Friday, July 22, 2005

More Solar Breakthroughs

Two new potentially revolutionary technologies for generating solar electicity from WorldChanging:

Electrolytic Bacteria: Researchers in Stanford have stumbled upon anaerobic bacteria that electrolyte water releasing hydrogen and oxygen. Since they are anaerobic, the oxygen kills them. So researchers are breeding them for a species that is aerobic.

Novel Solar Concentrator: This one is more of a here-and-now solution. This new solar concentrator from Pyron Solar, is called the Boeing-Spectron-Pyron Solar Generator and uses Spectrolab solar cells that are upto 37% efficient. (Spectrolab is a leading supplier of solar cells for space craft). Their only prototype thus far is 23 feet in diameter, which works out to 7.01 metres. So the total surface area is 38.59 sq m. Now this generates 6.6 kW. 100% efficiency is considered to be 1 kW/sq m - for photovoltaic cells. So that makes this new device 17% efficient as a whole, which is still pretty good.

Importantly concentrators cost significantly less than photovoltaic cells per sq m. Independent estimates of the installation cost puts it as between $2.00 to $3.00 per watt. Even at the higher end that makes it reasonably competitive. These costs are mostly based on informal estimates, and not on actual commercial project costs, so accuracy is not entirely reliable. But Pyron themselves put the cost at just $1.24 per watt for large plants - significantly lower than the cost of fossil fuel-based plants.

It just keeps getting better and better...