the breakthrough that ends big oil and brings solar power to the world?
I would love to hear your opinions on this, I don’t have enough knowledge to comment:
That was September. We already have flexible thin film, but the efficiency is not very high. This demonstration has a higher efficiency, but is still a few (5-9) years from going from the lab to the store. there are a few other things happening elsewhere that should be happening sooner.
These look good, from MIT, moving towards a lower cost for install. Siva power thinks that the current technology is headed for the dustbin and that thin-film is the way to go, but I do not expect either of these technologies to mature for a few more years.
I always wince inwardly when an article touts the latest solar cell breakthrough (usually still at the lab or pilot level, not full commercialization and production flows) and asks "is this the breakthrough that will end big oil?"
The reason I wince is that solar cells generate electricity and the world hardly uses any oil at all for the purpose of generating electricity.
It's like asking, "will new corn hybridization methods end the stranglehold the steel unions have on new bridge construction?" One hardly has anything to do with the other.
As to the technology, nowhere in the article does it mention things like the tested durability of the organic or plastics used in the process, or the efficiency.
Both are important, and are probably not really known at this point.
At any rate, a far better question would be "is this the breakthrough that ends big coal?" which is a direct and causal link at least for thermal coal. Even better, it would demonstrate that the person writing the article had enough of a grasp on the subject to be trusted on other details.
In that sense, Chris, the breakthrough that ends oil dependence could be Tesla’s interchangeable battery packs. However, there’s a long way from here to there: people will have to come up with cheap Teslas, once the charge stations are ubiquitous.
But yes, that technology could concievably start switching road vehicles to electric. At some point, it will then become effective to switch the infrastructure as well.
While you have an argument, the problem remains one of scale. Tesla is in the process of building a battery "gigafactory' which would make batteries for about 200,000 cars a year. if we continue business-as-usual, we need about a two hundred of those factories (at 5 billion each?) for the millions of cars that are produced annually. We would need to at least triple that number for light and medium trucks.
I am extremely doubtful that this will happen in the time-frame that will prevent the current economic (and associated energy) problems from coming to a head.
Some of you have probably seen this (it was high on the google query I did) – sketching out the possibilities of solar powered cars, from a physics point of view. You know, Newtons, drag coefficents, kilowatt hours, that sort of thing.
Executive summary: for a completely self-contained solar-powered car (with battery) that charges said battery from car-mounted rooftop solar panels, basically you end up with a golf cart – this assumes you drive an average of no more than 10 miles/day and are ok with a 25 mph top speed. Cart has a range of 30 miles, but must take 3 days to fully recharge the batteries from the rooftop solar panels.
The biggest problem: car rooftop just isn't big enough.
"The reason I wince is that solar cells generate electricity and the world hardly uses any oil at all for the purpose of generating electricity."
That, of course, misses the point. It is not about generating electricity with oil; it is about "generating oil" (so to say) with electricity — i.e. reducing the demand for oil with electricity. The issue is the potential of cheap electrical power to partially or largely displace the need for oil, as in electric vehicles.
Please, Chris. Your superior intelligence is best directed to real issues.
Why would anyone take seriously the idea of car-mounted rooftop solar panels?! That idea was a total non-starter without any formal analysis whatsoever.