A quick trip down memory lane, and here's an archive of one of the stories I was following, back in the day: http://rexresearch.com/marks2/marks.htm. Lumeloid was broadly the same as what NovaSolix proposes -- cheap ultra-high-efficiency PV with optical rectennas -- albeit using polymers rather than carbon nanotubes. I had high hopes that these would be just around the corner in the 1990s, but alas the technology seems to have vanished into the mist. I'm curious to know why: was it a failure of the technology? Financing? Personalities? Alas its demise seems have been undocumented.
Hopefully NovaSolix will fare better; at least today there is complementary infrastructure (far better batteries, electric cars, etc.) which makes investment in any kind of solar tech much more viable than it would have been in the 1990s.
I skimmed Alvin Marks’ parents. A few things stuck me.
There are a lot of them, like hundreds?
They mostly have one inventor (for something like this, I’m used to seeing teams).
None of the patents I looked at showed any supporting real data. Usually if something is working, early experimental data is shown to support the concept.
They are pretty broad (their are patents for “space train” and “Quantum 3D displays”.
My gut tells me it probably just didn’t work. The basic approach doesn’t look hard to replicate, and I’d expect to see some publications if it worked. So if anyone knows of any publications I’d be curious to see them.
crazy to think that so many things were already done and fell below the radar
The system is designed to protect ideas, not validate them.
Other soft costs, like land acquisition and taxes, still play dominant roles in many projects.
The naive assumption is that solar succeeds when there's lots of sun and it's all just physics.
But these other factors, like, say opportunity costs (the cost of available substitutes), are why you're often better off installing solar in Alaska than Florida.
Theoretical physics are great, but at this point I'd be far more excited about big ideas to deal with the messy economics side of solar generation. An announcement that some sort of "solar council" was going to pursue a national marketing campaign to drive solar adoption would be huge news. Or Elon deciding that strip malls were his new target, to drive installation of solar on every commercially leased roof, which would reap huge efficiencies of scale in local installation costs over residential.
Or, the cheesy TED talk clincher would be: the next big solution isn't always about electrons, sometimes it's about people.
I’ve read that the economics may already be close to favoring multi-junction cells for this reason, and they’re nowhere near 90% efficient, nor are they cheap.
What struck me is that nobody, not even Solar City and others, looked at the logistics side of things. It seemed to me that eveeybody came up with elaborate and capoztal intensive ways to sell to the people with the smallest customer Life-Time value in the whole value chain. Putting sophisticated logistics in place to cut costs (my assumption was that by doing that the solar panel cost could be reduced by around 15-20%) and selling to installers would have been the better way to go.
So I second you and the OP, it is no ponger about physics (with the exception of large power plants) and more about people and how you get solar on said people's roofs.
Which is an argument for trying to make cells more efficient like the ones in the article apparently looking at 43-90% as against something like 18% for typical cell. If most of your costs are installing etc then those can remain the same while you get twice the output.
An even cheesier TED talk clincher would be:
> the next big solution isn't always about electrons, sometimes it's about elections.
Here in California, PG&E offers the "solar choice" program where I pay extra to have 100% of my electricity generated from solar. This cost $6.50 of my $82 electric bill last month. (Yes I know electricity is fungible.)
Distributed production offers some huge advantages, but in the nrel study above you'll find that utility scale is strictly more efficient.
I think Hawaii is a good case study. Customers are generally frustrated with the power company's poor reliability and high rates. Rooftop solar offers a substitute for what has traditionally been a protected monopoly, and there's abundant sun, so solar adoption there is crazy strong. HECO has generally fought to slow it down.
If utilities realize this threat, they'll become competitive on price and customer service. Reliability in some places.
If they do not understand this threat, then they will just try to lobby for more and more extensive penalties for those with rooftop solar who are still connecting to the grid. Like cable companies raising rates in response to the rise of Netflix.
The most extreme version of that would be the emergence of microgrids - cord cutting from utilities by entire subdivisions.
Microgrids are potentially really cool technology, but would require some pretty intense dysfunction to take off.
