Published on March 20th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan14
Solar3D Thinks Its Solar Cells Can Produce 200% the Power of Conventional Solar Cells
March 20th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
Solar3D is a young solar cell company looking to mass produce 3-dimensional (3-D) solar cells. Take a stroll through our Solar3D articles from the past year for a little more history. Now, the innovative solar company is under the impression that “it may have discovered the ultimate silicon solar cell design.” It announced yesterday that “it has completed a detailed simulation analysis comparing its breakthrough solar cell with conventional solar cells” and that the result is pretty dramatic. Solar3D found that its solar cell “can produce 200% of the power output of conventional solar cells.”
Now, this hasn’t been independently verified yet, and it isn’t yet based on a working prototype. So, some might believe it’s all just hype at this point. But I’m going to lean on the side of optimism and say that this looks quite promising. Here’s more on how the technology works, and why it’s so special:
The company’s innovative single wafer silicon solar cell is based on a 3-dimensional design with two very powerful and unique patent-pending features: wide angle light collection and high conversion efficiency. The Solar3D cell has a special wide-angle feature on the surface that can capture more light in the morning and evening hours, as well as in the winter months when the sun is not directly overhead. The Solar3D cell also uses a 3-dimensional design to increase the electricity generation efficiency by trapping sunlight inside photovoltaic microstructures, which are etched into the wafer, where photons bounce around until they are converted into electrons. These two features are combined into a single solar cell design to deliver unprecedented performance….
The company’s analysis indicates that a typical 17% efficient solar cell performs more like a 5% efficient cell when light is shining 20 degrees from the side, such as during the morning and evening hours. The company estimates that its Solar3D cell can maintain its high 25% efficiency for a longer period of time and can generate 200% of the power output of conventional solar cells. This translates to an estimated 40% reduction in the payback period of a fully installed Solar3D panel array.
Full results of the analysis and short videos about the technology can be found on Solar3D’s Technology page.
Here’s more from Solar3D CEO Jim Nelson on what he sees as the clear advantages of Solar3D’s technology:
“The result of our innovation is a revolutionary solar cell that can deliver benefits that have long eluded the solar industry. Everyone wants low cost high-powered solar cells to convert an unlimited amount of free solar energy into useful electricity. But, the industry has hit a wall using conventional 2-dimensional solar cell designs. With Solar3D cells, utility solar farms can be smaller in size and easier to operate without the need for mechanical systems to track the sun. Space limited applications, such as rooftops, can finally generate enough useful power to successfully compete against other sources of electricity. We believe that our 3D design is a game changer.”
I can’t argue with him.
Solar3D is very outspokenly betting on silicon as its core material, and it’s currently working on a prototype 3-D solar cell.
“Solar3D is currently constructing a prototype of its 3-dimensional solar cell using silicon, simply because silicon is the most abundant and least expensive material available in the world for making solar cells. Early solar pioneers such as First Solar, Abound Solar and Solyndra bet heavily on thin film solar cells using rare earth materials such as cadmium, telluride and gallium. Their lack of market success supports the company’s fundamental belief that silicon is the right material for solar cells and 3D is the right way to get more performance out of silicon.”
I certainly wouldn’t say First Solar lacks market success — it’s one of the most successful solar companies ever — but it is running into some trouble now with the plunging price of silicon solar cells. It certainly makes sense to steer the route of silicon these days.