What Solar Technology improvements are coming in the next year?

Question by ian c rogers: What Solar Technology improvements are coming in the next year?
In another question I asked, users were alluding to new, cheaper, better solar technology that’s on its way in the next year. However, a solar panel installer I saw speak said that the technology is fairly well established and the year over year improvements are incremental, not innovative at this point. Can someone point me to articles about the solar technology that’s coming soon that will outdate what’s in the market today?

ian

Best answer:

Answer by Marianna
the improvements will certaily be only increnmental, at least for the coming year –
– more watts per square meter/foot
– lighter weight at same rigidity (flexible ones alreay on the market)
– lower cost: Depends on all of us! More sales = more efficient production methods = lower manufacturing cost.
– smaller and more efficient batteries to store the power.
– less of being an “in-thing”, but becoming more of a consumer item = less “novelty margin” charged by distributors.
– more electricians wrapping their brains around this technology, hence less need to have an expensive specialist.

What do you think? Answer below!

Category: Product Reviews

2 Responses to “What Solar Technology improvements are coming in the next year?”

  1. It is hard to know what will be hitting the market within a year’s time. I will list below some of the companies that are the most exciting that are working on new technologies.

    Your solar installer friend is probably right that within one year things will not be a great deal different. Within that time frame I think there is a good chance that we will start to see thin film solar companies starting to ship in volume.

    The big promise of thin-film is the reduction in cost and the ability to make very large volumes of solar panels without hitting fundamental limits.

    The solar energy industry will one day be so large that there are concerns that we might run short of certain critical elements although most people expect that these limits will not prove to be insurmountable.

    A couple of very exciting thin film companies are:

    Miasole – run by a former disc drive maker and very strong technically. Look for their panels to become widely used very soon. They are also looking very hard at the building integrated solar market, where sky scrapers are sheathed with photovoltaic materials.

    Nanosolar is working on a sort of “solar ink”. They are looking at harnessing the technology used to print news paper and the like. If they are successful solar panels could become vastly cheaper. I think they are more than a year from market, but their technology is extremely interesting.

    Power film is already selling thin-film solar products and is ramping up. I think an important niche for them is the wearable solar panel integrated into laptop bags, back packs and the like. You can charge your lap top or iPod with your solar back pack.

    There are many other thin film companies and many are starting to sell panels in volume.

    The solar concentrator market is another very exciting sector where a number of companies are hard at work. I think most of these products are more than a year away from market. There are a few older companies in the market but they do not appear to have broken the price barrier required to really take off. A couple with a real shot are:

    SolFocus – They are working with Xerox Parc research center and are making advanced prototypes of concentrator panels with about 30% solar energy conversion efficiency. That is about double what a conventional flat panel can do. The downside is that concentrators of this sort need to track the sun. SolFocus is aiming primarily at very large installations such as large industries or utility scale power generations. I wish them luck, but that is a tough market place. They are projecting panel costs about 1/3 of current panels.

    Energy Innovations – They are working on a concentrator module that uses tracking mirrors. They think the mid-sized commercial market will be their best opportunity. They make a rather odd looking gizmo that like the SolFocus unit is very high efficiency. They expect to put these on the millions of flat warehouse buildings all over the country.

    Prism Solar is a company working on a very innovative flat panel concentrator that uses holography to concentrate sunlight to a low level. Their concept looks especially well suited to solar windows and sky lights. It has the potential to half the cost of current panels while equaling their efficiency. They are also more than a year from market.

    Power Light Corp. is innovating from a different direction. They are tackling the high cost of installing solar and have come up with a solar shingle that is proving popular with new home builders. There are a number of new housing developments in California using their solar shingles. This is probably the future of solar. All new homes with built in power generation. No muss no fuss for the new home owner, just very low utility costs.

    This is just a small taste of what is happening in the solar field. Solarbuz is one of the best industry news sources if you want to follow the market.

  2. In the next year, the installer is probably right, changes will be incremental. However, by 2010, there will be some significant advancements. Engineer listed some great ongoing efforts above. I would add that Infinia ( http://infiniacorp.com ) is planning to launch a 3 kW concentrating solar Stirling product in 2008. It will reduce costs by streamlining installation, pre-packaging the power electronics and inverters, and avoiding the use of silicon and clean-room processes. Here are some links to more developmental solar energy stuff:

    http://energylan.sandia.gov/sunlab/
    http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_csp.html
    http://www.stirlingenergy.com/

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