Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Third Wave

In the last week, the utility that I work with has announced two big projects. One is a 100 MW biomass project which despite the headline is not a 2.3 billion dollar plant. The other is a 30 MW PV project. Curiously, the biomass project made the first page above the fold and the solar project announcement was somewhat buried.

Given that the Pv project will be the largest in the United States, one would have thought that it was worth a mention. And, in fairness, I'm sure it will be when the right time comes.

Moving towards a photonic future on a grand scale requires that we, as a global community, devise and develop the most cost efficient methods of converting photons to electrons we can. This third wave of photovoltaic development must be orders of scale faster to produce and less expensive.

One of the likely candidates to lead the pack with their third wave technology is Nanosolar. Here is a piece from the CEO's blog:

Nanosolar Achieves 1GW CIGS Deposition Throughput
June 18, 2008
By Martin Roscheisen, CEO

"Most production tools in the solar industry tend to have a 10-30 megawatt (MW) annual production capacity. How is it possible to have a single tool with gigawatt throughput?

This feat is fundamentally enabled through the proprietary nanoparticle ink we have spent so many years developing. It allows us to deliver efficient solar cells (presently up to more than 14%) that are simply printed.

Printing is a simple, fast, and robust coating process that eliminates the need for expensive high-vacuum chambers and the kinds of high-vacuum based deposition techniques sometimes used in industries where there are a lot more $/sqm available for competitive manufacturing cost.

Our 1GW CIGS coater cost $1.65 million. At the 100 feet-per-minute speed shown in the video, that’s an astonishing two orders of magnitude more capital efficient than a high-vacuum process: a twenty times slower high-vacuum tool would have cost about ten times as much.

Plus if we cared to run it even faster, we could. (The same coating technique works in principle for speeds up to 2000 feet-per-minute too. In fact, it turns out the faster we run, the better the coating!)

And here is another post from the Nanosolar blog:

At Nanosolar, we genuinely believe that meaningful scale for solar will come foremost from utility-scale solar power plants, particularly from municipal solar power plants of 2-10 megawatts (MW) in size. These power plants consist of rows of solar panels mounted onto the ground of free fields at the outskirts of towns and cities, feeding electricity directly into the municipal power grid.

A 2MW municipal solar power plant requires about 10 acres of land to serve a city of 1,000 homes — that’s acreage generally easily available at the outskirts of any city of such size in even the most developed countries. With a solar power plant in each of several hundred cities, a Gigawatt of power is delivered locally to where it is needed, in a digestible size.

In a municipal solar power plant, solar panels are mounted onto rails above the ground so that grass and flowers can continue to flourish in between and below the rows of panels. Care is taken that sufficient amounts of rainwater can drop through between adjoining panels so that the flowers and organisms below are not starved. In fact, in dry regions, the solar panels even benefit the ecosystem by increasing the moisture level in the soil."

This is the kind of attention to the environment that we need around a solar plant. Too many utility folks want to make the field look like a utility plant or a substation.

Hopefully we will see this kind of attention as we begin our project.

And hopefully, the world will begin to develop and deploy

this third wave of solar .

Even as the fourth wave comes.



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