Even a new development like the Solar Junction solar cell technology, which recently set the record for most efficient solar cell, can’t work alone.
It works best with Semprius’ solar cell module. The North Carolina-based company utilizes a breakthrough micro-printing process to produce the solar cells en masse and load them onto specially designed large arrays to collect power from the sun.
John Rogers, a materials science professor at the University of Illinois, pioneered the printing process and in 2005 founded Semprius.
utilising Solar Junction’s raw materials, Semprius’ manufacturing technology creates the Formula One car of solar cells.
The printing process allows Semprius to print Solar Junction’s cells at a size no larger than a dot from a pen, the world’s smallest solar cell. This is good for a few reasons.
First, it allows it to harness the power of 1,100 suns, at 33.9 per cent efficiency, by concentrating radiation into one tiny spot.
It also makes the module more cost-efficient, since you only need a fraction of semiconductor material needed to capture comparable amounts of sunlight.
Semprius’ modules also use special optics that track the sun throughout the entire day, further increasing efficiency.
They’re also more environmentally-friendly than mainstream solar arrays. While those usually covering large swatches of land, Semprius’ modules are mounted on poles and move throughout the day. This spares underlying vegetation from the permanent shade an unmoveable array would create.
The company has already partnered with Siemens to deploy a pilot installation of the solar cell towers at Tucson Electric Power.
“Large engineering, procurement and construction firms like Siemens [are recognising] the breakthrough on the cost side for very large power plants in sunny regions,” Russ Kanjorski, Semprius’ vice president for business development, told us.
The utility market for their product is nearly unlimited, he said. It would appeal to any place that gets above-average amounts of solar radiation–like the Middle East or the American Southwest–and where the modules can be deployed en masse (unfortunately the technology is not suitable for residential use).
That volume is the key hurdle to get the cost of solar competitive with fossil fuels.
“We’re planning on delivering a significant advantage to existing technologies,” Kanjorski said. This would make harvesting energy from the sun cheaper, “ultimately down 8 to 10 cents [per kilowatt hour] in the right regions.”
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