Solar Nanotech Breakthroughs

Lynne Kiesling

Over at Truck and Barter Ian cook has a post on a new nanotech solar achievement. This company claims to have used nanotech’s self-organizing properties to get the cost of generating power using solar energy to 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

I hope that this breakthrough is robust. Another solar nanotech entrepreneur is Konarka, which is focusing on thin film polymers.

I would be interested to know if that 5 cent per kwh estimate takes into account that nanotech solar only produces electricity at 7-10% efficiency.

4 thoughts on “Solar Nanotech Breakthroughs

  1. These numbers are almost always based on a “per peak watt” scenario which implies: peak solar insolation; best match of collector mounting angle and sun angle; clean, undeteriorated collector surface; and, a variety of other considerations. They typically include the efficiency of the cells. These numbers rarely include: installation and maintenance costs; DC to AC inversion losses; storage system investment; and, storage in and out losses. Thus, the realized annual cost per kWh is substantially greater than the quoted “peak watt” cost.

    These numbers, consistently applied, are a reasonable basis for tracking the advancement of technology. However, differing levels of RDD&D investment and differing levels of investment in production facilities required to achieve large scale production can make even these numbers very difficult to compare.

    These numbers are also applicable only to consumer owned installations, for which land costs are not a factor.

  2. The Slashdot article focusing on this is somewhat instructive.

    I’m somewhat skeptical in that Nanosolar seems to be very good at raising capital (and have been for a couple years) but still, after millions in seed funding, haven’t got a single salable product.

    Further: the linked-to article contains a rather glaring error, namely that the panels can generate the astounding figure of 120W/sq. in., a number that is, literally, impossible at the earth’s surface. Solar irradiance in North America averages something like 1 kW/sq. meter, and so this is consistent with their efficiency figure of 12%.

    In January of this year, University of Toronto researchers announced a paintable solar cell which sounds remarkably like what the Nanosolar people are working on.

  3. See, this is why I should leave this stuff alone. Fascinating to hear it. Too bad my interests won’t let me leave it to my betters…

  4. Ian,

    NO, because if you hadn’t broached the subject, we wouldn’t have flushed Ed and Rob and their knowledge out into this forum.

    This is a very important corollary to “there are no stupid questions”.

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