FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER, 2008 |
Half Price Solar Power Coming Soon-ish?
Researchers at Australian National University Centre
for Solar Energy Systems
have unveiled new solar panel
technology that they believe will greatly reduce the cost of solar power
systems, provide greater shade tolerance and allow for the simultaneous heating
of water .
The new panels are made up of thin troughs made up of mirror that
concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar strip alongside the troughs. The solar
strip utilizes "sliver" technology, also invented at the University,
which requires far less silicon that traditional solar
While silicon is an abundant material; refining it for use in solar cells is
intensive. The less silicon needed, the cheaper a solar
can be made. Sliver
technology takes a standard solar cell, which is around about 1 millimetre
thick, and then slices it into very thin wafers of 120 micrometres thickness;
creating 8 cells from the original.
The solar sliver strip in the ANU's system also contains treated water, the heat
from which is conveyed into the home's hot water
The Australian Federal Government has provided $1.8 million seed money for the
joint venture between the ANU, Tianjin University and Chromasun, a Californian
company. The componentry will be manufactured in California and either
China or India.
It's estimated that the solar sliver/trough system could be commercially available in
three years' time; ; although some critics believe it will be far longer due to the delicate nature of the silicon cell slivers and problems in scaling up production to commercially viable levels.
Unlike other cutting edge solar technologies that are primarily targeted towards industrial applications, the aim
the ANU team is to make solar power more affordable
for home owners. The goal is
a price tag of $1000 for a basic system; but it may not be that cheap in
Australia. Demand for solar power
to date, although gaining
popularity, is still under 1 per cent of the photovoltaics that went into
Germany last year. However, the technology is expected to halve the current cost
in this country of the combination of a grid connect
solar hot water system
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