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Power Science Technology

Swiss Federal Lab Claims New World Record For Solar Cell Efficiency 177

Zothecula writes "Scientists based at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by the team back in 2011."
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Swiss Federal Lab Claims New World Record For Solar Cell Efficiency

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  • Re:Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormthirst ( 66538 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:29PM (#42649187)

    As opposed to the really efficient gasoline engine. Oh wait - that's only 25% to 30% efficient, and doesn't fuck up the air you breath.

  • Re:Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:42PM (#42649357)

    Right, because we all know that power plants use gasoline engines to generate electricity? Yeah, no.

    Oh and natural gas plants have near 60% efficiency. Coal and oil are in the mid 40s and nuclear in the lower 40s. So yeah, it's still at less than half the efficiency of other generation.

    The fossil fuels burned in those power plants are nothing but stored solar energy. Given how much solar energy has had to shine on this planet for half a billion years in order to store enough coal or gas to run those generators, the overall efficiency of fossil fuel generation is absolutely abysmal.

  • Re:Crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:49PM (#42649433)

    And typically get most of their power from coal.

    You could stick a couple of square meters of solar panels on a typical car, which at 20% efficiency would give you about 240W on a sunny day. For a half-hour commute (fifteen minutes each way) and eight hours in the car park, that would give you about five horsepower if the battery is 100% efficient and you didn't need to use any other electrical items, like AC or headlights.

    So it's potentially possible, but would be a really crappy drive.

  • Re:Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:55PM (#42649525)
    If the input is virtually inexhaustible (sunlight), it doesn't matter how efficient it is. If you have half the efficiency, just double the solar panel area. Total cost per kW and per kWh becomes is more important. Mind you, the panels *don't* need to be on the car.
  • Re:Crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:56PM (#42649533)

    Even if it is 100% coal power, it is still cleaner and more efficient than gasoline.

    There is no need to put the solar panels on the car. You can put them on your garage, or buy solar power from the grid.

  • Re:Crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:57PM (#42649547)

    Which would be great, if you leave your car in the garage all day. Most of us drive around, so if the panels aren't on the car to keep it charged they're utterly useless to us.

    I can't decide whether this was a joke or not. For the benefit of those who might not take it that way, I'll point out that these cars have batteries that allow them to collect energy from their garages and (gasp!) drive around with it.

  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:19PM (#42649815)

    It's the cost that matters more than efficiency. I don't need a 20% efficient panel that costs 10 times what a 10% efficient panel costs. Really I just want some inexpensive but durable panels. Something where I can recoup my costs in 3 or 4 years not a decade or so.

  • Re:Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:31PM (#42649967) Journal

    Please stop perpetuating the myth that "most" of our electricity - at least in the US - comes from coal. Coal has been the source for less than 50% of our electrical supply for nearly a decade now and is still declining (Currently around 40%). Even in the worst-case scenario (Colorado, where the local electricity mix is the "dirtiest" in the country) an EV like the Nissan LEAF has the same carbon footprint as a Toyota Prius. It only improves from there.

    Also, electricity is fungible. Putting solar panels on your roof to generate electricity during the daytime peak hours even if your car isn't home charging more than offsets the electricity you consume during off-peak hours at night, both in quantity and quality. If anything you are doing more good by putting PV power into the grid than by using it, since you are offsetting peak-generating capacity which is virtually always fossil-fuel based and adding load to soak up off-peak spinning reserve, improving efficiency and reducing energy waste.

  • Re:Crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @04:48PM (#42650729)
    There are two places were putting solar would give the best bang for the buck. As you said, rooftops. If they covered the entire roof, they should make the roof last longer than without the panels. The other place is over roadways. There shouldn't be any problem with right of ways since the roads are already controlled by the government. Also, you would add protection from the elements to those roads which should both prolong the life of the roads as well as reduce the number of accidents caused by adverse weather conditions. Extra bonus points if location transmitters were added to the panel construction to aid in navigation and/or auto-drive cars.
  • Re:yawn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Monday January 21, 2013 @05:44PM (#42651207)
    Pay off that panel in 2/3rds of a year assuming an average 100watt output and $0.10/KWH. Sounds a bit like saying "Let me know when doctors found a cure to cancer, then I will go see one."
  • Re:Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday January 21, 2013 @06:01PM (#42651377)

    There are two places were putting solar would give the best bang for the buck.

    One more: parking lots. Here in San Jose, we have solar panels over several large parking lots. No additional land is needed, and you get the side benefit of shade for the parked cars.

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