Scientists at the University of Cambridge say they have developed a new type of hybrid solar cell which could convert 44 per cent of sunlight into electrical power, nearly a third more than the current best case scenario of 34 per cent. In a paper published in the journal NanoLetters, the scientists said their “hybrid” cell uses a phenomenon called “singlet exciton fission” that can extract two electrons from each photon captured (usually it is just one)
Lead author of the research Bruno Ehrler told Reuters that a commercial application could be several years away, but could help reduce costs, even beyond the significant falls in solicon-based solar cells in recent years. “Since our materials can be dissolved and processed by roll-to-roll printing, we expect the actual cost of a solar panel be much lower than (with) conventional silicon solar cells,” he said. “On an industrial scale, the cost of making the basic silicon solar cell would dominate over the cost of an organic layer printed on top of it. However, this discovery is in an early stage so it is difficult to predict the final cost and device structure.”
Solar tulips in the desert
A Spanish solar developer has designed community-scale solar thermal generators that double as giant sculptures. Aora Solar has unveiled its second plant, a 100kW prototype in Alemeria, Spain, that features a combination of mirrors – shaped in the form of a giant tulip – and fossil-fuel generation that can deliver power over a 24-hour period. Designer Haim Dotan said the combination of “style and function” could persuade design- conscious communities to erect the plants close to their homes.
Aora aims to install about 50 such generators this year and hopes to have several hundred in operation by 2013. The micro-plants cost about $550,000 each, and are modular. They feature 50 mirrors that focus the sun’s rays onto a receptor atop a 35-metre tower, and uses an air rather than a steam turbine, and consumes just a tenth of the water. The company says they’re designed to allow developers to build up capacity slowly without the project loans needed by the biggest solar plants.
“If you’re putting up 200 megawatts of concentrating solar power, you need to find someone who’s going to trust you with a billion dollars and that’s a declining demographic, CEO “Zev Rosenzweig told Bloomberg in an interview. “I believe I will receive many, many orders in next nine months.” Bloomberg said the solar tulip’s combination of solar and combustion- fueled generation means it can guarantee to supply power 24 hours a day with its computer software blending the two energy sources as the weather conditions fluctuate. Rosenzwieg said the cost of power from a solar tulip “compares very favorably” with any other solar-thermal project that has been announced.
Energy efficiency package
The Federal government on Thursday announced a package of energy efficiency programs totaling $340 million to help drive investment in smarter energy use in business, local government, households and communities. The funds, which will be delivered in partnership with business, councils and community groups, includes a $200 million Community Energy Efficiency Program to assist local government, not-for-profit and community organisations to undertake energy efficiency upgrades to local community infrastructure, including council buildings, stadiums, education facilities, town halls and nursing homes.
A $100 million Low Income Energy Efficiency Program will support groups of service providers to demonstrate smarter energy use in low income households, and a $40 million. Energy Efficiency Information Grants program will support provide information and advice to help small and medium size busniesses and community groups make smarter energy choices. The grants and guidelines open on February 13.
New clean energy regulator
The Federal Government says it will appoint Chloe Munro as the chair and CEO of the new Clean Energy Regulator, which will implement and administer the carbon price mechanism, the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting Scheme, the Renewable Energy Target, the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units and the Carbon Farming Initiative. Munro is currently the chair of the National Water Commission and has worked in other environmental and energy fields.