Posted on March 10, 2009 @ 07:52:00 AM by Paul Meagher
It is difficult to stay on top of solar technology without making a dedicated effort to follow developments in the field. I can't claim to be doing so, however, I did learn a couple of new things about solar as a result of reading the "Physics for Future Presidents" book which I mentioned in a previous blog.
One improvement concerns the increasing efficiency of photovoltaics. One of the primary technical improvements is to use different layers to convert light of different "colors". This allows photovoltaics to efficiently convert light into energy for the full spectrum of wavelengths associated with light energy. The efficiency for this technology is at around 40-41% with companies duking it out for the record with incremental improvements to this basic advance.
This technology is not cheap so there is a question as to whether it would ever be economically viable to produce in large quantities. This brings us to our second idea, which is to concentrate light onto these highly efficient light energy converters. While the cost-per-square-foot of these improved photovoltaics might be high, if we can concentrate light from a broad area onto these photovoltaics, and these concentrators are cheap and effective, then the cost-per-watt of power comes down significantly.
The research area combining highly efficient photo-voltaics and concentrator technology is called Solar Concentrator Technology and is a technology that I hope to learn more about in the future now that I am aware of it.
Solar Concentrator Technology is only one of the new developments in the solar industry; there are also announcements coming out about solar technology breaking the $1 dollar per watt threshold and what this means for the industry.