Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Oct 07

Cheaper Solar Power Costs

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Cheaper Solar Power When a manufacturer offers a product in the market its main aim is to penetrate in the market as deeply and as widely as possible. In short he wants to make it available to the common man. Till now solar panels are quite expensive and have a long payback period. That fact contributes to its limited popularity. Solar panel manufacturers can reduce the costs of solar panels in many ways. They can use cheaper materials, they can reduce some ingredients used in solar panels, they can reduce the wear and tear during manufacturing or they can use lesser amount of ingredients without compromising on quality.

University of Utah engineers think on the same lines too. Expensive solar cells with a chemical element, germanium are mostly used for spacecraft, military and commercial satellites. Germanium based solar cells are most efficient solar power cells. What prevents this solar panel to be a common man’s commodity is price. But now University of Utah engineers are using a new method to put germanium in the solar cells that will effectively trim down the costs of solar cells. They are using the time tested manufacturing method of lowering the waste and breakage of brittle semi conductor.

With the improved wafer-slicing method, the engineers are trying to make germanium-based, high-efficiency solar cells for uses where cost now is a factor. Dinesh Rakwal, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, adds: “We’re coming up with a more efficient way of making germanium wafers for solar cells – to reduce the cost and weight of these solar cells and make them defect-free.”

Silicon is cut into thin wafers by sawing method. And same brass-coated, steel-wire saws are used to slice round wafers of germanium from cylindrical single-crystal slabs. This increases the wear and tear of germanium element. The brittle element cracks easily, and the girth of the saws means a major amount of germanium is lost during the cutting process. Wire electrical discharge machining (WEDM) is the new method for slicing solar cell wafers. This is an improved version and it wastes less germanium and produces more wafers by cutting even thinner wafers. The wear and tear is less. Extremely thin molybdenum wire is used for this cutting process.

Whatever lowers the cost of solar panels will finally lower the cost of solar power per kilowatt-hour, a factor desirable to consumers and manufacturers. To make this project commercially viable they are trying to recycle the germanium and increase the yield which will result in good savings.

A patent is pending on a way of using the new method so that multiple, parallel electrically charged wires are used to cut germanium wafers – a mass-production method which can be compared with an egg slicer.

  • Adam White

    It’s an interesting article and topic but I wonder how much improvement and optimization of the manufacturing process can really outweigh the future possibility of using completely different materials for production. The alternative I’m talking about is an organic conducting polymer which can be sprayed directly onto the surface of the object you want to use to collect the sun’s energy. No slicing, no loss of product, no complex machinery and the results are almost the same. That’s what will reduce the cost for all and make the solar revolution come full circle.

  • Charge Controller

    The technology that Adam White is talking about is exactly what we need. Again, when cost comes down, people will use it. Look how much flat screen tv’s have dropped. It is just a matter of time before we have simple solutions to very tough problems.

  • Total Solar Energy

    I have read somewhere that the efficiency on these panels is less though.

  • Eujal Nathan

    Adam is right! much simpler and cheaper technology should be used for using sunlight.As sunlight is one of the resources which does not produce any pollution.we are very well aware that sun light is distributed throughout the world equipment which can produce solar power can be installed anywhere.An extensive research should be done how to use this enery by using a simpler technology with higher production.As the fossil fuels are nearly extinct researchers should wake up to the call or else world might need to fight a world war for energy resources.

  • Adam

    Research is already being done on these topics. All you have to do is search “organic conducting polymers” in your favorite search engine and you’ll find many universities are already on the way to making a it a reality.

    To rebut comment #3, yes, the efficiency is about half that of a normal solar panel but if the price is one tenth of the existing technology (this is what I’ve heard), it’s still much more viable to invest in having a larger number of cheap solar panels than just a few expensive ones. A combination of both would be ideal along with more enhancements and optimization of the modern home e.g. increased roof surface area for solar collection, passive heating, natural lighting, solar hot water, triple purpose bio-mass combustion heaters for heating, hot water and electricity production (and looks too, a fire place should be beautiful and inviting!) etc etc.
    We have the technology, now we need the marketing gurus!

  • Narasimha

    Hi Adam,

    Am from India and would like to take the solar power production to the home level with more affordability and efficiency. Can we speak please, may be am the marketing guru you were looking at narsig[AT]


  • Moch Arif Djunaidi

    Nice article.

    Could you please share you detail Solar Cell installation for Home ? Also how much cost have spent for this project ?

    Thanks & Regards,

  • Adam White

    Unfortunately, I can’t share the details of my solar cell construction because it’s my intellectual property. I haven’t spent any money on it yet because I’m a poor English teacher who spends all his money on his family, rent, car, electricity, health insurance, phone/internet, etc etc.

    My vision is of a unified surplus-energy producing home that provides an income for families through the redistribution of energy using the current infra-structure as a network for re-sale to whomever wants to buy (the energy provider taking only a surcharge for carrying the power). A true competitive network based energy production system where the home owner is independent from the energy suppliers. In fact, a reversal of the current situation where they become dependent on us. When the whole city is producing surplus eneergy, then only the businesses need pay for it. A credit system needs to be introduced to make the value of energy production at home attractive to both the energy supplier and new customers. Instead of the energy companies paying mining companies for their resources to produce power, they will pay the home owners instead for zero investment, zero cost and for less than they currently pay to produce 1KW/hr of electricty. It’s a win-win situation for all.

  • Adam White

    The point here is this: you can see most of my money is spent on the things I need instead of the things I want and in the end I have very little leftover for myself. I believe this is the same problem for everyone and it has to end. What we need should be a basic right and valuable to others in itself, conversely, what we want should be something we must work for in order to raise ourselves from the basic necessities. When so many of us don’t even have the basic necessities then this should be a new way to start developing societies and economies in a sustainable way for the future.

  • John P. VASAR

    I am an Engineering Draftsman. I work freelance. Several years ago, Bishop Engineering Technology located in the suburb of Villawood, near Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia, engaged my services for some absolutely fascinating projects. This company has the expertise to create tools for applications as you require. You can find them through Google. You have the key words above to find them directly. May I recommend their services to you.

    Best regards

    John Vasar

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