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ARPA-E Award: Caltech’s Harry Atwater Aims For 50% Solar Efficiency

 
Harry Atwater’s group at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has been awarded $2.4 million by the U.S Department of Energy’s ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy) to develop 50% to 70% efficient solar cell technology.

Impact of Solar Panel Efficiency on Functionality

If this project is a success, it means that a panel which is roughly 1 foot by 1 foot could generate 50 to 70  watts of solar power on a normal sunny day, in direct sunlight!

Normally, a panel that size would generate 10 watts if 10% efficient, or 18 watts if 18% efficient.

Of course, more efficient solar panels means that more electricity can be obtained from solar panels in general, meaning that the theoretical maximum amount of power the world could obtain from solar panels would increase.

This limit is already impressively high, even with our currently inefficient panels.

Solar-Powered Cars

For those of you that are interested in solar-powered cars, or cars which utilize solar panels to do certain things (such as power ventilation fans to keep the interior from getting too hot), this is a project to follow.

The success of this project would mean, for example, that solar panels could power car air conditioners so that the cars can be kept cool on hot days without burning fossil fuels.

Impact of Solar Panel Efficiency on System Cost

Apart from the above implications, solar panel efficiency does affect the cost of solar power systems, not only because less efficient solar panels produce less energy per material input, but also because larger panels are more costly to install, ship, and store.

Source: Greentech Media


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writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.

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