Solar goes Hyper in the U.S.

Feb 21, 2011 By Karl Burkart

As the U.S. government continues to heap billions in subsidies to the world's wealthiest coal and oil companies, the solar industry has been struggling to make it in the United States. This is sad for many reasons, not the least of which is that we're missing out on one of the biggest growth industries in the world.

Currently there are 16 of installed globally. That number will grow to about 1,800 gigawatts in the next 20 years, making it one of the best job creators. U.S. engineers invented the solar panel, and the U.S. should be dominating that market. Instead, foreign manufacturers (particularly in China) have taken our IP and run with it, as we become increasingly dependent on foreign oil and dirty coal operations to meet our power needs.

Fortunately HyperSolar, a new U.S. company, offers a ray of sunny hope on the frontier.

The company does not manufacture . It makes them ultra-efficient using a field of science called photonics. Similar to a that moves individual bits of data around at hyperspeed, HyperSolar's thin magnifying film routes and separates specific light spectrums, delivering them exactly where they're needed to make an array of PV ultra-efficient.

I saw an early prototype for such a magnifying optical layer a few years back, but the company was "dark" at the time, so I couldn't write about the innovation. But I'm as excited now as I was then for good reason - HyperSolar's optical layer can increase PV efficiency by up to 300 percent!

Theoretically that means cutting the installation cost of a in half. Instead of a home solar system costing $30,000 (or more) it would only cost $15,000 (or less), making the upfront investment much lower and payback periods much quicker.

This is a great example of a disruptive technology that could get us to the holy grail of "grid parity" - meaning that solar would be as affordable as other sources of energy like coal and natural gas. And no more polluting coal mines or fracking for natural gas! The sun (for at least the next 5 billion years) will provide free and abundant energy. It's up to us whether we want to invest in that technology or continue to destroy our beautiful landscapes for a few more years of "cheap" (i.e. heavily subsidized) coal.

Innovations like this make several recent reports ring true. If we have the political will to overcome the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry on our nation's energy policy, we could become 100 percent renewably powered in a 2030-2050 time frame. Check out these two reports and a new study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) about how large-scale wind power is now cost-competitive with natural gas:

- Physorg.com: 100 percent renewables by 2030: phys.org/news/2011-01-p… enewable-energy.html

- WWF: 100 percent renewables (no nuclear) by 2050: wwf.panda.org/?199249/Brave-ne… d-imperative-by-2050

- AWEA: Wind cost-competitive with gas: www.ecogeek.org/component/content/article/3422

Explore further: Pilot sites in energy from coffee waste show good results

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Quantum_Conundrum
4 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
Check out these two reports and a new study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) about how large-scale wind power is now cost-competitive with natural gas:


Large scale wind isn't even competitive with solar. It's only advantage over solar is that it works rain or shine, day or night, BUT in most cases, Solar is around 5 to 10 times more productive per unit area of land used.
Doug_Huffman
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2011
And then nevermore than 1350 Watts per square meter.

Reading on sugar production, I was surprised that cane is considered among the most efficient converters at about 1%. 1% of 1350 Watts is 14 Watts. The Solar Constant, nevermore.
Quantum_Conundrum
5 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2011
And then nevermore than 1350 Watts per square meter.

Reading on sugar production, I was surprised that cane is considered among the most efficient converters at about 1%. 1% of 1350 Watts is 14 Watts. The Solar Constant, nevermore.


You are talking about biofuels. I'm talking about solar steam power and photovoltaics.

But I agree, biofuels sucks. It's a waste of time, money, land, and fertilizer.
sstritt
2.8 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2011
But I agree, biofuels sucks. It's a waste of time, money, land, and fertilizer.

Not to mention their effects on world commodity prices. Higher food prices are affecting the political unrest in the middle east. The AGW priesthood wants us to believe that people will die if we don't get off of fossil fuels, yet our insane biofuel policies are killing people right now!
kaasinees
0.9 / 5 (29) Feb 21, 2011
Biofuels are made of waste, not the food itself, it actually allows farmers to make more money and to make more food.

Damn where do all these dumbass people come from? its not even funny anymore.
sstritt
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2011
Biofuels are made of waste, not the food itself, it actually allows farmers to make more money and to make more food.

Damn where do all these dumbass people come from? its not even funny anymore.

I will refrain from name calling and suggest you read up on ethanol production. Waste is not currently used because cellulosic ethanol production is not yet possible.
http:DELETE//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_ethanol
kaasinees
0.3 / 5 (24) Feb 21, 2011
Look up pyrolysis and come back to me.
sstritt
3.8 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2011
Look up pyrolysis and come back to me.

I am familiar with the process. Waste from any source can be used in that way. How in any way does that negate my argument that turning food into fuel is bad policy- environmentally, economically, politically, and most of all- morally!
Ulg
3 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
And then nevermore than 1350 Watts per square meter.

Not quite true, atmospheric refraction and ground reflectance can add quite a bit to solar density in any given cubic meter on the surface of the Earth, infact 5 ideal square meters could in some geologic locals intersect 12-15 kw/h for the cubic meter of space it takes up which is higher then the solar constant but still only the product many cubic meters worth reflecting through that point.
Doug_Huffman
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2011
Well thought as well said. You do know where the Solar Constant is measured, outside a three dimensional space, outside the atmosphere. That reminds me of some old dead white guy's theorem from freshman physics, how we used to take a watt per square centimeter and make it glow like a light bulb.
Quantum_Conundrum
4.3 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2011
Biofuels are made of waste, not the food itself, it actually allows farmers to make more money and to make more food.

