168. NEW SOLAR CELLS
Traditional PV panels are highly efficient (at more than 20%), but they are very expensive and take a long time to pay for themselves, if ever. They're also bulky, inflexible and difficult to install. Fortunately, a new generation of solar cells will soon be on the market that will revolutionise the world of solar power by using either nano-crystals or special polymers.
These new solar cells are extremely cheap and far easier to manufacture than traditional PV panels, and they're already a reality. In the past, the only obstacle to their widespread adoption has been their efficiency (around 1%, compared to more than 20% for traditional panels). But that's quickly changing. A team at UCLA announced last month that they have more than quadrupled the efficiency of Organic Polymer Cells to 4.4%, and researchers at New Mexico State University and Wake Forest University have made nanotech cells with an efficiency of 5.2% Source1, Source2. They expect to get beyond 10% in the next five years, at which point these cells will be marketable.
Apart from their extremely low cost, the whole point about these new cells is that they are incredibly flexible and unbelievably strong. They could be woven into fabrics, such as curtains, tents or clothing, or printed onto a lightweight, flexible film that can be stretched over a roof. They could be painted directly onto walls and will eventually be so strong they can even be stretched over a road. In other words, almost every type of surface can be covered by solar cells at a fraction of the cost of today’s panels.
You can buy cheap and flexible low-power solar panels already:
With CSIRO in Australia creating a small, inexpensive hydrogen-production device the size of a microwave, and the ENV hydrogen-powered motorbike going on sale next year for only a few thousand dollars, it's entirely plausible that a 100% solar/hydrogen-powered lifestyle will be both affordable and cost-effective within a decade.
Here are some links:
-- by Roland