So while I hope utilities figure this out, regions will vary, and rooftops put a new sort of check on how bad utilities can get, even if they don't become ubiquitous. Rooftops will inevitably be the answer in some places, not all.
Oh and if you look country by country, to places where it has been harder to get a well financed responsible utility... Parts of Latin America or Africa could really be jump-started economically by rooftop solar.
Nobody is going to try steal the hot copper wires connecting my house to the grid.
But where there's a substantial PV array on display, there's batteries and an expensive inverter nearby, and not much to prevent taking them.
The battery bank and inverter however, which are easily put invisibly to use by anyone even your neighbor, are quite the prize.
I'm not sure it's all that unusual a case. Solar is especially relevant to remote off-grid homes. Unfortunately, these are also prime targets for theft as they're often left unattended for long periods with distant neighbors.
Denser populations have a grid, and can just have a large solar installation powering that grid on a large scale.
It's a problem. Solar puts expensive infrastructure on-site, it's a mini power station.
> Solar is especially relevant to remote off-grid homes. Unfortunately, these are also prime targets for theft as they're often left unattended for long periods with distant neighbors.
Remote off grid homes are a very unusual case. Not saying there is no demand from that segment, but even there is a higher rate of demand from it, it's a small segment of the market vs urban/suburban rooftop solar, and I wouldn't expect major manufacturers and installers to optimize for it.
> Denser populations have a grid, and can just have a large solar installation powering that grid on a large scale.
That's already happening today. However people choose to have rooftop domestic solar for many reasons ... to fix the long term cost of their electricity consumption, to offset peak power rates, etc.
> It's a problem. Solar puts expensive infrastructure on-site, it's a mini power station.
In situations where site security is a problem, presumably custom solutions can be put in place by installers to ensure security of the inverters and batteries. It may cost more, but that's sort of the price paid for owning property in a sparse, remote location.
Especially considering the wires connecting your house to the grid are actually aluminum.
Is PV theft really a problem though? I mean they could sell them on ebay but AFAIK most thieves aren't just fencing everything on ebay. I can't imagine a pawn shop would give them much for it considering how hard it would be for the pawn shop to resell them. With copper and aluminum theft the thieves can just go down to the nearest scrapyard and get paid by the pound.
I don't doubt the theft risk exists. I'm asking if you are catastrophising to "..so we shouldn't do it" or just observing a downside risk component.
It just makes more sense in a lot of cases to let the utility provider convert to solar than turn your house into a power station you then have to secure accordingly and maintain.
I'm not interested in having to surround my property with barbed wire topped chain link fences, which is what you'll see around power stations for good reasons.
Maybe you live in a much higher crime risk area. I know (for instance) honey hives in NZ are being predated by gangs so I can believe there are portable high theft risk things in rural settings. But I'm really unsure a Tesla battery rig is one.
I've had plants stolen. I still maintain my garden..
What a world it would be if independent solar power were the cost of a garden!
Having said which, close friends ran bespoke gardening for richer garden aesthetes.
Back to the lead topic. PV is worth doing but assess your theft and vandalism exposure in risk/cost benefit.
Electrical is arguably the most regulated, standards based and straight forward aspect of construction and even that varies a great deal based on the electrician and equipment.
A rigorous standards based construction industry would be amazing. We could design electrical systems that could be installed by a novice with almost no risk of danger or failure. Homeowners could change luminares just plugging them in and attaching them to an electric box toolesly. We could have plug and play water appliances.
Damn it would be magical but again I'm fairly certain that's just not going to happen.
Edit: Above I indicated that the construction industry doesn't operate on "rigorous standards". That's not really true. There are actually very good science based standards for most construction tasks. It's more of a problem that the industry doesn't really focus on making future work on a structure low cost. And it makes very little effort to increase accessibility by creating more consumer facing equipment and tools.
I think you also conflate the way which something is built with the specification it is built against - like interfaces vs implementation details. If you tell companies to build a certain kind of roof, with ports and wiring, then they will not receive any money if they don’t meet your spec. They are free to use the kind of wood, nails, wires (as long as thick enough) that they like, and this is where they can compete against each other.
