Archive for the ‘Solar’ Category
The headline “Solar Efficiency Record Beat” may become common, as each new record is only a small improvement over the last. The new leader only beat the old by .3%, with 43% of sunlight converted to electricity. For the uninitiated, solar efficiency matters because it allows for greater power output per given area of a solar panel. While there is already high enough efficiency to power the world’s energy needs with solar, area still matters.
Area used for solar panels still matters for a few reasons. Residential and commercial customers still have finite amounts of space to place panels. While it would be possible for large intiatives to build solar power installations on a mass scale, progress has been slow because of high up front costs. Higher efficiency leads to lower up front cost for a few reasons. The first is that in most cases, higher efficiency means lower cost of materials (not always, but generally). The second is that labor is a large percentage of installation costs, and the smaller number of panels required to produce the same output means less labor.
In many cases, home or business owners will install panels on all available area, so total labor costs will not be reduced, but cost per kilowatt goes down. Ultimately, the cost per kilowatt hour produced is what drives adoption of a technology. As efficiency and manufacturing processes improve, costs go down. When solar and renewable energy become cheaper per kilowatt hour than coal, expect a huge shift in the market.
My recent post about Hydrogen was not too far off. Jetstream Wind, Inc. in New Mexico has announced plans for using wind and solar to produce energy, and use the excess to produce Hydrogen. In this case they are not selling the excess, but burning it to spin turbines when extra is needed.
This plant doesn’t address the issue of long distance transmission, as all power will stay local, but the concept is sound and is a good way to reduce the output variability of wind and solar.