Sunday, March 8, 2009

Solar Progress and Battery Info

For solar power generation to really take off in this country, it must become price competitive with other methods of power generation. The manufacturing cost of silicon-based photovoltaic panels currently sits around $3 per Watt of generation capacity. But silicon panels have a competitor technology in thin film panels which has reached $1 per Watt. Unfortunately, there are concerns that thin film panels will have problems scaling the manufacturing level up enough to meet the kind of large demands that will exist if solar becomes truly price competitive.

As an example of the kinds of potential solar demand, I mention two very different solar projects in California and New Jersey. The larger one will be in California where one of the local utilities will build relatively conventional solar thermal plants eventually totaling over a gigawatt of capacity. New Jersey is taking a more populist approach, with plans to install solar panels on utility poles and municipal structures. They hope doing this will lessen maintenance complications and solve the problem of needing space for the panels in the densely populated state.

Finally, here is a look at some of the potential technologies that will be used in future generations of batteries used in hybrid and all electric cars. A hybrid lead-acid/supercapacitor design solves some of the short term cost problems, at the expense of weight, and lithium ion could solve the cost issue in the long term, if the safety issues can be worked out. I'm still waiting on the all-supercapacitor solution...

No comments: