Thursday, March 26, 2009

Revolutionary PV for Rooftops?

A California based company Solyndra Inc. has been awarded with the Renewable-energy Loan Guarantee from the Department of Energy. The company argues that the PV system is superior in terms of installation, higher efficiency, and safer operation. The cylindrical shape of the cell can capture more light (direct, diffused, reflected). Therefore, the cell does not have to be mounted on an angle. This eliminates the expensive structural supports and installation costs. In addition, no angle on the mount means more panels on a roof and more electricity.

All these improvements are impressive. However, in the bigger picture of making this society renewable-energy driven, are these improvements enough to make a major impact and receive a $535 million loan guarantee from the government? Known disadvantages are a high payback time and large land size required for installation (if not on rooftops). These issues are not necessarily addressed. Most of all, low efficiency even with the help of new cylindrical PV cells might not be significant enough to overcome the efficiency deficit with power plants.

[1] Solyndra Inc.
[2] Energy Department Issues First Renewable-Energy Loan Guarantee
[3] Energy, Technology & Policy class - Lecture 8: Renewable Power

1 comment:

Corey James said...

This is one of those times when you say "I wish I would have thought of that." The technology is impressive, but I agree with the author that the details are a little vague. We can and should support with tax dollars the research and development needed to improve our national energy situation. However, too many times we are forced to support what ends up amounting to nothing more than another pork barrel project that really is not good science in the first place. If the congress was forced to provide full disclosure and transparency on all of their projects and then held accountable, I believe we could provide some really effective support to academia to solve these problems. I believe that we can do both: we can support valid and defendable science and while at the same time providing strict oversight of the taxpayers' money. This can be done, academia is ready but we will need some integrity returned to our leaders in the congress.