Technology that Could Lower the Cost of Solar Electricity

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Published: January 9, 2018

Technology that Could Lower the Cost of Solar Electricity

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NM Lab Found Low-Cost Technology that Could Lower the Cost of Solar Electricity

At NM Solar Group, we have a passion for all things solar, and new solar technology. We get excited when we discover new advances in this technology, and hope one day we can help pass these onto our clients.

An interesting article on eletrek.com explained how Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have been working on developing a new technology that would lower the cost of solar technology. They've developed a 6″ prototype of a quantum tuned, double paned, solar powered window. The window is special, in that the outside window pane has quantum dots changing ultraviolet and blue light into more easily absorbable frequencies for off the shelf solar cells to turn into electricity. The same technology applied to a standard solar panel suggests a decrease in cost of electricity from said panel of up to 34%.

To transform a window into a ‘tandem luminescent sunlight collector’, the Los Alamos team deposits a layer of highly emissive manganese-doped quantum dots onto the outside surface of the outer glass pane and a layer of copper indium selenide quantum dots onto the inner surface of the inside (bottom) pane.

The outside pane absorbs the blue and ultraviolet portions of the solar spectrum and re-emits in the colors that a standard solar cell can absorb. Then, the re-emitted light is guided by internal reflection in the glass pane to the edges of the window, where solar cells are perpendicular to the glass pane.

The purple and blue wavelengths are then being absorbed and redirected to the edges, while the remaining light continues to the second glass pane – which also redirects to solar cells at the pane edges.

These researchers also suggested using the first layer of glass to sit atop a standard solar panel.

A standard commercial solar panel is about two square meters in size for an approximate cost of $10 per panel ($8.33 for a 60 cell residential solar panel) – if applied to a modern 350W solar panel, the cost would add 2.9¢/W to the cost of the module.

The author suggests application of this quantum dot layer, with further refinement, could offer cost savings on solar electricity of 34% versus a standard, standalone solar panel. A question is out to the Dr. to determine if the % efficiency applies to an area equivalent to a window, or the area of solar cells along the edge of the glass pane. If it is the glass pane, the effective efficiency gain would be much lower, however, savings of 28-34% off of the output material (electricity) suggests the effective area is greater than the edge of the pane solar cells.

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