Now that I think about it though I believe you are correct about the diameter of the port being consistent. It is indoor plumbing valves that I've run into a variety of sizes of. 1/2" vs 3/8 compression.
There are other types, no EU involvement here ( yet ).
Also, if you stick a power port on your roof and you live in an area with lots of lightning, I'll stay away from your house.
Regarding lightning, IDK how the Tesla roof solved this, but they obviously did.
That's because higher-energy-per-unit-area panels increases the efficiency of land use, which drives all the other costs you list: land acquisition, taxes, customer acquisition, etc.
You’re a good thinker and writer. I’m definitely ready for your TED talk!
And some making sure the roof/attic floor doesn't collapse, which usually is not a problem.
This can be _build_from_scratch_ in a couple of weekends with a best friend.
But for the construction codes. And unions.
It's so low-tech, so I wonder why I haven't heard of 19th century installations. Me, I actuially built two in places where construction codes are not an issue. And have seen functioning installs dating from 1950s.
I don't think it even makes any sense to mass-produce heat boxes the way the solar-electric panels have to be. It all can be either made on site or included into the house design from start.
That's maybe why you can't buy solar heating off the shelf.
You usually want a water tank to buffer the thing, so you can get hot water at night. Temperature will be all over the place without that. Giant hot water tanks in attics need extra structural support, which was a problem in Florida at one time.
There are some fancier setups that will work in cold weather. Some systems use antifreeze in the panels, and a heat exchanger.
Not any more. We've got 50-state legal solar stuff where you just lay the panels out in the yard, literally plug them into your wall outlet, and every outlet on that circuit is energized. You can even leave it hooked to your power at night time, as the junction boxes have barrier rectifier diodes that prevent the panels from consuming power at night.
Install costs are becoming almost negligible due to advancing technology.
Cell efficiency is up there. Typical monocrystalline panels run 20+% now days (and look utterly gorgeous - https://imgur.com/a/sZGtYmB - picture from my job.)
Opportunity costs? Each cell runs on average $1.00 for most manufacturers, so you just need to shop around. A typical 60-cell panel at 300W runs about $150-200.
Most of your concerns have not been concerns for about 5 years.
Second, the possible applications -
Low efficiency cells will support low power appliances,
Or you'll need more of them / storage for more power hungry applications.
A more efficient cell enables new applications where weight is an issue.
The only thing more efficient solar brings is less packaging and use in extremely confined spaces like the roof of a car.
PS: The car thing should start taking off in a few years. A Tesla model 3 is 4.6 meters long 1.85 meters wide so 8.7 meters square. At 40% your talking about around 30kwh per day which could really extend the range and for less used cars minimize recharging.
Here's a 8.3 kW diesel generator (6.3 kW generator) from Home Depo:
367 lbs + fuel = 180 kg + fuel
One random 265W solar panel, you need 31 off them, one is 18,6 kg gives 582 kg of solar panels to get to 8.3 kW (obviously you wont get 8.3 kW cont. from them). Not counting inverters, mounting rackets etc.
So for equal weight and way more power you have one 8,3 kW diesel generator and 402 kg of diesel.
1 kg diesel is ca 12 kWh energy. Lets guess 30% efficiency gives
1447 kWh electricty for the same weigth. That's about as much as the solar panels will produce in 2,4 months assuming 129 kWh/m2/year.
According to this site it's 3,14 USD per watt solar panel installation for consumers.
8300 * 3,14 = 26 000 USD.
So, you can buy a generator and 22 000 USD of diesel (about 22 000 litres or 22 000 litres * 10kWh * 0,3 efficiency = 66 000 kWh electricty) for about the same price. Or about what the same dollar in solar panels will produce in 8 years with way lower peak power.
Without going to extreme: https://www.solbian.eu/en/4-flexible-solar-panels
That’s 130 W for 1.7kg. Your 8.3 KW would be 108kg which is 238 lb and thus less than the generator even excluding fuel.
Depends on if you need power, or, energy over time for the same weight.
Again, I think for the most common case the only real advantage of increased effecency is lower installation costs. I am just saying solar fits in a very wide range of use cases and sometimes say for satilites you want something very specific and paying for it is worth it.
