By Mark Halper
Posting in Design
N. Carolina's Semprius and its German backer Siemens develop a prototype that converts more than a third of sunlight into electricity. Smoke and mirrors? Well, mirrors anyway.
The prototype converts 33.9 percent of the sunlight that hits it into electricity, according to separate press releases from the two companies. That's more than double the most efficient conventional photovoltaic (PV) module on the market, where performance tops out at 16 percent, Forbes magazine found late last year.
It beats the previous laboratory best of 32 percent, Semprius said, citing testing and certification from Spain's Instituto de Energia Solar at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Semprius late last year announced a breakthrough in the 41 percent efficient solar cells it builds into its modules. Cells typically are more efficient than the overall module.
In the game of energy economics, even a small improvement could make a big difference in returns on investment, especially on large utility scale projects. Efficient panels can also make better use of limited space on, say, a rooftop.
"This is a significant milestone for Semprius and the entire PV industry," said Scott Burroughs, vice president of technology at Durham, N.C.-based Semprius. "For the first time we have been able to convert more than one third of the sun's energy into usable electricity."
The Semprius solar module magnifies the sunlight before it hits a photovoltaic cell, using mirrors and lenses. The design is a form of concentrated photovoltaics (CPV), which borrows from conventional PV that produce direct electricity, and from solar thermal, the technology in which mirrors reflect sunlight onto a fluid that heats up and drives a steam turbine.
Siemens owns 16 percent of Semprius, after buying into the company last June with the express aim of scaling up concentrated CPV "to market maturity," the Siemens release notes. It is contributing expertise in components such as trackers that position the panels in optimal position. Semprius focuses on developing the module and cells.
CPV holds great potential but is in a much earlier market stage than PV or solar thermal, also known as concentrated solar power (CSP). "It has potential to become a game changer for the solar markets in regions with high irradiation," said Martin Pfund, CEO of Siemens Energy's photovoltaic business unit.
Semprius developed its technology with support from the U.S. Department of Energy's Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Image from Semprius.
More solar reflections on SmartPlanet:
- First Solar: Another record in thin-film solar efficiency
- Printed solar cells the size of a ballpoint pen tip are tiny, but mighty
- French-California connection sees solar through a new lens
- Magnifying solar electricity's future
Jan 31, 2012
I have read some of the posts here about how Solar cells are not cost efficient or fossil fuels are still more cost efficient. You need to look at the real costs of fossil fuels and the undisclosed or undiscussed costs of these fuels. First is the cost of sending our U.S. troops to the Middle-East and Asia and funding these wars at over 2 Trillion dollars to promote oil company policies like running pipe lines through various parts of Afghanistan and Iraq to transport crude and to control Iraqi oil production and futures. I have read that the oil companies considered the death of U.S. service personal and contractors an acceptable cost of doing business that would be absorbed by the U.S. tax payer. The oil companies are making record profits once again and paying no U.S. taxes but they are a major force driving U.S. policy makers. The oil, gas and coal companies receive roughly $52 billion dollars a year in Tax payer dollars. This $52 billion dollars does not include health or environmental cost of the biggest polluters dumping pollutants into our environment and turning where we live into a toxic toilet.
So what is the true cost for fossil fuels? Let us first ask anyone who has lost a loved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or had a loved one come back wounded. How much is each of these individuals worth? a $1000 each $2000 each? what ever dollar amount you decide on multiple that number by 60,000 for the dead and wounded, so far. Then add the cost of 2 trillion dollars for both wars, so far. Then add the 52 Billion dollars of subsidies the oil, gas and coal industries receive per year. Then figure out the cost to the environment with pollution events like the Deep Water Horizon Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the continued health care issues resulting from this spill alone (Link to story (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110310-gulf-oil-spill-air-pollution-science-nation/) not to mention the spill in Arkansas where the press were barred from entering. You need to place a value on the U.S. peoples health and the cost of cleaning up the pollution because the Tax Payers will foot this bill too. So the final costs for the cheaper fossil fuels is not really cheaper and once you look at all the data, non-renewable energy becomes prohibitively expensive.
It not just for commercial, but it is also for designs. You can tap it in your rooftop or even as a window. See that? It can be added also as an external window of a certain building or tower. To learn more about the benefits of solar pv, you can [url=http://futuresupply.co.uk/]visit the website[/url] of mine and time to get know about it. Paul
Explain to the average person, in layman's terms, just how much they will save and have in their pocket over 10 years, when you do that more people will listen and want to move forward, until then its just another finger someone is trying to shove in their pockets.
The one who hears only the sounds of the material world is similar to the deaf. The one who partakes of only material food and feels only its taste is deluded. The one who, in pursuit of prey, races at full speed is insane. By accumulating jewelry and adornments, people act to the detriment of themselves. The efforts of the wise are directed at having enough food, not at accumulating many objects. They, satisfied with little in the world of matter, choose the Primordial.
