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(Live Science)   Next generation of solar panels are light, flexible, and about the size of your fingernail   (livescience.com) divider line 101
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14119 clicks; posted to Main » on 26 Dec 2004 at 4:14 PM (9 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2004-12-26 09:44:06 AM  
Blah blah blah, I'll believe it when I see it. They've been saying solar power will be reasonable for DECADES and it's still nothing but a huge swindle operation. I looked into getting solar panels for my house, not as a primary power source, but as an intertie system to help lower my bills. It was nearly $10,000 just for the panels and I only would have gotten 300W out of it. My PC has a 550W PSU in it. Give me a break. I'll happily go solar when I can put some panels up for a couple hundred bucks and have it pay for itself in the first 3 months.
 
2004-12-26 10:56:10 AM  
No power generation system would pay for itself in 3 months, even if you had a natural gas well in your backyard.
 
2004-12-26 12:47:16 PM  
Color me unimpressed. They've been talking about solar energy for 40 years and we aren't any closer now than we were then. They use it only in gadgets like calculators and solar-powered flashlights instead of anything useful.
 
2004-12-26 02:12:10 PM  
Currently these top out at around 5% efficiency, which is interesting, but not much more than an indicator of potential.
 
2004-12-26 03:32:00 PM  
I place more optimism in powering my house using methane from my septic system.
 
2004-12-26 04:20:48 PM  
Ahem, they haven't improved significantly in the past 30 years because Reagan removed all the tax initiatives and funding for solar power research that Carter had put in place after the oil crisis...

If the govt. got back around to providing significant funding for solar research, you'd see a lot of improvement.
 
2004-12-26 04:22:15 PM  
Organic solar cell? You mean plants?
 
2004-12-26 04:25:23 PM  
Otakucode:

I don't know what conman is selling you 300 watts of panels for $10k -- an 85 watt panel costs about $350, about a sixth of what you mentioned.

And if you could achieve power independence with only a 3 month investment, everyone would do it. It takes about 10-20 years (depending on what you get and where you live) for a solar system to pay for itself.
 
2004-12-26 04:25:54 PM  
so then what Willie? its the government's fault. what about the utility companies that dont want our residences and apartment complexes to be self-sufficient?
 
2004-12-26 04:27:19 PM  
(about an Eighth of what you mentioned - $4/watt rather than $33/watt sorry)
 
2004-12-26 04:31:53 PM  
rdxdave

Last time I checked, the gov't had the authority to regulate power companies, as well as fund research. Of course the energy lobbies are working the system, but the fault still lies in the people with the power and resources to seriously fund the type of work that developing viable alternative energy sources requires i.e the govt. If the greedy, self interested politicians would for once give the finger to the energy lobbyists, and actually work for the people, then the utility companies couldn't do a damn thing about it.
 
2004-12-26 04:32:01 PM  
LOL

Yes all great leaps in technology have come from government funding and incentives.
 
2004-12-26 04:33:03 PM  
I hope this pans out:
Konarka

Powering a house doesn't seem likely to show up any time soon, but cell phone and laptop chargers are something I'd like to see.
 
2004-12-26 04:33:13 PM  
Solar energy would be awesome if it was cost effective to harness.
However, Just as Mr Burns in the Simpsons, Someone will device a sun blocking device and prevent you from having "free" energy. I.E. THe major oil companies.
 
2004-12-26 04:33:17 PM  
The *current generation of solar panels are light and flexible. The glass things are 1970's technology.

For well over a decade now, people willing to pay the price have been able to buy photovoltaics that are printed on the surface of an aluminum sheet. These stand up to all kinds of abuse, including being run over by cars and shot by guns. Sure, you can't use the cell that has a hole through it, but the rest of the array still works.
 
2004-12-26 04:34:50 PM  
MugzyBrown

Who do you think subsidizes the programs at all the major technical schools in the country? Do you have any idea how much money darpa throws around? For example, MIT alum. have an enormous number of technical patents for work thay accomplished with federal grant money.
 
2004-12-26 04:35:42 PM  
Yes all great leaps in technology have come from government funding and incentives.