I think it would be better to list the number of miles it
can run before maintenance is needed. Just stating the time does not provide a complete picture.
As you say intermittency and time of day is the issue. Although I think we should just reflect lower costs in time of day tariffs. I suspect there are a lot of use-cases where people would happily shift demand to save money. For instance if you could just put your clothes in a washer dryer, and leave it to handle the cheapest time. Or air conditioning which creates ice earlier in the day then uses the cache later. Provide the tariffs, open the market opportunity, and see what technologies emerge.
The storage 'problem' doesn't really exist. Do we 'store' electricity currently? No, we just generate it all the time and it's 'used' straight away. Well, what we do technically now 'store' will continue to be stored if using wind/solar (e.g. pumped hydro 'Electric Mountain' in the UK).
Shall we also pedantically say we current 'store' electricity in the form or chemical energy in gas/fossil fuels or whatever? We can use that definition I suppose.
Even with that definition no leap to any new 'storage' method actually needed if we look at the functional output required to keep the system operating the same way it does now. You just need need to have enough renewable over-capacity to generate enough electricity to meet the 24h cycle. Which is functionally what we do now.
The "it's always windy/sunny/tidal somewhere" solution is the same as what we do currently, we just put our hands over our eyes and ignore the 'energy security' implications of not producing enough oil/gas to meet our own needs so it feels like somehow what we have now is more certain.
That's not to say it wouldn't be more efficient to store electricity and release it as needed. But just like now what would solve the problem is over capacity with enough resilience to feed the 24 hour cycle.
Can that be done with 'just' wind and solar? I don't know,I guess not. Nuclear would seem a good addition to the mix, and tidal or wave power.
But it seems like we should at least approach the problem openly without hamstringing ourselves worrying about 'storing' electricity being something we absolutely must 'solve' before renewables can be relied upon.
Right, and we vary how much we produce to match demand. We can't make it sunnier just because everyone has gone to put the kettle on at the same time.
If there wasn't enough generating capacity in the fossil fuel system it would be equivalent to 'can't make it sunnier'. The flip side to 'can't make it sunnier' is you can add more solar generating capacity (over-capacity) and add mixed generation through wind/solar/tidal. Both options end up at the same place - over-capacity in order to meet peak/daily/yearly loads.
Classic fossil fuel generating stations quite literally sit idle waiting to go, that's the over-capacity. The same thing can be done for renewables (the whole mix, not just solar).
And to answer the inevitable 'but we've always got access to fossil fuels, like at night when the sun doesn't shine'...
Right now we 'store' the electrical energy in fossil fuels (really we release it) and say this system if inherently more stable because we assume access to those fuels is immutable. And we say that the energy 'stored' in the wind or tide or sun is not.
In reality, fossil fuel energy security is a delicate balancing act of just in time logistics and political power plays, for most nations without vast resources or nuclear generating capacity for instance.
Functionally, perceived limitless access to fossil fuels gives the false impression of superiority and conversely give the the perceived absolute need for renewable storage because of the very obvious daily cycle of light/wind/tide.
I simply say that adopting a system of over-capacity like we currently have for fossil fuels and recognising that neither renewable/fossil fuel resource access is certain is a sensible middle ground upon which to build a sensible generating program. Both systems can rely on having more capacity to handle peak loads, both systems have the ability to plan for their faults and both can work without massive grid scale storage.
Adding storage to renewable generation would actually be a huge step up over the current system and would be fantastic. I would love to see such a system work, and I believe it will do anyway through distributed smart grid/EV usage and large grid scale battery storage.
It's just the uncertainties of the current system are hidden from the average user and I'm just saying we're setting a higher bar for renewable use and storage because the access limitation are that bit more obvious on the daily cycle.
So you are effectively asking for a 3-5x lower solar cost before it could replace existing sources. Never mind that there are seasons and periods of the day when no amount of excess capacity will cover the demand, there is simply no significant solar energy on continent-wide scales.
I've repeatedly said to use a mix of renewables, just like a mix of fossil fuels is used, so deficiencies in one is balanced by another.
The exact same thing is done in traditional generation. You don't use a nuclear plant t for a TV pickup for instance, you wouldn't use solar for the whole grid.
