Monday, January 10, 2005

Solar power for the masses?

In a similar fashion to the claims that "economical fusion power technology is now just twenty years away", and has been for the last twenty years, every couple of years someone comes along and claims to have made the breakthrough that'll make solar panels economical at last. This announcement is usually accompanied by great fanfare, and then you hear little, if anything about the technology again.

There are lots or reasons for this, first and foremost, it's hard to produce a solar cell with high enough efficiency to be worth building. If you manage this, your solution has to be cheap enough that it can be economically produced and then the materials have to be able to stand up to years of wear and term a relatively hostile environment.

Slashdot reports on a "A new solar cell material [which] has been discovered that converts 30% of the sun's energy to electricity". Looking at the original press release from the University of Toronto it looks promising, but it looks to be several years (at least) away from consumer level hardware. Lets hope this one comes to something, considering the current state of the environment, we could do with a breakthrough...