I see what you are saying Rich, but I think they may be on to something - versatility may be key to being able to utilize the technology. Portable units that are more flexible make good sense. It also involves a paradigm shift - people have to get on board. I think renewable energy is only going to become increasingly important, despite its slow start.
Rich - you are right to be skeptical. The industry is going through an interesting time right now, but our technology is certainly different. What we've developed here at Alta, is a solar cell that is thin and flexible, AND ultra-efficient, AND easily manufacturable. This allows us to embed energy generation into things where power, size, and weight matter, while providing a significantly more meaningful amount of power than previously possible. Our target markets are systems that are primarily battery powered and un-connected to the grid in order to extend the usefulness of those systems.
Charles - that is a great observation, and exactly what we are focused on. Off-grid energy is all about mobility which values size and weight. Many thin film technologies have tried to succeed here, but their low-efficiencies (barely 10%) have prevented them from succeeding. Our ultra-thin technology at 29% efficiency provides significantly more power per kg and per square meter, which changes the game dramatically.
Solar will only take when the time it takes to recover the panel's cost is shorter than 3 years. Right now, most alternative energy options take quite some time to recover initial investment, even with subsidies. Not to get into specifics, but some solar panels in prototype phases are returning over the industries best of a 15% light-energy ratio. When a panel approaches 40% return, then maybe it will take over.
As for energy from everywhere, vibration, sound, heat, etc may play a part in mobile power supplies. We can only hope.
Thin and flexible solar cells may be one of the solar energy waves of the future. We've reported on a few of these in DN. Here's one: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=248975 and we'll be publishing a post on another one soon. Mydesign is correct, solar panels are used on spacecraft and satellites.
Thanks for all the great comments. Solar has most definitely been used in the space industry for years. What Alta Devices is providing, is a similar (and in some cases higher) level of energy conversion efficiency, at price points and scale targeted at "mobile" terrestrial applications. The ability to embed power into every day materials is what sets us apart from the rest of the industry. We are certainly in an exciting phase in the industry.
The problem I've had with using solar for my lawn mower is that the storage batteries don't last very long. In my application lead acid only lasts about three years. I just repacked with NiMh, hoping to get a little more life, but the cost of NiMh is about 3X of SLA, so it's a hefty pricetag. I realize that solar charging has nothing to do with the short life span of the batteries, but it does make me realize that all alternative energy sources need a better storage medium. Even if a medium drain application had to repack the cells every five years, the cost would be excessive.
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