Australia’s new Super Solar Cells Double Efficiency

Graham Philips | (ABCTVCatalyst) | –

“Australian scientists from the University of New South Wales have set a new world record for the efficiency of commercially-viable solar cells.

Dr Graham Phillips investigates new technology that is able to convert more than 40 per cent of the sun’s light into electricity. This is more than double the efficiency of today’s domestic rooftop solar panels, and could eventually lead to cheaper sources of renewable energy. #ABCcatalyst”

ABCTVCatalyst: “Super Solar Cells”

7 Responses

  1. Chris Fox

    Here’s hoping that overproduction and oversupply of fracked hydrocarbons has opened the window for renewables in America. So technologies like this can exert their irresistible market forces.

    • Multi-junction cells operating on a few hundred times concentrated light, have been into the mid forties. I think the Fraunhofer institute is usually on the top of the tables.
      But, concentrated photovoltaics seems to be on the way out. Cheap, and good enough panels deliver more bang for the buck. Concentrating technologies have a lot of overhead, optics, tracking, cooling, and limited lifetime for the expensive multijunction cells add alot of cost.

  2. Efficiency does not mean anything.

    The real VALUE is what technology has the lowest cost per kilowatt-hour of energy.

    This is why China is producing lots of low efficiency solar panels for very low cost. Sure, more panels are needed to convert the sunlight to the energy needed by a house or business, BUT if the total cost per energy used is the lowest possible, then it does not matter how efficient the panels are.

    This is the classic engineering myopia to drive to perfection regardless of cost. This myopia is what killed Solydra. The Solyndra system was super efficient, but was also super expensive. For very low cost a business could get equal energy from lots of cheap solar panels made with low efficiency silicon.

    In the real world, the cost per energy delivered is what matters and so far all these theoretical super technologies fail to deliver while China cranks out millions of kilowatts of real usable energy.

    When any of these “gee wiz” technologies can deliver solar energy for close to zero dollars, I will get excited, but until then they are just toys in a lab.

    And as a technologist myself that has brought some “interesting ” products to real markets, I have learned to be extremely skeptical of the egotistic claims of laboratory dreamers. Show me real production, in large quantities, that delivers real profit for a low consumer price and I will be impressed, but until there is a real commercially successful product I will ignore the noise.

    • I wouldn’t characterize Chinese panels as low efficiency, most are in the 15-20% range, which just a few years ago would have been called high efficiency. A few brands (both Chinese and otherwise) can deliver 20-22% (the theoretical cap for silicon is 26%).

      Solyndra wasn’t claiming to be highly efficient, they were claiming they would be cheap and lightweight enough to be suitable for rooftops which can’t tolerate much addition weight. Their problem was that cheap was defined against the price of panels before the big price drops that started in 2009 (panels went from $5 per watt to now under $1), and their product was in the middle of that range. If panel prices had remained high, they would have been a going concern.

      • My point is that China is using proven technology and driving the costs as low as possible through massive production capacity. If I remember correctly, Solyndra’s roof load was not that much less than the newer lighter PV panels.

        As I noted, I have seen this “pie in the sky” stuff far too many times in my long career in high-tech. One of the most painful lessons I had to learn as a real world engineer is that often “good enough” is very much what the market is OK with. I remember some real ugly product meetings where we threw out many “nice” features (some that I had invented) because it was obvious the cost of the features would not get us more sales or higher profit, just increase our costs for no benefit. Customers would take whatever we would give them for free, but did not value most of the stuff we considered, enough to choose our products over cheaper, more generic products. This is the brutality of the market that few academics understand when they pridefully display their lab toys.

        In the real world, inexpensive stuff that works well enough is the winner.

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