Balancing the way you generate reduces the amount of over-capacity required (and subsequently the cost), exactly as is done now in traditional generation.
I’m optimistic, but we’re not there yet.
120 m * 35,000 kg * 9.8 m/s/s = 41.2 MJ = 11.4 kWh.
LiIon: 250–693 W·h/L, 100–265 W·h/kg, 250~300 USD/kWh in 2018
-> 11.4 kWh = 45.7-16.5 litres, 114-43 kg, $2850-$3420.
Concrete is much harder for me to find number for, seems to be $92/cubic yard, 2.4 tons/cubic meter.
35 tons -> 14.5 cubic meters -> ~19 cubic yards -> $1748 plus whatever the cost of a crane that can lift 35 tons is.
My knowledge of cranes is whatever came up first on Google:
“””A Comadil CTT 361-20 is a good size crane able to do concrete panels, max jib length is 75 meters and they have a max lift capacity of 20 tonnes. These cranes can go up pretty high without needing to be tied into the building. This crane will cost around $1 million”””
Article later talks about renting smaller 4-5 ton capacity cranes for $1500-$2000 per week.
The problem is neither LiIon nor concrete with cranes nor hydrogen are cheap enough. Not yet.
The limiting factor on deployments continues to be "what to do when the sun doesn't shine bright". Night for starters and in a lot of the world, you have whole seasons where the skies are overcast nearly all day (monsoons).
If you anyway have to couple solar with something else to make up for the variability in power generation (largely fuel based because Hydro and nuclear are massive government led projects) and you have to invest in expensive and bulky power storage to handle even the nights, why not pay a little more incremental money and get a slightly bigger fuel based power plant.
The higher the efficiency, the less solar cells you need.
This has impacts on environment (solar cell farms), adds possibilities for miniaturization (what, if a vehicles rooftop could feed all the energy needs of said vehicle or, at least, constantly refuel it?), mobile device chargers (could be even become the outer hull of a battery, so you just need to place the battery in light to charge it), small cells, that produce high energy, could be made part of clothing (must not be this tech, I am thinking about miniaturization in general). Possibilities seem endless...
That's enough to power a scooter, and with no batteries!
Edit: Ah, this car is mentioned in the article. Good!
> This in turn means that up to 30 kilometers’ additional range can be generated per day in Germany through solar energy
I suppose that 30km does cover a lot of commutes (15km each way), although "up to" is a notorious weasel word.
On the one hand, they can't all be in direct sunlight at the same time, given the car's geometry. On the other hand, many locations get more than 4 sun-hours per day on a horizontal surface, especially in summer. So it doesn't seem too implausible.
And if your commute is 30km per day, then even if you don't get enough sunlight to reliably charge the battery every day, you still have more than a week of buffer in your battery.
If you're going on long road trips, it probably wouldn't help much. In that sense, solar isn't particularly useful for extending range (which is why you'd want a large battery in the first place), but it might make a big difference when it comes to how often you have to plug in to a charger.
The people need to have the available funds, etc. It may save momey but that's not an immediate payoff.
Any increase in efficiency vs costs will help with that equation.
Even in rural India, the idea that solar is cheap has crept in. Farmers are buying solar power pumps across many states.
Anyone with 20%~ efficiency and a clean manufacturing process is rich for the next millenium.
It used to be that the waste material from processing was more pure than the actual industrial infeed material. So, the first thing that semiconductor fab lines would do would be to take their "new" industrial material and feed it into their "used" line for reprocessing. I think this has changed as the industrial sources have gotten better, but I suspect that recapture is still almost perfect.
Yes, refining silicon requires the use of dangerous chemicals. No, that does not make it "dirty" in the way that burning coal is dirty, i.e. expelling carcinogens into the air.
Chemistry doesn’t care about buzzwords. If you don’t specify what exactly is bad about the industrial handling of whichever chemicals actually are toxic in this case, you’re just flag-waving, not helping.
To avoid this http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03...
If they can really make that happen cheaply (green shaded areas, meaning efficient collection of power from near IR photons) this is revolutionary.
