The news coming at us about solar panels is good news for consumers. The cost of solar panels keeps falling because there is still a lot of demand to drive innovation and scaling in the solar panels market as new announcements of the latest megawatt solar panel installation comes out. The latest news from Suntech predicts that the cost of solar panels will drop another 30% in 2012. That follows a 75% drop the past two years.
Solar Junction has just set a new record for cell efficiency of 44%, which does not equal what you would get in solar panels in production yet, but it would certainly result in much better efficiencies than the present 14-18%. Better efficiencies they say over the next few years should deliver cell costs of about 69c/W.
In another post, we read that anti-reflective glass coatings have increased light capture by 75% which translates into a 3% improvement in power output. Yes, only 3%, but as the article points out it is significant over a whole solar array and effectively brings down the cost per mWh of electricity produced over it’s life.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have discovered how to modify silicon by the addition of sulfur which allows solar panels to capture the energy from the infrared spectrum of light from the sun that is presently not harvested by today’s cells. This innovation effectively doubles the output!
Bandgap Engineering has discovered how to double the output through the use of nano wires, another technology that promises big gains in efficiencies down the line.
Balancing all of the positive news you can read about the slowness of American states, such as Virginia who have no consumer incentives as they protect coal based energy providers, to offer incentives for solar installation as well as the eminent closure of many solar cell manufacturers. This is not bad news, it points to the solar panel market getting into the competitive state that it needs to get to in order to be a real viable mass alternative to the electricity grid. It is the capitalist, COMPETITION driven mechanism at work. This is how it should be and how it has been at the start of any of the major market revolutions from the iPod (MP3 players) all the way back through the automobile and airplanes to the railroads.
That makes my glass half full! And there is plenty more news if you car to look for it.