Posted By RichC on December 7, 2006
Wow … not that long ago we were excited when efficiently advancement in solar cell technology hit 20 percent, now a Department of Energy funded research company has doubled that. According to the Alexander Karsar at the DOE, Boeing-Spectrolab achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance.
According to the DOE, the “breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nationâ€™s energy mix.”
The approach to achieving these impressive results has to do with using an optical concentrator to increase the intensity of the sun prior to hitting a solar cell. The structure is referred to as a “multi-junction solar cell” which is made up of several layers which capture part of the sunlight as it passes through the cell.
These new cells are make up of “multi-junction gallium arsenide-based solar cell devices,â€ multi-layered solar cells which converted about 16 percent of the sunâ€™s available energy into electricity. In 1994, DOEâ€™s National Renewable Energy laboratory broke the 30 percent barrier, which attracted interest from the space industry. Most satellites today use these multi-junction cells.
With the help of advancements like this, the Bush administration’s Solar America Initiative (SAI) may be able to meet the goal of producing enough power for two million homes by the year 2015 at a cost of only 5 to 10 cents per kilowatt/hour of zero-emission solar energy. (link for more information)