More Good News For Solar
MIT engineers have recently helped up the feasibility of widespread solar power by developing a new “solar concentrator.” The concentrator, which is a flat glass panel spread across a large area, gathers light at the edges of its surface. Expensive solar cells only need to sit on these borders — a difference that lowers costs and increases efficiency by 10 to 15 percent.
Scientists rerouted light to the panel’s edges by painting the surface with two or more organic dyes. By joining forces, these dyes absorb light from different wavelengths, thus harnessing as much power as possible. The panels can even be placed on existing solar-power systems — which could increase each cell’s power-capturing ability by 50 percent.
This is just one more bit of good news in an increasing series of good news for the future promise of solar energy. Solar cell prices are on a downward trend, Google plans on building a solar thermal plants, and companies all over the place are developing new techniques for cheaply manufacturing solar cells.
When you couple the advances in solar energy with the possibility that wind power could be providing up to 20% of power output in the U.S. over the next 20 years, there’s a lot of good news here. The best part about solar, from my perspective, is that as solar cells get cheaper, there’s a great opportunity for them to supplement the grid through sheer ubiquity. If energy from coal and natural gas keep going up while solar cells get cheaper and more efficient, you’re going to see a lot more solar cells on rooftops. That’s a good thing.