43 percent: New solar power world record

Aug 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Australian and US solar cell researchers have achieved the highest efficiency for solar power, setting a new world record of 43 per cent of sunlight converted into electricity.

The University of New South Wales team, led by Scientia Professor Martin Green, Research Director of the UNSW ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence, combined with two US groups to demonstrate a multi-cell combination which has set the new benchmark for converting sunlight into electricity by any possible approach.

“Because sunlight is made up of many colours of different energy, ranging from the high energy ultraviolet to the low energy infrared, a combination of of different materials can convert sunlight more efficiently than any single cell,” Professor Green said.

Professor Green, with colleague Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, led the team that developed a silicon cell optimised to capture light at the red and near-infrared end of the spectrum. That cell was able to convert up to 46 per cent of light into electricity. When combined with four other cells, each optimised for different parts of the solar spectrum, the five-cell combination converted 43 per cent of the sunlight into electricity, bettering the previous world record by 0.3 per cent.

“Our group’s silicon cell was the key contributor to the new result,” Professor Green said.

Professor Stuart Wenham, Director of the ARC Centre, said the new record was not directly comparable to the 25 per cent efficiency world record for an individual solar cell set by UNSW last year. However it was an important pointer for the future potential of solar photovoltaic power.

“This latest record involves an expensive combination of cells and the sunlight was focused to produce a much higher intensity than standard for these measurements. It does show, however, what eventually may be practical,” Professor Wenham said.

Provided by University of New South Wales (news : web)

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User comments : 29

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Doug_Huffman
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 27, 2009
What is the 43% compared to in basic units, please? I would imagine them to be units of energy and area. How much energy per area would be represented by 100% efficient conversion?
Nanowill
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2009
Doug,

Solar irradiance outside the Earth's atmosphere is 1390W/m.sq. at mean Earth -Sun distance, 1438W/m.sq. at perihelion, and 1345W/m.sq at apehelion. About 2/3 of this gets through the vertical atmosphere at sea level.

Slant angles and atmospheric conditions obviously decrease this accordingly.

Under ideal conditions this is about 100W per sq. ft.
zbarlici
2 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2009
100w/sq ft? WOW~!
MatthiasF
1 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2009
Wow? At 100 watts per square foot it would take a little over a million acres of these cells to equal one of our nuclear power plants (Calvert Cliffs, MD - 850 Megawatts).

Solar power is not "green".
Arn
4 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2009
Solar power is the greenest source of energy, MatthiasF.

Besides, it doesn't produce greenhouse gases like petroleum does. It doesn't pollute the air like coal does. And it won't make your nose glow electric white and green like nuclear power does.

Scientists and engineers just have to keep on improving solar energy technology to make it more efficient than it is right now.
probes
5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2009
is it some other colour then?
ryuuguu
5 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2009
Wow? At 100 watts per square foot it would take a little over a million acres of these cells to equal one of our nuclear power plants (Calvert Cliffs, MD - 850 Megawatts).

Solar power is not "green".


Can you say FUD... 1 acre = 43560 sq ft. x 100w
= 4356000 w/acre
= 4.3w acre = 200 acres for 850 Mw
200 acres is a little less than a little over a million
finitesolutions
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2009
Instead of keeping the money in the banks invest them in solar power plants. There is plenty of desert land that is useless otherwise.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2009
Yes. Thank you.

That is exactly my point, the definite and limited rate associated with 'solar power' by the Solar Constant. I am tired of these innumerate greenies and their failure to do arithmetic - that dooms them to nonsense.

The Solar Constant limits the rate of renewal of ALL renewable energy, even, on geological time scales, biogenic fossil fuels. To consume at a higher rate indebts the future.

'Green' is like a watermelon, sickly green on the outside and pinko inside.

Doug,
Solar irradiance outside the Earth's atmosphere is 1390W/m.sq. at mean Earth -Sun distance, 1438W/m.sq. at perihelion, and 1345W/m.sq at apehelion. About 2/3 of this gets through the vertical atmosphere at sea level. Slant angles and atmospheric conditions obviously decrease this accordingly. Under ideal conditions this is about 100W per sq. ft.

RFC
5 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2009
Huffman,

Even if you have a point, your unnecessarily derisive language tells me you are an unreliable source. You use "failure to do arithmetic," "dooms them to nonsense," "greenies" and "pinko inside." That language tells me that you are more interested in throwing insults than setting the record straight.