Your sarcasm is pretty much misplaced. Cell phones, computers, the Internet, nuclear power, modern materials, and almost all modern medicine exist only because of government funding of seemingly-unprofitable research. Corporations pretty much only do product development, not pure science research.
 
2004-12-26 04:36:07 PM  
I'd like us all to be using light, discrete and effecient solar energy, preferably free. Meantime I can't help but wonder why no one has, as yet, marketed nice small and discrete satellite dishes...
 
2004-12-26 04:38:45 PM  
I for one welcome our new light, flexible, fingernail sized overlords.
 
2004-12-26 04:39:15 PM  
Maybe if the George Soros's of the world would put their bilions on the line to develop these technologies rather than waste it on poltical campaigns so that MY money will be taken to develop it, these things would get done. Then they could make more money selling it!

Wow, free enterprise, who would have thunk it.

But they'd rather fly around on private jets and gripe about my 20mpg car.
 
2004-12-26 04:40:33 PM  
Because as we all know the internal combustion engine and oil furnaces just appeared out of the ether. It took a good 35 years for the internal combustion engine to become viable for mass consumption, and that happened because of adavances in the manufacturing process (ie: assembly line), not in any sort of advance in the science of combustion. Why hold solar to a higher standard? People are complaining that solar power is not viable when this article is about how the solar panel is becoming more economically viable. Its not happening over night, but it is happening.
 
2004-12-26 04:40:47 PM  
For farks sake, lets just build more nuclear power plants. Put the goddamn things underground if it freaks the luddites out.
 
2004-12-26 04:40:59 PM  
willie... i didnt mean that post to sound like that. what i meant to say is that I dont blame the government i blame the utility lobbies and the politicians who take their "donations." we're on the same page it seems i just didnt want the power of the utility companies (ugh a pun) to be ignored.
 
2004-12-26 04:44:22 PM  
otakucode
My dad recently had solar panels added to our house to lower the electric bill, puts out some 3kw/hr on days with full sun and no clouds. Northern California goodness.
 
2004-12-26 04:46:48 PM  
Way to go after the straw man, Mugzy.
 
2004-12-26 04:46:51 PM  
The size of a fingernail... But can I paint them on my fingernails? THAT would be cool. Store up a little charge and then go around zapping people. "Oh, I'm sorry! Must have been static!"
 
2004-12-26 04:47:15 PM  
The reason solar isn't feasible is there hasn't been enough research spent on developing better solar cells. Look at all the money that is being tossed down that rat hole called fusion research. If that money had been put into solar, along with the billions the gov't spends subsidizing fission nuclear power, we would have feasible solar power for our nation.

When the oil runs out, what other alternative is there than solar if we want to maintain our way of life?
 
2004-12-26 04:48:06 PM  
MugzyBrown

You know, it isn't the "George Soros's" of the world or, for that matter, any conservative political contributors, of which there many with as much financial clout as Soros, responsibility to provide innovation.

It is, however, incumbent upon our government to use our taxes to improve our status economically, technologically, culturally, politically and ecologically. Do you really think the govt is just going to stop taking taxes and rely on free enterprise to improve the nation?

/drop the political bias, it has no place in this discussion
 
2004-12-26 04:53:19 PM  
Gimme a break, solar power isnt that bad. There are productive solar power plants around the country and the world. It will happen, it just needs more funding.
 
2004-12-26 04:55:25 PM  
The difference between government and private research?

Corporations research and develop *treatments*.
Governments fund research and development for *cures*.

Corporations exist to enrich their shareholders. Governments exist to enrich society.
 
2004-12-26 04:57:18 PM  
Befuddled

While I would agree that solar is the future for low yield energy needs (individual homes, maybe cars), fusion is the power that is going to take us other stars. Also fusion (not cold fusion, just plain old 100 million degree fusion) has made strides in recent years and plans are already underway to build a huge research facility in Japan or France.
 
2004-12-26 05:00:55 PM  
Next generation of solar panels are light, flexible, and about the size of your fingernail

The headline writer evidently forgot to mention the rest of the headline: "...and less than 15% as efficient as other solar cell designs."

