Even Cheaper Solar Cells

We recently reached the point that solar power is cheaper than nuclear power and now some researchers at the University of Toronto have found a way to make solar cells even cheaper by using nickel instead of gold.

One of the major drawbacks of most renewable energy sources is high cost. In order to see a huge rise in the use of renewable energy sources, prices must come down. In the world of solar there have recently been some major breakthroughs in cost advantages and efficiency increases. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada have come up with a way to reduce colloidal quantum dot solar cell prices by up to 80%, by swapping out costly conductive gold for cheap nickel.

Read more: Super Cheap Solar Cells Just Got Cheaper, Switch Gold For Nickel

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9% Return on Solar Investments

In the UK it is apparently possible to get a 9% return on investing in solar panels for your house thanks to the economy and government programs. Score one for the environment and for your pocketbook.

How we achieved a 9% return on investment:
The cost of our solar power system was £17,000 but the government paid for 50% which meant it only cost us £8,500 ($13,000). A return of £590 ($903) for that amount of investment equals around 9% return if you take into account that it’s untaxed.
In this economic climate you would be hard pressed to get such a return on investment.
The future
With the cost of photovoltaic panels reducing every year, choosing to purchase solar panels is becoming even more of a sound investment choice.

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Coal Plant Goes Solar

In Australia a pilot project is underway that pairs solar power and traditional coal burning power generation. Adding solar power into the energy production greatly lessens the amount of coal needed to keep the plants generation at a stable level. Hybrid power plants are a great transition to a system based on renewable energy.

Mirrors, called fresnal reflectors capture the sun’s rays and heat water in the tube above. Steam lines deliver the solar energy to the adjacent coal power plant where existing coal turbines are used to produce an electric current.

The ideal situation for retrofitting a coal power plant with solar includes:

  • A large amount of land adjacent to the plant is neededfor solar collectors. Ausra’s fresnal reflector technology requires 2-2.5 acres of land per megawatt compared with 5 acres per megawatt for solar trough systems or 7 acres per megawatt for solar dish engine systems.
  • High quantities of solar radiation, such as the American Southwest or the Saharan Desert in Northern Africa, give the solar system a higher return on investment and increase the consistency of the solar energy output.
  • Coal power plants that are located in areas with a carbon tax or cap and trade system in place will have a higher return on investment from a solar retrofit.
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    Use Solar Power During the Night

    Storing energy in batteries is expensive, not the best thing to the environment, and inefficient when used on a large scale. The inability to store solar energy over the long-term has been a problem for hte adoption of solar power generation. That is, until now. THe New York Times is reporting on some companies that have found ways to store the energy solar power plants use in a giant thermos.

    At Black & Veatch, a builder of power plants, Larry Stoddard, the manager of renewable energy consulting, said that with a molten salt design, “your turbine is totally buffered from the vagaries of the sun.” By contrast, “if I’ve got a 50 megawatt photovoltaic plant, covering 300 acres or so, and a large cloud comes over, I lose 50 megawatts in something like 100 to 120 seconds,” he said, adding, “That strikes fear into the hearts of utility dispatchers.”

    Thermal storage using molten salt can work in a system like Ausra’s, with miles of piping, but if the salt is spread out through a serpentine pipe, rather than held in a heavily insulated tank, it has to be kept warm at night so it does not solidify, among other complications.

    A tower design could also allow for operation at higher latitudes or places with less sun. Designers could simply put in bigger fields of mirrors, proponents say. A small start-up, eSolar, is pursuing that design, backed by Google, which has announced a program to try to make renewable electricity for less than the price of coal-fired power

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    Nanosolar Producing Cheap Solar Energy

    A company in California, Nanosolar, as produced solar chips that generate electricity at $0.90 per watt. If sales go well this is a massive breakthrough for solar energy as this a milestone in solar electricity.

    After five years of product development – including aggressively pipelined science, research and development, manufacturing process development, product testing, manufacturing engineering and tool development, and factory construction – we now have shipped first product and received our first check of product revenue.

    … Today we are announcing that we have begun shipping panels for freefield deployment in Eastern Germany and that the first Megawatt of our panels will go into a power plant installation there.

    As far as the first three of our commercial panels are concerned:

    Panel #1 will remain at Nanosolar for exhibit.

    Panel #2 can be purchased by you in an auction on eBay starting today.

    Panel #3 has been donated to the Tech Museum in San Jose.

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