Let me be clear: I WANT to listen to valid information you may have to provide. I do NOT want to listen to name-calling and labeling that only adds noise to the discussion.
trantor
4.8 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2009
Wow? At 100 watts per square foot it would take a little over a million acres of these cells to equal one of our nuclear power plants (Calvert Cliffs, MD - 850 Megawatts).



Solar power is not "green".




Can you say FUD... 1 acre = 43560 sq ft. x 100w

= 4356000 w/acre

= 4.3w acre = 200 acres for 850 Mw

200 acres is a little less than a little over a million



now you see why you americans should use METRICS?
trantor
5 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2009
what Doug fails to realize is that at 1000W per square meter (since 1 sq foot equals about 0.1 sq meter), you wouldnt need to cover millions of of acres of empty land... covering your house´s ROOF would produce surplus energy already.

I wonder how cheap solar panels can someday become, if they are really mass produced.

while the european proposal for building that huge solar powerplant in the Saara may not be directly the solution to energy problems, it may be the solution to solar power costs, making cells cheaper, and thus, becoming the solution to energy problems.
Shaffer
5 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2009
now you see why you americans should use METRICS?


I'm American, and I can't stand our units...I was told in 3rd grade that we would be using the Metric system by now....

The big solution here is localizing power, like where's my cheap solar shingles and advanced battery storage system? Oh yeah, Oil and Coal got in the way! DOH!
jimbo92107
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2009
If the panels are flat, you could build them into a solar thermal array and derive even more energy by reflecting some of the unconverted rays to a central boiler. If the panels heat up, they could drive a working fluid within each panel.
DuncanI
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2009
Land area for nuclear power station is approx 617 acres. Land area for 43% efficient solar plant is 4* 200 acres, equally spaced around earth in equitorial desert. The problem is political and power transmission. Even if actual efficiency is much lower, for example solar thermal may be 24% efficient, it should still be seriously considered.


http://news.bbc.c...0665.stm
http://solar-ther...sics.php
Wavelynx
5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2009
All this talk about 43% is great but do not forget that the sun does not shine all the time! (like at night). In order to have a stable source of power locally, you would need to store a lot more than half of the daylight power to keep things running 24/7.Take into account the losses of the storage and in the conversion losses of the DC to AC necessary for power lines and things start to look even poorer.

43% is still great, I remember back in the 70's when I first started fooling around with them they were maybe 3%.
TrinityComplex
3.5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2009
If the panels are flat, you could build them into a solar thermal array and derive even more energy by reflecting some of the unconverted rays to a central boiler. If the panels heat up, they could drive a working fluid within each panel.


I was thinking the same thing. They even say that they are only collecting 'near' infrared. If that could be reflected or used like thermal panels do it would make it even better. The efficiency of photovoltaic cells goes down as they get hotter, why not add heat transfer into the panels. This would keep the PV cells cooler and maintain efficiency while reducing the need to use the energy for heating. Also the excess hot liquid could be stored for energy production during non daylight hours like they do at solar farms, until other energy storage technology catches up that is.
GregHight
3 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2009
Does anyone know anything about the power storage produced by xtremepowersolutions.com out of Austin, TX? Their stuff seems too good to be true but I don't know enough about EE to say but, "it sounds interesting".
sender
1 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2009
solar power is only useful in extraterrestrial beam power applications considering the nuclear coreolis is a far stronger resource than terrestrial applications could ever compress per sq/ft of area
goldengod
3 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2009
Combined with wind, hydro, battery storage and even nuclear/coal/oil we can definitely reduce our carbon emissions dramatically from current amounts.
MatthiasF
1 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2009
Can you say FUD... 1 acre = 43560 sq ft. x 100w
= 4356000 w/acre
= 4.3w acre = 200 acres for 850 Mw
200 acres is a little less than a little over a million


My calculation wasn't so simple. You're assuming it'll run at 43% at all solar conditions, I assumed 43% at optimal, which is only 3-4 hours of the day (and that's being generous). Took a curve for efficiency and production (reducing power gradually when sun rises and sets), average solar radiance over the USA, concentration of power markets by latitudes and ended up with 1.0156 million acres to produce 850 Megawatts for 24 hours a day consumption.

I've been keeping an Excel document on the issue for 8 years.

To take it a step further and respond to the "let's put solar on the roof of every building" mention. About 60 million acres of the USA is urban land, of that I guessed 40% has a roof covering (probably higher in high density areas like Manhattan). So, that's 24 million acres of roof space available.

By my calculations, with 43% solar conversion efficiency, those roof-based solar units would produce around 20 Gigawatts total. Meanwhile, the USA produces over 1000 Gigawatts from all sources.

Why would we make such a huge investment for such a tiny sliver removed?

