Solar Cell Breakthrough = Lower Cost, Bigger Market


wall-street-suddenly-loves-solarRenewable resources like solar power are right up our alley at Signature Electric, which is why we’re committed to informing our clients about ways that they can contribute to the future of sustainable energy usage. We cover everything from daily ways to conserve energy to electric vehicles and newsworthy energy developments. Lately, we have found that a lot of this news has come in the form of solar power. From big box stores installing solar panels to the extreme growth in solar companies, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources is on the brain and on the move!

Recently, Tina Casey wrote an article for The Energy Collective where she discusses the growth of Elon Musk’s company SolarCity and a new breakthrough in solar cell efficiency. Her overall message seems to be that these new developments in solar cells could remove cost barriers and prompt mass adoption. This is great news! Here is an excerpt from Casey’s article in The Energy Collective:

“Over the weekend, the New York Times noted that the solar power “craze” is partly responsible for Wall Street’s recent good times. The Times used the example of solar giant SolarCity, which has seen a sevenfold increase in its share price to $59.27 since it went public, but this could just be starters for the US solar industry. An international research team based at North Carolina State University has come up with a simple way to increase the efficiency of organic solar cells by more than 30 percent, leading to lower costs and a much bigger market.

That’s great news for companies like SolarCity. The company – another brainchild of Tesla creator Elon Musk – packages and installs solar systems, so it’s not subject to the kind of downward global pricing pressures that doomed US manufacturers like Solyndra.

In fact, down works good for SolarCity’s business model. Solar cells account for about half the cost of a fully installed and connected solar system, so a major drop in the cost of solar cells will have a significant impact on overall costs. That gives SolarCity and other solar packagers another opportunity to offer their systems at more competitive prices, and nudge conventional fuels out of the market.

A New Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough

With that in mind, let’s take a look at that NCSU solar cell efficiency breakthrough, which was just published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The research applies to organic solar cells, which refers to a relatively new class of solar cells based on polymers (loosely speaking, plastic). Organic solar cells are less efficient than silicon, which is still the gold standard, but they make up for it with the potential for a broader range of applications and a low cost manufacturing process.

Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk is best known for his innovation in the electric vehicle field, which seamlessly marries EV charging stations with onboard technology in the form of Tesla Motors’ Supercharger network, and he is also the Chairman of SolarCity.

Tesla has been introducing Supercharger stations powered at least partly by on site solar installations in the form of canopies, so it’s no surprise that SolarCity is providing the installations.

SolarCity is also the force behind solar-powered home EV charging stations and SolarStrong, which involves $1 billion worth of rooftop solar panels for military housing. Los Angeles Air Force Base and Fort Bliss are two examples, with Los Angeles being particularly interesting because the base has also been introducing electric vehicles.

Given SolarCity’s track record with thin-film solar cells and the solar/mobility connection with Tesla Motors we’re thinking that it won’t be long before both companies cook up new applications for organic solar cells as the cost of the technology continues to drop.”

– Read the entire article at The Energy Collective.

If you liked this article about solar energy, you might also be interested in: “Big Box Stores Leading a Sustainability Movement?”

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