Current silicon based tech (blue shaded) is useless for light energies below red.
That graph is perfect. Axis labeled, legend present, shit is legible and has pixel resolution. Way to go!
Look at the picture of the electrode with triangles and the other rectangular. The distance between the tip of the triangle and the other electrode is required to be on the order of a nm (in this reference here 1.5nm). This allows electrons to tunnel from one electrode to the other. A charge on an electrode tries to spread out, and the density is higher near pointed protrusions. So in the cycle the triangle-electrode is negatively charged, the electrons can tunnel to the other electrode, but in the other half of the cycle the electrodes prefer to spread out differently on the rectangular electrode. That's how the diode is implemented.
Edit: just adding, so the asymmetry of the diode is due to the asymmetry between electrodes and the asymmetry between electron and hole mobilities
A green light would create a AC current at 476 THz. We put this through a diode to capture the pulses of current that are moving in the right direction?
Also, the voltage won't be very high. The diodes have to be efficient in the millivolt regime.
The hard part was finding a diode/rectifier that was capable of running at terahertz frequency. I cant see how this rectifies. I assume its to do with the layout: https://l0dl1j3lc42iebd82042pgl2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-...
If they are not telling porkies, then this is a wondrous breakthrough. (assuming the nanotubes are UV stable.)
 1/2 wavelength conductor, which is possible with carbon nanotubes
This one shows 85% efficiency? :)
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
On another note, it's nice to see that crystalline silicon PV is perceived to be so successful that people are lining up to comment on how a dramatic improvement in power density and cost wouldn't really matter.
We have a 13 kW array. I make it a point to keep it cleen. However, this isn’t something one can expect to accomplish daily. At the very least it would waste a lot of water. As a result of this, my panels, on average, enjoy a combination of dust, leaves and, yes, bird poo, sometimes lots of it.
If we had 90% efficient panels the combination of dirt, dust and a determined flock of birds could take out 50% of my energy generation capacity. Having a less efficient system distributed across a larger area might actually be a better idea.
Biological systems are efficient at creating nanostructures. That may be the future of fabrication. It'll never be repeatable enough for silicon structures like DRAM, but it might someday work for bulk surfaces like solar cells.
They should claim "75% or more", and then hit 80% and blow our minds. The Scotty Factor should be liberally applied when possible.
Less than 40% of the installation costs are the actual solar panels.
If someone came out with a DIY solar installation, that would be a major advance.
We are already very close to 50% with 40-46% efficient solar cells. The installation cost, scaffolding cost, maintenance and the cell price start to dominate. Solar panel tilt can improve efficiency up to 30 percent (flat panel versus sun following 2-axis panel).
Also those 40-46% efficient cells are expensive, requiring 3 different layers of semiconductors each tuned to a different band-gap. The panels we all buy for ~$1/watt are about 20% efficient, single-layer designs.
Yield a 90% efficient solace cell for a single wavelength
You're right, I believe. I don't have time to investigate, but if the claim is 90% efficiency w.r.t. total radiation input, it's certainly wrong. Doing so would violate the 2nd law. For example, room temperature thermal radiation has significant emmitance in the radio range of the spectrum. Needless to say nobody can build radio antennas to turn this energy into work.
If it is 90% of the thermodynamic limit, then maybe. But then I think multijunction cells are already significantly close to the thermodynamic limit (much better than 22% claimed).
(obs1: substituting Tsun as Th and Tearth as Tc left as an exercise to the reader ;) )
(obs2: try changing Tc to CMB temperature! )
> substituting Tsun as Th and Tearth as Tc left as an exercise to the reader
Left to the reader because doing the math reveals that it's only a 6% difference and undermines your point? ;)
It seems the maximum efficiency in this case is ~94.8%, so the claim does seem plausible at least.
What I don't understand is how they pair up a rectifier with each antenna so that you don't cancel out the signal due to either path/frequency mismatch.
Radio waves jiggle the electrons back and forth in your chunk of metal. Stick in a diode so they can only go one way and you have power.
> a process they hope will yield...
Yawn. I hope to get a new truck for Christmas- let me know when Santa Claus is real.