Solar Power efficiency boosted 300%. Game changer?

According to this article a US company has devised a way to increase efficiency in solar panels by 300%.

I admit, the source is clearly biased, but does the science check out? And if it does, is this a game changer?

That would be an inconceivably huge game-changer, since it would imply that the Law of Conservation of Energy is false. Solar panels are already a bit above 25% efficient, so a 300% increase would put them at over unity.

Which also, I think, gives an idea of my feelings about that biased source.

If it isn’t just made up, I suppose it might be typically sloppy reporting, and be a reference to 75% efficiency (three times 25%).

That aside, I doubt that even 100% efficient solar cells would be a “game changer”. They have too many other limitations; there’s only so much sunlight to be absorbed per square foot no matter how efficient the cells are.

Right now, I believe that solar cells in Southern California can reach grid parity over the course of a year. If these solar cells were three times as efficient then they would be cheaper than grid power, not only in California but in the entire southwest and probably most fo the country (almost definitely anywhere in the tropics).

Oil and Coal have had centirues to improve their efficiency, one day solar willbecome much more efficient.

It isn’t just efficiency, it’s quantity and density. Even a perfectly efficient solar panel can’t absorb more solar power than is actually there. Sunlight is both diffuse and not very intense, and only so much of it arrives per day. Petrochemicals are a lot more compact, and you can always dig/pump more if you need it (until it runs out of course).

Nuclear energy is better than either.

Here’s a less biased article regarding the use of “light guiding” acrylic optics to concentrate sunlight onto solar cells.

This seems to be the “cutting edge optics [technique]” being promoted by HyperSolar (although the “Technology” page on the company’s website isn’t very helpful with details). This could be a major cost reducer in the production of solar panels, which would conceivably be a game changer, in that it would push solar power generation much further toward cost competitiveness in the power market.

It does nothing to change the existing geographical limitations of solar power, but those don’t pose an insurmountable obstacle to having a significant portion of the power grid supplied by solar.

500 Watts or more per square metre (subject to location, prevailing conditions, daytime, etc) is not inconsiderable. Cheap, highly efficient solar cells would have plenty of real-world uses. It wouldn’t change everything, but it would change quite a lot of things.

I’d guess a bigger game changer would be in rural parts of developing nations which don’t have the infrastructure to use grid electricity. Cheap solar power could do for them what cell phones did and leapfrog the infrastructure heavy predecessor.

But I hear of things like this almost every month. Lower production costs, higher efficiency, etc that are supposed to change everything. So far in real world applications I haven’t personally noticed anything.

I’d say that solar panels with efficiency > 100% would be a game-changer. :wink:

Efficient solar power would be great, but cheap solar power is the problem. Even in “good” locations, solar power is expensive in its initial costs.

Thank you for that article.

So no game changer but perhaps more efficiency a bit more cost effectively. Focus three times the area on to one cell and get that cell up to its maximal efficiency. The concept is designed to reduce the use of expensive polysilicon and wafers albeit the costs of those components are dropping already.

Grid parity is the goal and one part of that is the cost of competing forms of electricity. It’s pretty impossible to compete against coal without the carbon priced in.


The triple junction cells I tested were about 29% efficient. If somehow these little babies magically increased their efficiency 300%, that would still be less than unity. What am I missing here?

Concentrating solar power on cells isn’t new, I recall seeing schemes like that back in the 70’s. So “HyperSolar” seems to be more a pejorative in this case.

i have 29% of something. If i increase it 100%, i have 58% of something. If I had increased it 200% instead, I would have had 87% of something. If I had increased it 300% I would have had 116% of something.

As Der Trihs said upthread, they probably mean increased **to **300% of current capability, rather than increased by 300%

Ah, interesting.

Thank you for the other article, it does point out some things that the original source I stumbled across seemed to have overlooked for some odd reason. :smiley:

I have long thought that if we could improve costs on solar panel production or increase efficiency or both, that adding them to the roofs of most buildings would be a great way to increase available grid power.

I also agree that nuclear is the way to go, but we have a distressingly long way to go to get folks’ heads out of the sand on that particular issue.

I thought thin film was supposed to be the new cheap power. Supposedly it is backordered a few years but when production levels climb it may be produced for $0.50-$1 a watt. But you still have to buy inverters, install it and all that.

A timely WSJ update on thin film.

The inverters keep getting cheaper and better. They have advanced far quicker then the panels so far.

My three inverters without gauges and auto-switching capabilities could be replaced by a single inverter with plenty of better tech that cost less than any of the individual inverters I had to buy.

All that is to say, the inverters are the cheap part of the install.

This would be game changing if the claims were real, sadly I don’t see how they could be.

As Xenophon pointed out, this technology is not about increasing the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell; it is about collecting the light with plastic optics and concentrating it onto a smaller area of PV. Thus factors of 3 or 4 are possible, reducing the area of expensive PV cells for a given area of collector.

There is a price to pay, however. You can’t just arbitrarily make light go where you want it. Generally, to create a high concentration ratio requires designing the optics for a particular direction of incident light. For high concentration ratios, such as those discussed in the linked article, you need a heliostat (i.e. an automatic system to keep the optics pointed at the sun). Perhaps there are factors of 3 or 4 floating around that don’t require heliostats, but there is not enough information on the Hypersolar web site to tell.

How much do they cost and how much do they produce?