Perhaps the biggest development in solar panel technology for residential
applications in recent years is the seemingly steady decline in price.
- According to a study conducted last year by Lawrence Berkeley NationalLaboratory, from 2009 to 2010 the price of a residential solar electricsystem fell 17 percent.
- And this trend continues as the price ofphotovoltaic panels steadily declines with products flooding the market fromlow cost providers like China and Taiwan.
- With current market pricescombined with federal and state financial incentives we are getting veryclose to "grid parity", the point at which the cost to generate electricityfrom alternative sources is equal toor less than the price of purchasing power from the grid.
The "3d" type of solar panels that you mentioned are really just aspecialized version of a flat panel that allow for higher efficiency bytrapping sunlight in a photovoltaic structure where photons bounce aroundfor longer allowing more of them to be converted to neutrons.
- Thistechnology also allows for the collection of sunlight over a wider range ofangles throughout the day making them more efficient.
- The rub here is thatthe cost delta for these technologies generally far outweigh any increase inefficiency so really all that they are saving you is roof space.
- The onlycompelling reason to explore this type of technology is if your roof spacecomes at a premium (i.e. you live in a high cost densely populated area likeNew York City).
Traditional photovoltaic panels based on crystalline silicon modules are nowencountering competition in the market from panels that employ thin-film solarcells, which has been rapidly evolving and are expected to account for 31% ofthe global installed power by 2013.
Thin film products althoughsignificantly less efficient than crystalline silicon, are far lessexpensive as well as easier to install as they are flexible and can beapplied directly to roofs and walls in certain applications.
- The downsidefor residential applications is that you need a lot of roof space in orderto get enough production.
- The real efficiency increases will come when thinfilm solar is integrated into products like roofing and siding and can beapplied everywhere on the outside of the house
As far as actual "new" technologies go, researchers from the University ofToronto have recently made a breakthrough in the development of colloidalquantum dot (CQD) films, leading to the most efficient CQD solar cell ever.
- These researchescreated a solar cell out of inexpensive materials that was certified at aworld-record 7.0% efficiency.
- I believe that this is where futuretechnologies will go, towards inexpensively manufactured film products.
While films are less efficient as far as energy production goes, they will allow integrationinto other construction products allowing us to turn our buildings intoenergy producing solar collectors.
For more information:
- To find out more about emerging solar technologies and costs check out theUS Department of Energy's SunShot initiative website here.
- Read "Which brand/model of solar panel works the best? We are thinking about incorporating solar in our new home." a Q&A answered by David Willson.