Tag Archives: thin-film

The Future of Solar Energy Technology

Current solar energy technology employs photovoltaic (PV) cells to generate electrical power by converting solar radiation into electricity. The cells are made from semiconductor-grade crystalline-silicon wafers, which are then packaged and assembled into solar panels.

Silicon is a natural element however high-grade silicon is expensive to produce. It is also in such high demand from the computer chip industry that prices have soared in recent years.

For solar energy to enjoy world-wide acceptance as an energy resource, the cost to produce it must fall in line with competitive resources such as coal and natural gas. In that regard the solar energy industry is constantly searching for new materials that are more efficient and cheaper to produce than silicon.

Other technologies that are being explored for the future of solar power include the following:

1) Thin Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
Though not as efficient as conventional PV cells, thin film solar cells use about 99% less silicon in their construction, which makes them more affordable to produce. TFSCs also use alternative photovoltaic materials such as Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS). CIGS currently holds the record for thin-film solar efficiency at 17.4%.

A new material for TFSC is Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC) also knows as a Grätzel cell, named after its inventor, Michael Grätzel. DSSCs are notable for their low cost material, low cost processing and that they can be manufactured into flexible sheets.

2) Colloidal Quantum Dots (CQD)
CQD is an emerging field in solar cell research. Colloidal refers to elements in liquid suspension. Quantum dots are nanoparticles of semiconductor material.
Because of their small size CQDs can be painted or sprayed onto flexible surfaces such as plastic. They are less expensive to produce and more durable than silicon-based cells.

3) Chlorosomes
Chlorosomes are antenna-like structures found in the living cells of green sulfur bacteria. They are among the most efficient light-harvesting antenna complexes found in nature. Their ability to capture light in very low-light situations have researchers on a path of developing photosynthetic proteins for use in biologically inspired solar cells. These bio-inspired solar cells promote the idea of making solar cells that closely simulate nature, specifically, photosynthesis. They are also potentially more affordable and more environmentally friendly than existing silicon-based solar cells.

Whichever technology wins out in the end they all will aid in the advancement of this next generation of solar energy collectors. The exciting research being done today is what drives the solar energy industry into the future, and what a bright future it is.

Running on Sunshine: Watch a Solar Field Being Built

DURHAM, NC – GE Aviation’s Durham, North Carolina facility, cut the ribbon on its new $3 million, seven acre solar power field that will provide enough renewable energy to power 1/3 of the facility’s electrical power during daylight hours.

The new solar power field, located next to the Durham facility, will utilize products from GE Energy’s growing portfolio of solar solutions. The field is the first complete Utility Scale Solar Power Plant installed by the company and includes a Brilliance™ Inverter, monitoring and controls, and racking and cabling in addition to more than 9,000 thin film panels that provide the renewable energy. The field will produce 700 KW of power for the Durham facility or enough energy to power 200 homes. The solar power field will also help GE Aviation Durham reduce its CO2 emissions by more than 400 million tons a year, which is the equivalent of removing 77 cars from the road each year.

“The solar power field is one of more than 200 energy reduction projects that GE Aviation Durham has implemented in the last few years,” said Mike Wagner, plant manager of GE Aviation Durham. “These projects have enabled the site to reduce its electricity bill by 30 percent while increasing its production level by 50 percent.”

The solar power field is part of GE’s ecomagination initiative, which includes a commitment by GE to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent, water usage by 25 percent and energy intensity reduction by 50 percent. For more information about GE’s ecomagination, visit: www.ecomagination.com.

GE Aviation, an operating unit of GE (NYSE: GE), is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, components and integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft. GE Aviation has a global service network to support these offerings. GE Aviation Durham assembles commercial engines for commercial aircraft. For more information, visit us at www.ge.com/aviation. Follow GE Aviation on Twitter at http://twitter.com/GEAviation and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/GEAviation

SoloPower Receives Offer Of Conditional Commitment for a $197 Million Loan Guarantee from U.S. DOE to Build Thin Film Photovoltaic Module Factory

SAN JOSE, Calif., February 17, 2011 – SoloPower, a San Jose, California-based manufacturer of flexible thin film solar cells and modules, announced today that it has received a conditional commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Programs Office for a $197 million loan guarantee.  The funds will support construction of a facility that, when completed and at full capacity, is expected to produce approximately 400MW of thin film Photovoltaic (PV) modules annually.