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Thank you Siemens! However, in Europe we are still anxious, will you be building still more nuclear energy or not. Hopefully not! Best wishes Ismo
Since solar panels last 30+ years, the cost of one of those would be lower/ year if we got paid $0.54 kwh for feeding the surplus onto the grid.
Could a home owner put one of those huge panels on a home? It would sure be easier to install one big one, that 150 small ones. Wind would be a problem, but I was just thinking of how much easier one mount would be, rather than 150.
Every year solar panels get more efficient. Solar already is at parity for cost with gas, nuclear, coal & oil. What is missing is a Feed-in Tariff paying $0.54 kwh in the USA. Then we could stop burning coal & stop the next super storm coming next month. Burning oil causes global warming.
Nothing is going to top solar energy economics and sustainability wise. The solar cell learning curve and efficiency gains are still on the high slope and net energy production is already cheaper unit than petroleum sources. However, until economic solar energy storage becomes feasible - solar development at a scale to make an energy deficit difference is going to languish. Our corrupt and grossly incompetent political leadership (both so-called political parties) that divert (for personal gain) the majority of this country's research resources to dead end and or unsustainable energy programs is a real tragedy - only exceeded by the American citizen's cowardly tolerance of this massive and endemic political corruption. We have a presidential election coming up and it offers zero choice for an intelligent energy development plan. Same as previous elections.
Environmental change and global warming are real, and they are threatening our whole existence on this earth. We are destroying our beautiful landscape and forests by digging indiscriminately into them just so we are able to feed our unlimited greed. However the good thing is people are becoming more and more aware about their environment these days, and many environmental consultancy firms like Seran (Pty) ltd are coming forward to help large infrastructural projects that can be made eco-friendly. For more information on how to help minimise the impact of large infrastructural projects on our environment, please visit http://www.seran.com.au/about-us. Seran pty ltd, an environmental consultancy firm based in melbourne, is helping melbourne and entire Australia to preserve the environment for sometime by putting proper environmental planning for large infrastructural projects.
where does the spinach(PS1) solar cell fit into this? http://www.care2.com/causes/how-to-make-solar-energy-better-use-spinach.html
This appears like losely spaced PV cells behind Fresnel lenses; this would make the individual cells more sensitive. One problem with PV cells is the efficiency degradation that takes place around 140f degrees; such a configuration would likely exacerbate this problem. This device needs to track the sun to be efficient.
I am not terribly well informed about current PV Cells, but surely any improvement in efficiency is welcome. The distribution of energy over thousands of square kilometers must be very inefficient with significant losses - the more that solar can compete with conventional power generation, the better ... even community arrays reducing the distance would be better than the current situation. It's that establishment cost which is prohibitive, but when you spread it over the life of the product, and take into account the other advantages, it has to be worth pursuing.
the more efficient the better. I woul dlike to have those panels on my own house http://www.handymandy.dk/solcelleanlaeg-fra-solaredge/
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CPV equipment is somewhat more expensive as an upfront capital cost ($/W), but it's higher efficiency means it will produce more energy over the entire lifetime, so it's levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is competitive or better than traditional thin film or silicon panels. The LCOE will depend on the strength of the solar resource at the site, so sunniest locations (California and SW states) are starting to see grid parity for solar technologies, both standard and CPV. Since CPV is less mature, it is expected to have better % improvement in efficiency and %decrease in cost over the next 10 years, leading to knock-out combination. This 2008 paper has good explanation and some values http://www.slideshare.net/warlor/levelized-cost-of-electricity-for-cpv-paper-nishikawa
Yea. This is the future. I'm currently working on a tracking system for these types of CPV panels. I plan to have it ready sometime next year. These kinds of panels may get electricity to the grid with an overall system efficiency of 20 to 25 percent.
Actually, I think around 50 MW of CPV systems have been installed. The cost of electicity that they produce is about 20% lower than for either thin film or planar silicon in sunny locations. In the future, they will produce solar electricty at under 10 cents per kWh. If you wish more information, there are 6 chapters on CPV in the 2010 Wiley book entitled "Solar Cells and Their Applications, 2nd Edition". The reason for the lower cost is simply that glass for lenses is cheaper than single crystal Si, the module efficiency are 3 times higher than for thin films, and tracking produces more kWh per kW. Finally, there is less field labor for arrays that are 2 to 3 times smaller for the same kW or MW rating.
QUESTIONS.... Over a long period what is the efficiency of these panels? What is the cost per kwhr? What is the projected life span of these panels? Is there the possibility of a return on investment on these panels without government subsidies or tax credits? Because the taxpayers of this country are getting sick of these under the table payoff's to Obama constituents.
