Clean Power

Published on December 7th, 2012 | by Nicholas Brown


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

December 7th, 2012 by  

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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About the Author

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:

  • Conrad Clement

    Just another hoax issued by a government-funded institution to discourage all those who are doing serious research work.

    • Bob_Wallace

      And you know this how?

      Get a message via your tooth filling?

  • Ronald Brak

    I don’t drive much, so with 50% efficient solar cells on the roof and bonnet of a small car and sunny parking spots I entirely power my day to day driving with solar. Of course, living in Australia helps.

    • Bob_Wallace

      40 square feet of usable surface on a car?

      40 x 50 watts x 5 hours of sunshine = 10 kWh.

      At 0.3 kWh per mile you could drive 30 miles. That would work for a lot of people. The US average driving day is just under 35.

      Probably would continue to make more sense to hook the panels to the grid and charge off the grid.

  • cool

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