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Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 202
32VAC Offline OP

May 01, 2007 06:51pm
Article from: AAP

CHEAPER solar power could be available in a few years due to pioneering work by Australian scientists on an improved solar cell.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence have developed a means of increasing the cell's light-trapping ability by up to 50 per cent.

They say that apart from a home's cooking and hot-water heating needs, such improvement to an electric solar system could power an average house with panels covering 10 square metres.

"Overall, our new solar cells increase power generated by 30 per cent," said Dr Kylie Catchpole, co-author of the study.

As part of the process, UNSW researchers, led by Phd student Supriya Pillai, place a thin film (about 10 nanometres thick) of silver onto a solar cell and heat it to 200C.

The film breaks into tiny 100-nanometre "islands" of silver and raises its light-trapping efficiency.

With this the team can move from thick expensive silicon "wafers" to cheaper "thin film" cells with less silicon.

"Most thin-film solar cells are between eight and 10 per cent efficient, but the new technique could increase efficiency to between 13 and 15 per cent," Dr Catchpole said.

"If they're below 10 per cent efficient, then you can't really afford to install them, because it would take up too much of your roof area, for example, to power your house."

It can start to become commercially viable once the converting efficiency exceeds 10 per cent.

Silicon is a poor absorber of light. That affects the cost of solar technology, as up to 45 per cent of its cost is due to the cost of silicon.

Prices for an installed solar system for an average house could fall 25 per cent from $20,000 to $15,000 once the technology filters through, the researchers say.

There are only 30,000 Australian households – out of eight million – which have solar panels for electricity.

If this solar system is used with a solar heating system for water and cooking, the excess power generated can be sent back to the power grid.

"You connect with the electricity grid system where you have no batteries and then sell back your excess electricity," Dr Catchpole said.

"You are then not wasting any electricity, similar to Michael Mobb's house (in Chippendale, Sydney)," she said.

The report of the breakthrough will appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.,23599,21654603-1702,00.html

Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 866
Likes: 4
Time will tell if it becomes viable.
I have a sceptic opinion about it.

There are a lot of articles published about fantastic new developements, but reality is a different matter, and so are the claims about certain products.
Also the test results are measured often under perfect circumstances, clean panels, no dust, or mould etc.

Don't get me wrong, solar panels have their place, remote transmitter stations, lighting applications, traffic signs.

A thing what often gets forgotten is the energy needed to built a solar panel often outweights the electricity produced from it, so the term ""green"" doesn't really apply.

The product of rotation, excitation and flux produces electricty.
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 456
Yes, If being purley "green" is your concern, one should consider emissions used to make the panel, or whatever engery and other resources went to construct your energy source of choice. It applies to the enviromental impact of dams or mines, concrete and materials haulage, and other factors, and disposal of spent fuel (especially nuclear), and disposal of the facilities and/or equipment at their end of life.

All that said, as an investment to not pay the power companies, solar might seem that much of a better deal when those panels reach the market.

Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 613
One of the things that occurs to me is electric solar panels only convert a small portion of the light to electricity but there is a huge heat component not being used. Has anyone seen an electric solar panel with a water pre heater?

Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 288
A thing what often gets forgotten is the energy needed to built a solar panel often outweights the electricity produced from it, so the term ""green"" doesn't really apply.

I often hear people say this, but I have yet to be shown evidence of it. All credible studies that I have seen point to payback times of 2.5-8 years, depending on the type of cell. A 25 year warranty is now standard among PV manufacturers. How long cells will actually last is anybody's guess (some of the original ones from the '50s are still capable of producing power), but 30 years does not seem unreasonable.

It is true that the power output degrades steadily over time. The typical 25 year warranty allows for 20% output degradation. I'm told that 10% is more common during that time.

The claim that PV cells are a net energy sink may have a grain of truth, rooted in the infancy of the industry, when costs were around $4000 per watt and only NASA could afford it. Back when they were a laboratory curiosity, they may well have been an energy sink. However, these claims have no truth at the present time.

It may be true that some PV cells in some applications do not produce a positive energy balance. Battery charging PV cells, for example, do no useful work after the battery is full. A poorly-sited installation, such as one with excessive shading, may yield little return on investment, just as a car with the parking brake locked will not yield optimal fuel economy.

It is true that at the present time, PV is very expensive, but it is not an energy sink.

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