July 31, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
Turns out, a lot more can be done to chip away at the manufacturing cost. This is especially true when silicon technology companies are eager to set their products apart in a market that’s got way too many same-same solar panels.
“There is a real sense now that the crystalline silicon process flow, which has been fairly mature and undifferentiated, is headed for a change,” said Shyam Mehta, senior analyst at GTM Research, during a webinar on the photovoltaic market outlook on Tuesday.
Mehta rattled off some of the technologies that are being developed or employed: select emitters, cast monocrystalline ingot, backside passivation. Silicon wafers will become thinner than the 200-micron variety that is commonly used today. All these technologies are meant to reduce material costs and improve the amount of sunlight that solar cells can convert to electricity.
It’s not as if solar companies all of a sudden woke up and decided they needed to take risks and experiment. Some of these new materials and factory equipment have been under development for some years and are only now good enough to make their debut in the market. Others were technologies that weren’t developed as stand-alone products. Instead, their makers had intended to keep them in-house for making solar cells and panels for sale. Startups that have modified their business plans along the way included Twin Creeks Technologies (thin wafers), 1366 Technologies (low-cost wafers) and Calisolar (purified metallurgical silicon; the company changed its name to Silicor Materials).
Innovalight also morphed from a solar cell maker into silicon ink developer. It signed up a bunch of manufacturers that used the ink to improve their cells’ efficiencies. DuPont bought Innovalight last year but didn’t’ disclose the purchase price.
The troubling imbalance of supply and demand that has plagued the PV business over the past year and a half is prompting PV companies to accelerate new technology development. Or they are trying. Solar cell and panel makers who in the past used standardized equipment are all looking for ways to boost the efficiencies of their products, whether through in-house RD development or technology acquisitions. Suntech Power made a big deal about a process to create a hybrid wafer that produces more efficient cells. Canadian Solar boasts of a new technology that can collect more light, and its CEO is weighing whether to build a 700 MW factory to produce solar cells with the new technology.
The cost of making solar panels fell to around $0.96 per watt in 2011 for vertically-integrated factories in China, home to the heaviest concentration of silicon solar panel makers, GTM said. The cost will likely fall to $0.64 per watt before this year is over and reach $0.47 per watt in 2015.
Article source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/07/a-rush-to-innovate-silicon-solar-technology?cmpid=rss
July 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
The solar-powered Seiko Astron watch has so many built-in gadgets that it would make even James Bond jealous! It has been dubbed the most “intelligent watch ever built” as it features a low-energy GPS receiver that allows it to recognize all 39 time zones on earth via a global network of GPS satellites. The watch is also powered by sunlight, which means that you’ll virtually never need to change its battery.
The Seiko Astron takes its name from the Seiko Astron of 1969, which was the world’s first quartz watch. The Japanese company has clearly resurrected the moniker because they deem this new watch to be a worthy successor to its groundbreaking predecessor.
Seiko says that the watch has “atomic clock precision” because once a day, the Seiko Astron receives the time signal automatically and, on demand, connects to four or more GPS satellites that orbit the earth. This pinpoints its position and identifies the time zone and the exact time. The hands then automatically move to the correct local time.
The Seiko Astron is also available in several configurations, with one of the three models available in high-intensity titanium, which is stronger than stainless steel but has only 60% of its weight. The other two versions are made from stainless steel. Other features of the watch include a dual time sub-dial, in-flight mode indicator and a sapphire crystal face with ‘Super-Clear Coating’.
In a statement, Seiko said their new watch “required years of painstaking and ground-breaking RD by Seiko Epson Corporation, which has resulted in no less than 100 patent applications. Only Seiko’s advanced energy-efficiency technology could invent the miniature GPS receiver that requires so little energy to receive GPS signals from four or more satellites. Only Seiko’s unrivaled skills in micro-engineering could package this technology into a watch that is just 47 mm in diameter and weighs about 135 grams. And only Seiko’s advanced IC circuitry expertise could make it possible for the watch to divide the world into one million ‘squares’ and allocate a time zone to each.”
So there you go! To see the Astron in action, check out the video from Seiko below.