So, what is the differential in cost (optics for concentration) of this installation vs. cells which use unconcentrated light?
Who is going to pay $0.54 / kWh? You don't affect the cost - just who is forced to pay it for you.I would sooner use kerosene . Those are not panels, but arrays. A cell is generally a few inches and 0.55 Volts. A panel is built with a standard Voltage ( mine are 20 and 35) An array is a number of panels mounted and aimed together, and is any size you want.
you nailed the 3 big issues here jm. Unfortunately adding a recirculating coolant and a tracking motor adds even more to the cost. What if the coolant used phase transitions to drive tracking pistons also?
CPV has the added advantage of being able to create electricity 24/7 so long as a sufficient amount of heat can be maintained. You can turn on your lamp at night. We need to start thinking in terms of "closer to point of use" being better than long distances from creation to use.
As Justin Gerdes writes in the 5-24-12 issue of Forbes, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that: "According to BNEF, the levelized cost of electricity (the cost distributed over a projectâs lifetime) for conventional silicon PV declined by nearly 50% from an average of $0.32/kWh in early 2009 to $0.17/kWh in early 2012; thin-film PV dropped from $0.23/kWh to $0.16/kWh over the same period. As of the first quarter of 2012, BNEF pegs the levelized cost range at $0.11/kWh to $0.25/kWh. Residential customers in the United States pay an average retail price for electricity of $0.115 cents/kWh." The reason coal and petroleum remain in the conversation as "cosseted fossil-fuel incumbents" (Gerdes) is that vested corporate welfare interests keep taking $40 Billion annually from taxpayers and shoveling it into the front doors of fossil fuel miners.
A couple of hundred million dollar investment in renewable solar energy is a whole lot better and smarter than the 3 or four $TRILLION, along with the 4,500 American lives that bush flushed down the toilet as payoffs to Halliburton and the rest of his have more constituency.
Your comment is spot-on. Let's not forget that Solyndra used technology that concentrated sunlight. Maybe these things have a future, but that will have to be demonstrated.
AMEN. I WONDER HOW THAT GUY SLEEPS AT NIGHT KNOWING HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF SO MANY INNOCENT LIVES?
I could not have said it better ....good one You can't replaced 4,500 lives Look like some people have a short memory
show me a solar panel that works ? then show me a system the average or even rich American can afford for there home. This is all hoop La ! corporate write offs with no true ending or vision. Pay back on a unit is more than my life expectancy thats for sure. Best bet USE COAL !!!!!!!!!
1) The cells do not concentrate sunlight, the modules do that, but not explained here. 2) Solyndra cells not only did not concentrate sunlight, but half of the cylindrical cell faced away from the sun :) 3) What was the point, again? Just lab numbers, which may mean nothing when applied to providing power.
$1 per watt installed is the real number, until it's there it is just another rip off and BS marketing play.
The USA was once in the forefront of nuclear physics. The proof lies in part in these names: americium, californium, berkelium, lawrencium, seaborgium. Einstein was a citizen too, but I won't claim einsteinium for the USA. We liberals should be proud of this, in spite of the bombing of Nagasaki (there is a grain of an excuse for Hiro-shima, so long as you don't call the place Hi ROSH ima). But more to the point, the reason there's a problem when a few nuke plants are off line is that they quietly and with astonishingly little pollution deliver twice as much electricity as the only really productive and reliable solar-origin technology, the big, mostly government owned hydroelectric plants. The USA has a tested design for a meltdown-proof, terrorist-proof, renewable and sustainable nuclear breeder reactor that needs so little fuel to produce a gigawatt.year of electricity that if it were government owned, it could probably pay off the national debt by charging $0.08 per kWh. Our present reactors, by EIA data, run at 90% of 24/7, higher than any other technology.
THE NEW SOLAR PANELS YIELD 240 WATTS EACH. THEY ARE LOCALLY MANUFACTURED IN GEORGIA USA! THE COST PER WATT HAS COME DOWN TO A REASONABLE $2.50 AND INSTALLED COST OF ABOUT $5.00 PER WATT. THE ROI WITHOUT ANY TAX CREDIT HAS FALLEN TO ALMOST 9 YEARS FOR AN AVERAGE HOME. IF YOU ARE NOT AWARE OF THIS FACT, GET OUT AND LEARN. THEY HAVE A GREAT GATHERING OF SEIA IN ORLANDO STARTING SEPT 11, 2012 TO SEPT 13, 2012. IF YOU ATTEND THE SEMINARS, YOU WILL GET TO LEARN THE FACTS.
Unhh.. and Calif is sweating now BECAUSE their few nuclear plants are down for a maintenance fix... Where's their miniscule solar contribution gotten them?
We have solar panels all over the place in California. I guess they're working, since people aren't putting them up because they look pretty.