Klu, cost will comes downs only when technology becomes popular and competition happens with in the manufacturer.
Good Post. As the design and manufacturing processes improve, costs will go down. This is exactly why the government should be putting its money where its mouth is. In other words, the governments should be buying solar for government buildings, miltary bases, etc.
It was not right to just "loan" Solyndra $500M, but it is right to buy $500M of solar panels. It will help develop the industry to spend $500M on solar product (better be made in America) than it would be to buy aircraft and tanks that many times those folks don't even want.
The point is to buy different technologies and see which ones work best.
Finally, in addition to improving this industry, there is payback in lower electric bills across the board.
When the system was installed, Mssachusetts had a generous Solar Renewable Engergy credit (SREC). For every Megawatt-hour the system produced an SREC was issued. These credits were to be purchased by the power generation companies to compiy with renewable energy sourcing targets. This was supposed to create a demand for independtly generated SRECs. It worked for the first year and for each credit I recieved ~$500. I think I had 3 credits that were purchased at this price. Unfortunately, far more people/companies also saw this as a good thing and built quite a lot of solar capacity in the following year. This produced an oversupply of SRECs and the price was significantly depressed (~$235/SREC). Massachusetts is no longer allowing new installations under this system in order to stabilize SREC pricing.
The original calculations for payback showed something like 6 years for ROI. The SREC pricing has significantly disrupted this. I have a low interest loan on the installation (2.75%) and use the not isignificant electric bill savings to pay it down, along with the SREC sales proceeds.
I have continued to watch the prices of solar panels and other equipment and have seen them decline significantly. A system like mine could be built now for at less than half of what I paid for it.
I've learned a lot about how it should have been done, to make operational issues easier, but I have no regrets.
As manufacturers add new technologies to their products, designing for compliance becomes more difficult. Prepare for the certification testing process. Otherwise, you increase the risk of discovering a safety issue after a product leaves the assembly line. That will cause significant time-to-market delays, be much costlier to fix, and damage your brand in the eyes of customers.
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