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Solar Energy All Day Long!

May 29, 2011

Photo by Norby

With all its promise, solar power remains a marginal renewable power source. High cost and low efficiency combined with daylight operation only and less than optimal light conditions for many highly populated cities continue to impede adoption of solar electrical generation in the U.S. Now a nanotechnology that’s been in development for many years stands to change all that.

As far back as 2005, there been whispers of solar panels that work in the night. That is produce electrical energy at potential efficiencies of >40%, i.e., for every bit of sunlight that hits the panel, only 40% of it is turned into electricity. Most efficient silicon solar cells top out at about 25 percent.

The key is the ability to harvest infrared radiation as well as visible light. More than half of the available energy in solar radiation resides in the infrared band, and infrared is reemitted as heat by the Earth’s surface after the sun has gone down, meaning the cells can even capture some energy during the night.

In 2008, Steven Novack of the Idaho National Laboratories announced the development of foldable (solar) panels with microscopic nano-antennae surface structures, as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair, that capture infrared radiation with an 80% efficiency. These nano-antennae perform like ultra-small antennas that efficiently absorb ultra-small wavelength energy.

The main problem was converting the energy absorbed by the nano-antennas into usable electricity. While electrons were streaming out of the nano-antennas, there was no way to capture those electrons.

In December 2010, Steven reported completion of an infrared ready solar cell. The system, which can absorb radiation at many angles, has an estimated overall efficiency of 46 percent. “Current solar cells can only produce their top output in a narrow range of conditions. If the sun is in the wrong position, sunlight is reflected off a silicone solar cell instead of being absorbed to create energy. These new cells with the nano-antennae are not limited by the incidence angle of the sun.”

Furthermore, in a recent announcement, Patrick Pinhero a former Idaho National Laboratory researcher, now an associate professor in the University of Missouri Chemical Engineering Department claims to have a flexible solar sheet that captures more than 90 percent of available light, which is converted into usable electricity by using special high-speed electrical circuitry. He plans to make prototypes available to consumers within the next five years.

Those in the business of solar energy recognize that PPA rates above $0.10 kWh that make financial sense to the developer are hard to acquire with a willing and creditworthy offtaker. SREC with a diminished 5-year lock-in and a risky futures market cannot make up the shortfall when 15- to 20 year PPA rates hover around $0.07 kWh.

If all is shown to be proven outside the lab; no exotic financial structuring, no federal incentives, no high PPA rates and no SRECs will be needed to justify the investment into rooftop and ground mounted solar farms.

We all heard wild claims before, only to be let down with time and cost overruns and products that do not meet expectations. Now poof is in the business of producing lots of little high-performance antennas at the right time, cost, and quality.

Five years is a long time and absorbs huge sums of money. Unfortunately, history dictates laboratory personnel make poor business managers. If the technology is true, time to buy out the inventors, use them as consultants, get VCs out of the game, and let industry do what it does best – launch marketable and affordable products.

Solar has been in the dark too long. Hopefully, this is the game changer sun worshippers have been praying for ever since mankind planted its first seed.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jitoo Parekh permalink
    May 29, 2011 8:44 PM

    Barry, Energy can not be Destroyed or Created.
    The Basics that we all learned.
    The amount of Energy used to make a solar cell can not be paid back by solar cell in it’s Life Time.
    Thus The Efficiency has to be on the Higher Side.
    Funny, CFL claims saving of your Light Bills & not Energy.
    We all have to learn a way where we use Energy in Most Efficient Way.

  2. May 30, 2011 9:35 AM

    Barry, I agree with your expert analysis except your missing the one and perhaps most important point about Solar Energy. I will also include wind energy which is indeed a form of solar energy. The key to replacing all non-renewable forms of energy is an efficient and economical storage technology. That technology is here now. I have seen it work and I am helping the developer to bring this technology into the global energy market place. I will give you some of the specifications on this most special technology.I am posting the overview parameters of this technology into your blog. I will be happy to discuss this with parties which I feel could be of potential benefit for the global development of this technology.

    New Solid State Magnetic Capacitance Battery

    • Developed by Physicists and Semiconductor Development experts

    • Battery Based on Quantum Physics principles, not Chemistry

    • Outperforms all existing forms of battery technology on all levels

    • Manufacturing process similar to as making memory chips and hard disk heads.

    • Demonstration chips have been successfully manufactured. Not just theory.

    Battery Features

    • Easy to manufacture

    • High Capacity

    • Very High Voltage Stability

    • Wide operating voltage range: 1.5V to 400V

    • Can be recharged and discharged unlimited times

    • 100% capacity utilization

    • Almost zero self discharge

    • Recharge time. Milliseconds. Limited only by available power draw and charging circuitry

    • Wide Discharge Operating Temp. -55℃~+200℃

    • No Memory Effect

    • Excellent Thermal Stability

    • Excellent Safety Characteristics

    • Environmentally Friendly

    • Easy Disposal. No hazardous materials. No Need to Recycle

    Market Opportunity

    • 2011 World Battery Market is expected to be $190 Billion and growing 12-15% a year

    • Any traditional battery replacement

    • Cell Phones

    • Laptops

    • Medical Devices

    • Satellites

    • Electric Vehicle

    • New Battery Opportunities

    • Electric Power grid storage and load balancing

    • Wind Farm Storage

    • Power station on a card. Plug in portable power

    • Distributed power storage. Charge off-peak, utilize at peak. Store in local neighborhood transformer boxes

    • Unlimited possibilities

    Cost and Weight Comparison

    Comparison to Other Battery Technologies

    Weighs on the average 1/28 the weight of Lithium Ion batteries.

    This battery has been successfully produced and we are seeking a JV Equity Partner, If you consider your group a qualified potential partner leave your contact information email and I will get back to you and we can discuss your qualifications and see if the synergy exists to discuss in more detail.
    All the Best, Michael

  3. June 19, 2011 12:16 AM

    ….The most expensive carefully designed and complicated solar panels in the world operate at about 40 efficiency. But suddenly from nowhere comes Steven Novack of the Idaho National Laboratories with an inexpensive fold able solar panel that may turn out to be up to 80 efficient.

  4. patrick permalink
    March 6, 2012 3:58 PM

    Hi Michael I am currently involved in a EV car conversion and would like to know if this technology could be used for keeping a charge in rechargeable lithium batteries?. Do you have units for sale? if so email me: jpmc_bird@hotmail.com thanks Patrick

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