Cheaper solar panels

Oh my.. cheaper solar panels; in fact – half price.. happy dance.. well, semi-happy dance anyway:)

Colorado State University’s revolutionary method for creating low-cost, high-efficiency solar panels is gearing up for mass production.

The technology developed by mechanical engineering Professor W.S. Sampath of CSU enables panels to be produced for less than $1 per watt, which is likely to bring down pricing to end consumers to a very cheap $2 per watt; i.e. a 150 watt solar panel may be priced as low as $300. Currently, 150 watt solar panels cost around $600 – $800.

These panels will reduce the cost of solar generated energy to a point where it is very competitive with traditional mains electricity pricing in some parts of the world! Why go nuclear when you can go thermo-nuclear (the sun) instead!

The breakthrough is in the raw material –  cadmium telluride instead of crystalline silicon. Cadmium telluride converts solar energy into electricity more efficiently and solar panels using this material need 100 times less semiconductor material than crystalline silicon panels according to the University. There’s also less waste in the manufacturing process which helps contribute to the lower cost per unit.

The panels will be produced in a new 200-megawatt factory that is expected to employ up to 500 people. Based on the average household usage, 200 megawatts will power 40,000 U.S. homes. Production will begin by the end of next year. .

This is certainly good news – there is one major problem though. I’m no chemist, but I know that cadmium is a rather nasty heavy metal that cumulates in plant and animal tissues – it’s a cumulative poison. Cadmium is a ‘probable carcinogen’ in humans and animals and has a high short and long-term toxicity to aquatic life.

Even though the material used in these panels is cadmium telluride; that doesn’t lessen the potential health and environmental risks.  The use of this substance creates a major challenge in terms of production, disposal and recycling (?) of the panels. Let’s hope those issues are well and truly sorted before production starts cranking.

Read more about cadmium telluride solar panels