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News Flash: 30% Efficient Solar Power Silicon and Nitrite

As reported by Greentechmedia on September 28th, Phoenix-based Rosestreet Labs Energy (RSLE) has successfully tested a new prototype of solar panels able to convert between 25-30% of sunlight into electricity. For comparison, the current maximum for conventional silicon-based solar panel is produced by SunPower can convert around 22.5% of sunlight into electricity. So the increases by RSLE represent a quantum leap in efficiency increases. The efficiency gains come at a cost of increased production costs. RSLE aims to lower production cost to below $ 1.50 per Watt by 2014 which is a goal already achieved by some solar panel manufacturers today.

RSLE claims to achieve this feat by combining silicon-based solar technology with other nitride-based alloys - in this case indium and gallium. The combination of silicon and indium and gallium nitride can make use of a broader spectrum of the visible light resulting in higher efficiencies. According to a 2005 press release, unlike conventional technology which is close to achieving the theoretical maximum, RSLE believes that their "Full Spectrum Technology" can reach efficiencies of up to 48%.

Plans for beginning of production of the HYBRID solar panels are set to start in the 4Q of 2010. In order to achieve this goal, RSLE has already received an undisclosed amount of funding from Sumitomo Chemicals and has started a Series A.

On a Broader Note

This news, and other recent news from many new start-up companies indicate that solar power generation is gaining momentum despite the current economic climate. Nanosolar or Prism Solar in particular represent technologies that potentially are disruptive in a sense that they can propel solar technologies into the main stream because their technologies can achieve such radical reductions in production costs through change in manufacturing or reduced use of resources.

On a personal note, I wonder if these technologies are compatible, and wonder what potential synergies can be achieved by combining the print-technology from Nanosolar, the nitrite alloy technology from RSLE and titanium dioxide nanostructures mentioned in my previous post for higher yields, with Prism Solar's solar concentration technology for reduced use of the raw material.

The combination of  reducing the cost of electricity generation per Watt to be competitive with conventional energy sources, innovative financing options of through solar leasing (offered by companies such as CitizenreSolarCity and other companies) as well as promotion of group discounts through block buying for residential applications (offered through companies such as 1bog) can sufficiently reduce the hurdles for entry into the solar market in the next few years. Bright times are ahead if political obstacles are removed and replaced with a reasonable and responsible regulatory framework that promotes the upgrade of the electrical grid.
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