“This announcement is the latest confirmation that when it comes to energy policy, Oregon is on the right side of history,” said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.  “The project in Wilsonville will hire hundreds of highly skilled, highly paid Oregonians to manufacture the latest in renewable energy technology.  Oregon is already an epicenter for renewable energy projects.  A loan guarantee to help companies such as SoloPower get important projects off the ground is the right approach that will keep Oregon where it belongs – at the forefront of technology.  I look forward to working with the folks at SoloPower in putting Oregonians to work creating the products that represent the future of renewable energy.”

SoloPower CEO Tim Harris added, “We appreciate and commend the DOE’s emphasis on supporting innovative, clean-tech companies as a way to further the goal of energy independence while stimulating employment and helping secure our nation’s manufacturing base in this important emerging industry.”  Mr. Harris stated:  “This backing allows us to rapidly ramp up our production and to promote the spread of clean, distributed solar power to the rooftops and on the ground, while providing hundreds of quality manufacturing jobs using some of the most advanced technology in the world.”

SoloPower announced earlier this year that it had come to an agreement to construct its first large-scale high volume manufacturing plant in Wilsonville, Oregon.  Retrofit of the existing building is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2011.  The factory is expected to provide direct employment to approximately 500 people once it is running at full capacity.  About 270 construction jobs will be created to build the plant, and additional jobs are also likely to be generated in the local supply chain.

SoloPower’s family of lightweight flexible modules are certified to both UL and IEC standards with up to 260 Wp/panel, and are being sold in small volumes to leading customers in five countries.

For more information on SoloPower, please visit www.solopower.com

Constellation Energy Completes Solar and Wind Installation for University of Toledo

BALTIMORE, Mar. 29, 2010 – Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG) today announced that its subsidiary, Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group, has completed installation of a 1.2 megawatt solar and wind power system at the University of Toledo’s Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation in Toledo, Ohio. The campus will utilize solar and wind power to generate electricity and the university’s commitment to sustainability also provides students with firsthand educational experiences with renewable technologies.

“Renewables have a twofold importance for colleges and universities that are looking to improve their sustainability and expose students to careers in alternative energy,” said Mark Huston, managing director of retail energy, Constellation Energy.  “We are proud to have developed this project with the University of Toledo and look forward to years of clean energy production as well as years of inspiration for a generation of students that will embark on green careers.”

“The creation and production of clean, renewable energy sources is vital to the way we power our world. That’s why The University of Toledo created the Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation,” UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said. “Our relationship with Constellation Energy for the solar and wind electric generation systems on that campus will help students and researchers advance the technology that will power our future.”

The project utilizes thin-film-on-glass photovoltaic solar technology that was originally developed based on research at the University of Toledo.  Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group also installed a 132-foot wind turbine at the site.  Together, the solar and wind systems are expected annually to generate power equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 140 homes in a year.  Generating that same amount of electricity using non-renewable sources would result in the release of more than 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and the equivalent of the emissions from 200 passenger vehicles annually.

Constellation Energy finances, designs, constructs and owns these solar installations and supplies power generated on-site to the customer over a period of 15 to 20 years. This creates an attractive and affordable model that requires no upfront capital from customers, such as The University of Toledo, and reduces customers’ use of power from the electrical grid and associated carbon emissions. Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group has developed a number of renewable energy projects for universities throughout the U.S., including a 17.1 megawatt system under development on the grounds of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., that will be one of the largest solar installations in the U.S. when completed.

Constellation Energy currently has approximately 25 megawatts of on-site solar projects completed or under development throughout the U.S., and announced last month that it has set aside $90 million to fund the development of similar solar installations in 2010.  Qualifying projects of 500 kilowatts generally require at least 100,000 square feet of roof space or two acres of open ground. Colleges and universities and other commercial customers interested in developing solar projects can contact Constellation Energy at Sustainable-Solutions@constellation.com or 1-877-427-2005.

Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group utilized the design and build services of Advanced Distribution Generation (ADG) LLC of Northwest Ohio for the project.  Plug Smart Solutions consulted and managed the project for the University of Toledo.  Solar panels were supplied by First Solar, and photovoltaic inverters were supplied by PV Powered.   The wind turbine was manufactured by Wind Energy Solutions (WES) of Holland.