Damn where do all these dumbass people come from? its not even funny anymore.


LOL.

You know nothing about farming obviously, because virtually nothing goes to "waste". Quite literally, anything that doesn't end up in the market ends up as animal feed.

The bones of cattle aren't wasted either. They are used to make gelatin.
kaasinees
0.1 / 5 (21) Feb 22, 2011
That is not true at all QC, some food product wastes are not reused at all, but they are now used for producing biodiesel since not to long.
Besides products of pyrolesis are fine for animal food and soil fertilization.
stvnwlsn
2 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2011
Biofuels are made of waste, not the food itself, it actually allows farmers to make more money and to make more food.

Damn where do all these dumbass people come from? its not even funny anymore.


You must get your facts from FOX. That would also explain your behavior.
kaasinees
0 / 5 (21) Feb 22, 2011
You must get your facts from FOX. That would also explain your behavior.


No, i am from europe, so it would be reasonable to think that food isnt used for fuel production, we just arent that stupid/greedy.
stvnwlsn
5 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2011
I'm from the midwest and believe me corn and soy are used extensibly and highly subsidised. The farmers here are addicted to subsidies. Also drives up the price of food. Such a shame they cant grow hemp and make biofuel from the seeds.
antialias
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2011
The farmers here are addicted to subsidies.

There seems to be a simple solution to that: cut the subsidies.

Biofuel is not comparable to wind or solar. Simply adding up energy gained by square meter doesn't cut it. Biofuels are storable. They have extremely high energy densities (when compared to any type of storage system for electric power). Plus: Plants grow more or less by themselves. They are extremely cheap to produce - even for people who do not have the money to invest into other types of energy production (solar/wind/etc. ). And they will grow in places where solar/wind make no sense.

Solar and wind have their advantages, too (I'm in no way disparaging them). All these technologies have their place in a healthy/sustainable mix. In germany we tested a setup of such diversity on a small scale. Biofules took up the slack when sun/wind wasn't available. The system was able to deliver BASE LOAD all year long - showing that other energy types CAN be made obsolete.
Quantum_Conundrum
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2011
Total Human energy usage 2010: 661 exajoules.

Human food calorie usage 2010 : 21 exajoules.

Even if biofuels are 10 times more efficient than food crops, you would need to DOUBLE world farmland in order to provide 1/3rd of current world energy consumption, not even counting world energy consumption is going to increase 40% in the next 10 to 20 years.

So if you DOUBLED the amount of world farmland over the next 20 years, that would provide maybe 220 exajoules per year, however, energy demand will have gone UP roughly 264 exajoules.

So in reality, in order to match demand for fuels, you'd need to TRIPLE world farmland, not counting increased food demand, in order to get the "non-biofuels" energy use down to 480 exajoules per year.

So by 2030, world pop will be 8 billion, and energy consumption will be 925 exajoules per year, biofuels for 440 exajoules of it, by tripling farming!?!

Tripling farming is impossible without multi-storied hydroponics facilities.
Quantum_Conundrum
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
I say you can do hydroponics, but I also neglected alga, but even alae requires energy and pumps and stuff, which is not free.

Floating platform farms in the oceans, could increase "farm land," but those would be very, very expensive.
antialias
4 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
Human food calorie usage 2010 : 21 exajoules.

Even if biofuels are 10 times more efficient than food crops, you would need to DOUBLE world farmland in order to provide 1/3rd of current world energy consumption

That's pretty wrong since the part that is used for food is usually only a small part of the plant. Additionally there are plenty grasslands or other 'non food yielding' areas that can provide plant matter for biofuels.
Quantum_Conundrum
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2011
That's pretty wrong since the part that is used for food is usually only a small part of the plant.


Wrong. That value is the actual calories consumed by humans.

You are also wrong about the plants, because almost all of the "waste" of the plants is used to make animal feed, which is highly efficient because it keeps this stuff from being a total waste while continuing to provide more food. "culls" are used for seeds for the following season.

In the case of many food crops, we eat more than half the mass of the plant, including the sweetest, starchy parts:

Lettuce and cabbages
turnips and greens
carrots
potatoes
onions
beets
cauliflower and broccoli
pineapple
sugar cane
tomato

Additionally there are plenty grasslands or other 'non food yielding' areas that can provide plant matter for biofuels.


Where? We're already cutting down rainforests and everything else to make room either for cities or farms.
chinaeu
1 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2011
here is our solar product:
solar-lamp.chinaeu.de
zevkirsh
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
this article reads like an advertisement. i wonder how much was paid for this.
antialias
2 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
That value is the actual calories consumed by humans.

yes, but most plants contain a lot of parts (stems, leaves, roots) which are not consumable by humans. Arguing that we want to replace ALL energy consumption with biofuels is a strawman. Biofules can be used for those parts which require
- long range travel (i.e. high energy density)
- long storage of energy
- immediate availability of energy irrespective of weather factors to tide over troughs in solar/wind/wave energy production

If you factor in that food waste is high (e.g. in the US 20% of all food ends up in landfills). It is estimated that 40-50% of food produced worldwide is not consumed. There's plenty of material around to up biofuels to a level where they make sense without having an impact on either food prices or food availability.
jscroft
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
this article reads like an advertisement. i wonder how much was paid for this.


Yah no kidding! I'm amazed nobody remarked on this until now. Nothing more off-putting than cheerleading in what's supposed to be a scientific publication. WTF.
resinoth
not rated yet Feb 27, 2011
Although I don't expect physorg to be this way, I greatly enjoyed the editorial slant and personal inclusion in this article.