At present the organic versions have an efficiency of 3.4 percent...but Kippelen hopes that figure will approach 5 percent in the near future

According to Lawrence Berkely Laboratory, current full spectrum solar cells have achieved 30% efficiency for a dual-layer lattice and 25% for a single layer. Their announced 3.4% efficiency is laughable. Even if they succeeded in boosting efficiency to 5%, how long would these cells have to operate in order to even recover the energy spent creating the cells in the first place?
 
2004-12-26 05:01:03 PM  
I' actually pretty hopeful that this will pan out in useful ways.

An analogy might be computer RAM... That's been around since the 70's, and sure, 10, or even 20 years ago you could buy a Gigabyte of RAM if you were willing to shell out thousands of bucks for it and the special hardware to support it.

Now people are are walking around with that much memory in $50 keychain fobs. But they had to make a few breakthroughs in manufacturing, design, the factories had to be tooled up to make the stuff, and consumer demand had to build up.

Nice thing about the organics is that they're basically printed sheets of plastic that can be rolled out of a press (well, ok, a pretty complicated press) as big as you need it.

I will say that it's probably not a good thing that most of the companies that have been supposedly doing research in improving solar power are oil companies and utilities. BP is one of the biggest investors in solar power, and holder of many patents.

You don't need a tinfoil hat to see that developing solar isn't in the interests of an oil or electric company.
 
2004-12-26 05:02:14 PM  
While I would agree that solar is the future for low yield energy needs (individual homes, maybe cars), fusion is the power that is going to take us other stars.

I hope that someday fusion becomes feasible but I don't think it will be in time for the end of cheap fossil fuel. They've been trying for at least thirty years to get fusion to work, and they've not had more than a burp of a reaction. They are still at least fifty years away from a working 24/7 fusion power plant if it is possible at all (and there is nothing to say that it is 100% possible, it may all be a pipe dream).
 
2004-12-26 05:02:17 PM  
Just what I've been looking for.

Backpackin' out in the wilderness just isn't the same without my mp3 player, cell phone, digital camera, laptop, camcorder, GPS unit, coffeemaker, and hot plate.
 
2004-12-26 05:05:25 PM  


We need more solar powered flashlights!

/okay, so it's got batteries
 
2004-12-26 05:06:06 PM  
Anybody who comes up with a super-efficient solar panel that's cheap to make and can easily be mass-produced will be mysteriously dead from a car accident or a heart attack the next day. Everybody knows this.
 
2004-12-26 05:08:22 PM  
I've got a 10 year old calculator in my desk drawer with a solar cell the size of my fingernail. The problem isn't the collector by the amount of energy falling on any give square inch of collector. If all this magic energy that gets promised for solar was real, you'd be vaporized as soon as you stepped out of the shade.
 
2004-12-26 05:09:38 PM  
British:

Anybody who comes up with a super-efficient solar panel that's cheap to make and can easily be mass-produced will be mysteriously dead from a car accident or a heart attack the next day. Everybody knows this.


Yea right. Everyone knows it will be a brain tumor as the cops don't get involved in that.
 
2004-12-26 05:13:20 PM  
Hey if we can create a solar panel capable of providing energy needs of a house we would no longer need those cancer-causing, humming, ugly, property value destroying power lines (or at least significantly reduce them).

Befuddled

I'm not sure if solar is going to need government money for very long. For a few more years, yes. But it is close enough to being commercially viable (more a measure of the rising cost of gas then innovation though) that private industries are going to start pumping money into R&D for the practical applications of solar energy.

As for fusion. 50 years ain't so long ;). Here is a link regarding recent progress
 
2004-12-26 05:16:51 PM  


Solar powered ant killer
 
2004-12-26 05:18:09 PM  
Look at Morocco and what they are doing with solar. It's a pretty poor country, and wiring individual homes up would entail massive infrastructure costs for stringing the lines and building plants. What they do there is sell individual solar PV home systems, and the *innovation* is, the government subsidizes them with 10 and 20-year loans, where the homeowner is only paying a fraction of the principal. The little draibs and drabs the users pay isn't meant to actually fully fund the solar panel production, only to offset it a bit, and remember, those panels will have a very long useful lifetime once installed. The government is still making (a little) money on the whole deal due to the cost savings over making a conventional national power grid, and the individual Moroccan users can get this technology for a fraction of their annual income.

