Humankind has the potential to move now towards a light based economy.
If we create an international effort, not just a national effort, to get the cost of solar energy down to below 1 dollar per watt, humankind can move toward a prosperous, sustainable, and peaceful future.
If we do not, we are very likely headed over a cliff as the nations of the world war over the oil that remains.
As I have been reporting, there are many strategies that are available now.
One, is the concept of increasing the amount of solar that hits a photovoltaic surface with materials that are significantly less costly than the solar material itself. This replacement of reflector material for the photon to electron material results in cost efficiencies.
Here is a story that came out in the last week saying exactly that.
Cost-Competitive Solar Called "Imminent"
Renewable Energy Access
Thursday 21 July 2005
Golden, Colorado - Solar concentrators using highly efficient photovoltaic solar cells will reduce the cost of electricity from sunlight to competitive levels soon, attendees were told at a recent international conference on the subject.
"Concentrating solar electric power is on the cusp of delivering on its promise of low-cost, reliable, solar-generated electricity at a cost that is competitive with mainstream electric generation systems," said Vahan Garboushian, president of Amonix, Inc. of Torrance, Calif. "With the advent of multijunction solar cells, PV concentrator power generation at $3 per watt is imminent in the coming few years."
Photovoltaic (PV) concentrator units are much different than the flat photovoltaic modules sold around the world; almost 1,200 MW of flat PV modules were sold last year. PV concentrators come in larger module sizes, typically 20 kilowatts to 35 kilowatts each, they track the sun during the day and they are more suitable for large utility installations.
Ordinary, flat-plate solar modules have their entire sun-receiving surface covered with costly silicon solar cells and are positioned at a fixed tilt to the sun. In contrast, Amonix's systems offer significant cost savings by using inexpensive flat, plastic Fresnel lenses as an intermediary between the sun and the cell. These magnifying lenses focus and concentrate sunlight approximately 250 times onto a relatively small cell area. Through concentration, the required silicon cell area needed for a given amount of electricity is reduced by an amount approximating its concentration ratio (250 times). In effect, a low-cost plastic concentrator lens is being substituted for relatively expensive silicon.
"We have seen steady progress in photovoltaic concentrator technology," said Hayden, Solar Program Coordinator at APS. "We are working with advanced multijunction PV cells that are approaching 38% efficiency, and even higher is possible over time. Our goal is to install PV concentrator systems at $3 per watt, which can happen soon at production rates of 10 megawatts per year. Once that happens, higher volumes are readily achieved."
At the conference, NREL announced a new record efficiency of 37.9 percent at 10 suns, a measure of concentrated sunlight. Soon thereafter Boeing-Spectrolab, under contract to NREL and the Department of Energy, surpassed the NREL record with 39.0 percent at 236 suns announced at the European photovoltaic conference in Barcelona, Spain. The efficiency of a solar cell is the percentage of the sun's energy the device converts to electricity.
The ultra-high efficiency solar cell technology, initially discovered at NREL and successfully developed for space satellites in the 1990s by Boeing-Spectrolab Inc., in Sylmar, Calif., proves to be enabling for low-cost terrestrial SEC systems. "Today, we are capitalizing on the major investments made by the space satellite industry and reducing the cost of the semiconductor solar cell by two to three orders of magnitude by operating the cells under high sun concentrations, typically 300 to 1000 times.
Boeing-Spectrolab and NREL have demonstrated over 37 percent efficient concentrator solar cells and field testing of Spectrolab's cells for over one year with no degradation promise a bright future. We expect concentrator solar cell performance to reach or exceed 40 percent by 2006 and anticipate continued enhancement in performance and reliability," said Dr. Nasser Karam, vice president of Advanced Technology Products at Spectrolab Inc. "We are working closely with PV concentrator manufacturers to ensure their success and expedient deployment of the multijunction PV concentrator cells" said Dr. Raed Sherif, director of PV concentrator products, at Spectrolab. "
As encouraging as this is, the costs still need to be closer to $1.00 per watt not $3.00.
In fact, we need to get to 50 cents a watt.
But with an international effort to bring these costs down,
With a concerted effort to unify the transportation sector
with the stationary generation sector,
with the development of plug in hybrid cars;
With significant investments in wind power development,
with its already more than competitive electric power;
With the creation of an advanced efficient economy,
with offices and homes that are built for economy;
With a new understanding of the potential of our tools
which expand our ability to telework and telecommunicate;
With a new understanding of the fallacies behind full employment,
and economies that must grow to live;
We can avoid the terrible calamity of an all-out war,
and/or the potential loss of our freedoms to a fascist state
that we are facing today in an all-too-soon approaching tomorrow.
This is not hyperbole.
This is not a prediction.
This is not a guess.
This is the projection of our present course,
into the event horizon.
This is math.
This is physics.
It is intelligent design.
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