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About Constellation Energy
Constellation Energy (www.constellation.com) is a leading supplier of energy products and services to wholesale and retail electric and natural gas customers. It owns a diversified fleet of generating units located in the United States and Canada, totaling approximately 7,100 megawatts of generating capacity, and is among the leaders pursuing the development of new nuclear plants in the United States. The company delivers electricity and natural gas through the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), its regulated utility in Central Maryland. A FORTUNE 500 company headquartered in Baltimore, Constellation Energy had revenues of $15.6 billion in 2009.?

Will Konarka’s solar plastic finally hit the big time with its new $23.8M?

By Camille Ricketts, Green.Venturebeat.com

Konarka, maker of a unique solar plastic, is an old company. In nine years, it has raised more than $150 million from the likes of Chevron, New Enterprise Associates, and the government. But it’s had little to show for it on the market. That could change with a new round of funding (its seventh) that closed today, totaling $23.8 million, according to a filing with the SEC.

Will the company finally have what it needs to step out of the shadows?

Money isn’t Konarka’s only strength. Its technology is actually pretty special too. Its patented photovoltaic material, called Power Plastic, is more efficient than even the best thin-film systems devised by the likes of First Solar and Solyndra. It is lightweight, portable, and perhaps most importantly, flexible — making it suitable for a host of interesting applications ranging from rooftops to apparel.

Click link above for complete article.

New solar energy technology wins accolades

From Solar.CoolerPlanet.com

A shingle that generates solar energy was named one of the 50 Best Innovations of 2009 by Time magazine.

Dow Chemical, the Powerhouse Solar Shingle’s inventor, will make the shingles commercially available by the middle of next year. Dow’s technology “will make affordable renewable energy a reality now and for future generations,” said Dow Solar Solutions managing director Jane Palmieri.

The Powerhouse design includes thin-film cells of copper indium gallium diselenide. Dow notes the cells’ low cost relative to other solar technologies.

And, on top of low cost, Dow’s new shingle has other advantages. The company reports that the installation process is no different than that of traditional shingles, making Powerhouse shingles attractive to contractors. And in addition to saving money for homeowners by cutting energy use, the shingles are anticipated to make a lot of money for Dow – up to $10 billion a year by 2020.

The Powerhouse Solar Shingle was number 13 on Time magazine’s list. Another high-ranking green energy invention was Philips Electronics’ 10-watt LED lightbulb, which landed at number three. Between solar energy innovations and greener lightbulbs, the future for clean tech is bright.

Could Solar Roadways power the U.S.?

By Karl Burkart, mnn.com

There is no question that the United States is blessed both with some of the world’s best solar resources and the largest highway network in the world.

Put two and two together and you may just have the solution to America’s energy problem. At least that’s what Solar Roadways inventor Scott Brusaw believes.

Brusaw’s company was just awarded a $100,000 grant by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) for one of the most visionary solar projects ever conceived — to convert America’s roadways into the world’s largest solar energy system.

According to Brusaw, the lower 48 states contain about 25,000 square miles of roadways. If these roadways collected solar energy at 15 percent efficiency, they would supply three times the annual energy consumption of the United States.

And perhaps even more exciting, the roadways themselves would become the “super grid” of the future, freely conducting energy to urban centers through a network of relays sheltered in the road’s base layer.

Now, that is not going to be an easy task. The Solar Roadways system could make use of current thin film technology (which has reached efficiencies of 10 percent) but the road layer also includes a grid of LED’s to allow digital striping of the roads, a feature which adds to the whopping price tag — $6900 for a 12′ x 12′ panel (producing 7.6 kWh’s of electricity per day).

In addition, the protective layer would have to be both translucent and durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of the nation’s trucking fleet. We’re talking a lot of high-strength plastic (probably polyvinyl) which would mean huge environmental impacts (and lots of petroleum).

Nevertheless it is one brilliant idea. It will be interesting if the DOT grant will result in a working prototype that may garner further research and funding.

The above interview is part of a new film called YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip) which documents some of the best out-of-the box solutions to our climate crisis.