If you had the American government even *fractionally* subsidize solar purchases in a similar way (as we did with tax breaks in the Carter years) then those market forces the conservatives are always praising would come into play to create demand, stimulate supply and innovation and improvements in short order. But the petroleum cartels have our government locked up and bought out, preventing any such attempts to break free of the petroleum teat.
 
2004-12-26 05:26:57 PM  
Last year at the state fair, I saw a guy exhibiting and taking orders on rolled PV solar roofing. You unroll it onto your roof like tar paper, though it looks more like the panels for steel roofing... not too ugly, actually, it even comes in colors other than solar cell blue! They were marketing it mostly to farmers; lay this on your barn roof, your chicken shed, whatever, and have year-round free air conditioning and heat, off the grid. It would take several years to pay for itself if used on a regular American home, with it's massive power needs and lack of DC systems, but a determined homeowner or contractor *could* do it now...

If you linked this with say, an earth-sheltered or straw bale superinsulated type home, you'd really have something very self-sustaining....
 
2004-12-26 05:30:30 PM  
I've installed a solar powered attic vent, and a solar powered light on my house. I paid more for them, but I did it so I wouldn't have to wire them into the house. Saved me the cost of an electrician. If more people did this, the technology might catch on.

/The light runs off a battery charged by the solar cell.

//That solar powered light joke you're writing isn't funny. So give up.
 
2004-12-26 05:33:26 PM  
Any Pie Left:

If you had the American government even *fractionally* subsidize solar purchases in a similar way (as we did with tax breaks in the Carter years) then those market forces the conservatives are always praising would come into play to create demand, stimulate supply and innovation and improvements in short order. But the petroleum cartels have our government locked up and bought out, preventing any such attempts to break free of the petroleum teat.


You forgot the "violate the laws of the physics" part of that. U.S. households use considerably more power and have considerable less square footage for collectors.
 
2004-12-26 05:36:16 PM  
there are roof shingles that do a decent job of this. they are still pretty expensive, but they do work pretty well.

enough so you can call your electric supply company and get a 2-way meter, getting "credit" for sending power back to your node during surplus periods.
 
2004-12-26 05:38:55 PM  
Arkcon:

I've installed a solar powered attic vent, and a solar powered light on my house. I paid more for them, but I did it so I wouldn't have to wire them into the house. Saved me the cost of an electrician. If more people did this, the technology might catch on.

But if you did wire them, they would probably use only a small fraction of the power over their lifetime that was used to manufacture the solar version. Even running constantly, a fan like that will use maybe a half a kilowatt hour per month.
 
2004-12-26 05:41:35 PM  
I put up a wind generator last year. It's connected to batteries in the garage. We run a few lights from the system every night and have never come close to running down the battery bank. The generator was about $700; the batteries were about $1,000 total. I'd like to add some solar to that soon, but compared to the wind generator, solar is pretty costly per watt/hour.

I'd love to see the government subsidize the development of more solar power systems, but with Bush and Big Oil snuggled up in bed together, I doubt it will happen until they've squeezed as many dollars as they can out of the ground. Pick up a copy of the book "Crude: The Story of Oil" by Sonia Shah sometime. It's _very_ interesting how we ended up where we are now with regard to our dependence on petroleum.
 
2004-12-26 05:44:03 PM  
I always thought the idea of putting microscopic solar panels on our roads(or something like that, I read an article) would be an awesome idea and we would get a TON of power out of it.
 
2004-12-26 05:45:08 PM  
bitbear:

I'd love to see the government subsidize the development of more solar power systems, but with Bush and Big Oil snuggled up in bed together

Sorry dude, fantasy demonization will never make physics go away no matter how hard you clench your eyes shut and wish.
 
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