Monday, March 19, 2012

Solar Game Changers

A San Jose, CA based company called Twin Creeks Technologies recently announced what could be a game changer in the solar photovoltaic industry. They have developed a technology which can produce solar cells using only 1/10th of the silicon of a conventional cell. The company claims that this capability will reduce the cost of solar cells to 40 cents per watt which is less than half the current cost. The new ultra thin silicon wafers are in so thin that they are flexible. The company claims that this characteristic will enable solar panels to be produced using encapsulation materials other than glass which means they could be significantly lighter. You can check out a video of their new Hyperion 3 machine on their website. This machine exists today and they are ready to sell it. They have a commercial demonstration plant in Mississippi.

Even more recently, another company called Ampulse has announced a new method to produce solar cells for < $.50 per watt, again using much thinner silicon wafers. They are currently prototyping this process at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO.

Solar PV is currently around $1.30 per watt, reducing that to $0.50 means a savings of $0.80 per watt. That's a $4,000 savings on a 5 KW system, based on panel prices alone. If the panels can be made lighter, that could also help lower installation costs.

The 'grid parity' moment for solar is already here in some places, getting closer in others.

For the record, I don't have any stake in either of these companies, nor do I know the owners. I just think this is a good thing for the world.

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