For all the excitement over low cost solar power, much of it is still in the development stage backed by government resources and has yet to prove that it can compete on the market with cheap fossil fuels. However some private investors are starting to bet on low cost solar in a big way. Among them is tech specialist Len Batterson, whose startup NextGen Solar is kicking into gear.
NextGen Solar will use nanoscale solar “paint” technology developed by Argonne National Laboratory, with the goal of lowering production costs while increasing efficiency compared to thin-film photovoltaic materials.
Many Roads to Cost-Competitive Solar
From turnkey solar kits to the use of low-cost solar materials, there are many different angles from which to push solar into the competitive energy market. A solar paint that can be economically applied to different surfaces is one solution. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is already working on a silicon based solar ink, and The University of Texas is developing spray-on solar cells. According to chicagobusiness.com writer Paul Merrion, Argonne’s solar technology can be applied to many types of building surfaces, including windows. It goes on like paint, then dries to form microscopic interconnected solar cells.
Affordable Solar Power in Action
If commercialization proves successful, solar paint and other forms of low-cost solar power will have an impact that goes beyond lowering utility costs for private property owners and renters. Even in today’s market, solar power is helping to bring costs down in the subsidized housing sector. It’s only a matter of time before low cost renewable energy becomes ubiquitous among all facilities owned or subsidized by the government, relieving taxpayers from the budget-sucking burden of fossil fuel utilities.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.