The beauty of photovoltaics
Posted May 21, 2008on:
The beauty of photovoltaics (PV) is that it has the capacity to displace our dependence on coal for the generation of electricity, yet PV modules are attractive simple devices with no moving parts and proven field reliability.
The challenge is to bring the cost down.
The history of PV is intimately tied up with silicon – the material that underpins our microelectronic information society.
The same properties that have allowed silicon to maintain its dominance in microelectronics are key to its dominant position in PV, accounting for over 90% market share.
Silicon is abundant (silicon and oxygen, the major components of sand, are the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust). Silicon is non-toxic. As it is a very well understood material, technologists can focus on inventing devices and processes without having to create new science.
As a result of all these factors, inventions innovations continue to aggregate, furthering the leading position of silicon, both in microelectronics and in PV.
Over the last 30 years, through a series of innovations that build on each other, the performance of silicon PV has increased and the cost has dropped at a steady pace.
Having come a long way, the field is now in striking distance of coal parity.
1366 Technologies intends to close this gap with key innovations in all areas of silicon photovoltaics.
The lens that we hold up to PV is that of manufacturing. We bring to bear the knowledge, skills and passion required to create new manufacturing technologies and the machines that implement them.
New twists on the design of the solar cells themselves go hand-in-hand with these new processes in order to manufacture PV with higher performance (conversion efficiency) at dramatically lower costs.
The science is understood. The material is abundant. The products work. All that is left is to build the largest manufacturing industry in the history of mankind. That is what we intend to do.
The annual global energy consumption of humankind is 5 x 1020 Joules; roughly equivalent to the amount of sunshine that reaches our planet in one hour. The amount of energy in one year of sunshine is larger than the Earth’s entire remaining supply of fossil fuels and uranium.
Covering 1% of Continental U.S. with 20% efficient PV systems would provide all energy needs of the US. Covering 0.2% of the surface would generate all the electricity that the US consumes. To put this number in perspective: roads cover 1.5% of the U.S.
At 1366 Technologies we were so impressed with size of the available solar resources that we named the company after Earth’s Solar Constant of 1366 W/m2.
The Solar Constant is the average amount of solar radiation in Watts per square meter just above the atmosphere, as measured over the last 30 years by the Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitors (ACRIM) on a number of NASA satellites.