+ Seiko Watches
Article source: http://inhabitat.com/the-solar-powered-seiko-astron-watch-even-boasts-a-mini-gps-receiver/
July 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
Discovering new materials to make cheaper and more efficient solar cells is the holy grail of the photovoltaic solar industry and recent news indicate that some significant steps in that direction are being taken.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley recently announced they have developed a new technology that would enable cheap, high-efficiency solar cells to be made from almost any semiconductor material, including more abundant materials such as metal oxides, sulfides and phosphides. Those materials hitherto have been considered unsuitable for solar cells because it is difficult to tailor their properties by chemical means.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity using semiconductor materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, that is, they absorb photons and release electrons that can be channeled into an electrical current. Currently photovoltaic technologies rely on scarce and expensive semiconductors, such as large crystals of silicon, or thin films of cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide, that are tricky or expensive to fabricate into devices.
“It’s time we put bad materials to good use,” said physicist Alex Zettl, who led this research along with colleague Feng Wang. “Our technology allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, non-toxic semiconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field.” Zettl is the corresponding author of a paper describing this work in the journal Nano Letters. The paper is titled Screening-Engineered Field-Effect Solar Cells. Co-authoring it were William Regan, Steven Byrnes, Will Gannett, Onur Ergen, Oscar Vazquez-Mena and Feng Wang.
The new technology is called screening-engineered field-effect photovoltaics (SFPV) because it utilizes the electric field effect, a well understood phenomenon by which the concentration of charge-carriers in a semiconductor is altered by the application of an electric field. With the SFPV technology, a carefully designed partially screening top electrode lets the gate electric field sufficiently penetrate the electrode and more uniformly modulate the semiconductor carrier concentration and type to induce a p-n junction. This enables the creation of high quality p-n junctions in semiconductors that are difficult if not impossible to dope by conventional chemical methods.
Under the SFPV system, the architecture of the top electrode is structured so that at least one of the electrode’s dimensions is confined. In one configuration, working with copper oxide, the Berkeley researchers shaped the electrode contact into narrow fingers; in another configuration, working with silicon, they made the top contact ultra-thin (single layer graphene) across the surface. With sufficiently narrow fingers, the gate field creates a low electrical resistance inversion layer between the fingers and a potential barrier beneath them. A uniformly thin top contact allows gate fields to penetrate and deplete/invert the underlying semiconductor. The results in both configurations are high quality p-n junctions.
“Solar technologies today face a cost-to-efficiency trade-off that has slowed widespread implementation,” added Zettl. “Our technology reduces the cost and complexity of fabricating solar cells and thereby provides what could be an important cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative that would accelerate the usage of solar energy.”
The researchers also demonstrated the SFPV effect in a self-gating configuration, in which the gate was powered internally by the electrical activity of the cell itself.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.
Article source: http://blog.cleantechies.com/2012/07/31/researchers-develop-method-to-create-photovoltaic-solar-cells-from-any-materials/
July 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
Oman, which boasts the one of the highest solar energy densities in the world, is currently investigating the development of a 200MW solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) project. If the project gets the go-ahead, then the solar farm could generate the entire country’s electricity supply while covering a tiny percentage of the desert with solar collectors, dramatically reducing the state’s dependence on domestic oil.
The project, which will be overseen by the Oman Power and Water Procurement OPWP), is still awaiting approval from the nation’s Council of Ministers via the Public Authority on Electricity and Water (PAEW). However it is expected to get the green light and move forward to calling for requests for proposals soon.
The OPWP have said that they will be build a center for the development and manufacture of solar technologies as well as collecting dust monitoring data from sites in Adam and Manah, Oman. By investing in the technology, it is hoped that the OPWP will be able to create the most efficient solar power possible. The company have already stated that the relative proportions of PV and CSP technologies will depend upon “the maturity of the technology solution”.
If the solar farm is constructed, then Oman will be able to reduce its domestic usage of oil, allowing it to increase exports and boost revenues. However it will also improve the country’s green image and bolster foreign tourism. For a country will such a large level of sunlight, Oman shockingly still relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels. Hopefully, this solar project will show the benefits of renewable energy and inspire the sultanate to diversify its energy supplies even further.
+ Oman Power and Water Procurement
via Solar Server/Clean Technica
Images: USFWS Mountain Prairie andJD | Photography
Article source: http://inhabitat.com/oman-plans-construction-of-massive-200-mw-desert-solar-farm/