Cheaper solar cells

The MIT Tech Review has a story about an Atlanta, GA based start up named Suniva.

What makes Sunvia’s product interesting is that they have made the manufacturing process cheaper.  They are squeezing a little more efficiency out of their cells (20%, which is up from the industry standard of 17%), but the cost reduction is the big story.

With Sunvia’s process, electricity from solar power can be produced for 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.  That is a competative rate in the United States.   Lower costs will result in more solar power being used to generate electricity.   More use of solar power on a small scale will also help on a larger utility scale.

Cheaper electric solar panels will result in more individual homes adopting them.  The more homes that can power their A/C system from solar during the summer, the less demand there will be on the utility grid during peak hours.    Solar panels could be used to charge a set of batteries during the day that would then charge a plug in hybrid car during the night.

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5 Responses

  1. […] or pure electric cars into the market is either going to require new sources of power (home based cheap solar and industrial scale Nuclear for example) or some serious inovations in electrical grid […]

  2. Another option, especially for those living where power is expensive(Hawaii springs to mind) or nonexistant. Solar panels power an electrolyzer, to make Hydrogen, which is stored in a tank(multiple large propane tanks are popular). a fuel cell provides electricity on demand, whether the sun is shining or not.

    The issue with Solar panels has never been efficiency – it’s always been cost per watt. It has dropped some in recent years, but it’s still hovering around 5 bucks a watt. That’s still way too high to be economically viable. Keep in mind, that most of the northeast only gets 2.5 hours or less of Peak solar hours, vs. 5 or more in the southwest. Solar is most viable in places with lots of sun, and high electric rates – that means Hawaii and California first.

  3. The whole point of this new technology is to make it competitive with other power sources once it’s installed. 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour is pretty good.

    Solar is useful directly, even in the Northeast, during the summer. Get a good chunk of home air conditioners off the grid during peak hours and that will go a long way.

    The hydrogen is good. I’m a big fan of hydrogen, but it will be a at least five to ten years before we’ll see enough collectors & generators in enough homes to make a dent.

  4. By what numbers are they getting those 8-10 cent/KwH?

    Right now, the payback period for those panels is hovering right about 20-25 years, roughly the effective life of the panels. That’s never gonna fly.

    People are, for the most part, not going to sink money into something, that’s only going to break even, after a coupla decades. It’s gonna have to have a financial motivator, one that shows results relatively quickly. You have to factor in things like interest rates(because people are gonna have to borrow money), cost per panel, output per panel, etc, and it’s gonna have to be enough of financial motivator to make people get loans to get these things. Right now, the US average electric rate is just under 9 cents/KwH. Nobody is going to get a 5 figure loan to break even. This is why I said, the only places it really makes sense right now is Southern California and Hawaii(Who have the #2 and #1 highest rates for electricity in the country respectively), and both have lots of sunshine(Socal has 4-5 Peak solar hours per day, while Hawaii is 5-6 Peak solar hours.

  5. Ask Suniva where they get their numbers. The Tech Review article didn’t give that level of detail.

    You are entirely correct in your numbers given where solar panels are now. It would cost me about $25K to fully wire my house for solar and I would never get that money back from it.

    Electric solar panels have to become a lot cheaper (like house paint cheap) to be cost effective here in the Northeast.

    From what I can tell, Suniva is taking the first steps toward lowering the cost.

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