I don't mean to belittle the accomplishment. It's very impressive, but until they reach the mid to late 60 percent rage, it's not a viable solution to replace other power sources.
DoubleHelix
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2009
My calculation wasn't so simple. You're assuming it'll run at 43% at all solar conditions, I assumed 43% at optimal, which is only 3-4 hours of the day (and that's being generous). Took a curve for efficiency and production (reducing power gradually when sun rises and sets), average solar radiance over the USA, concentration of power markets by latitudes and ended up with 1.0156 million acres to produce 850 Megawatts for 24 hours a day consumption.


Am I reading that right? You're calculating the amount of land required to provide 850 MW for 24 hours a day? You realize that power demand at night is minimal, right?

Also, people build solar farms at lower latitudes where conditions are best. No one is going to build a solar farm in upstate New York, or Michigan, so averaging solar radiance over the USA is absurd. It makes sense if you're talking about roof-based solar installations, but not dedicated solar farms.

No one with any sense is claiming that solar is a panacea, but at lower latitudes it makes sense, especially at 43% efficiency.
MatthiasF
1 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2009
You realize that power demand at night is minimal, right?


Calculation uses 10 heavy load hours, 10 moderate load hours (40% of heavy) and 4 low load hours (10% of heavy), using kilowatt hour averages provided by the feds by state.

Calculations also assume 100% efficiency storage for overnight usage, which was generous as well, but I figured that would complicate things too much to include. With the same thing in mind, I worked with national averages to also avoid power transmission inefficiencies. Latitude data was used to weight markets and the size of their population, against the state averages.

I'm not suggesting solar farms should be built in the northeast, I just used averages to avoid complexities. I brought up the quick roof calculation because others mentioned it.
Gosha
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2009
Explain, who can!

Why the new source of electrical energy does not receive press and recognition?

Heatvoltaic converters, at equal cost with photovoltaic have target capacity more than 300 times above.

The "know-how" Heatvoltaic converters and photovoltaic of converters are identical.

Heatvoltaic converters the round day without the accumulator works.

Heatvoltaic converters cool air, take away in it a thermal energy and make of electrical energy equally so much.

Heatvoltaic converters are efficient at any temperature of above absolute zero and than above temperature, the more target capacity.

Specific cost heatvoltaic of the converter working at 300 degrees Kelvin - no more of 100 US dollars for one kW of capacity (10 cents for W - an eternal feed for a cellular telephone).

The working breadboard model of a fragment of the converter heatvoltaic was demonstrated during the report at the international conference " High technologies 21 centuries ", April 23 2009, Moscow.

vetto@nm.ru
Sonhouse
1 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2009
Can you say FUD... 1 acre = 43560 sq ft. x 100w

= 4356000 w/acre

= 4.3w acre = 200 acres for 850 Mw

200 acres is a little less than a little over a million




My calculation wasn't so simple. You're assuming it'll run at 43% at all solar conditions, I assumed 43% at optimal, which is only 3-4 hours of the day (and that's being generous). Took a curve for efficiency and production (reducing power gradually when sun rises and sets), average solar radiance over the USA, concentration of power markets by latitudes and ended up with 1.0156 million acres to produce 850 Megawatts for 24 hours a day consumption.



I've been keeping an Excel document on the issue for 8 years.



To take it a step further and respond to the "let's put solar on the roof of every building" mention. About 60 million acres of the USA is urban land, of that I guessed 40% has a roof covering (probably higher in high density areas like Manhattan). So, that's 24 million acres of roof space available.



By my calculations, with 43% solar conversion efficiency, those roof-based solar units would produce around 20 Gigawatts total. Meanwhile, the USA produces over 1000 Gigawatts from all sources.

Even if we say, at the end of the day, we get 1 watt per square foot, the energy from 1 million acres would be 43 Gigawatts. If we had 40% efficient PV cells now, and we get 3 hours of max daylight, then it stands to reason the total power would go down by 8 times so if the million acres were in desert states, and considering we get 126 watts per square foot on TOP of the atmosphere, suppose we limit that to 1/10th of that on the BOTTOM of the atmosphere, or 12 watts per square foot and that only 1/8th of the time, that is an extremely low assumption but still gives 1.5 watts per square foot makes the grand total about 30 Gw, about 35 times your stated number. I think maybe you want to fudge the figures to push your own agenda.



Why would we make such a huge investment for such a tiny sliver removed?



I don't mean to belittle the accomplishment. It's very impressive, but until they reach the mid to late 60 percent rage, it's not a viable solution to replace other power sources.

david_42
5 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2009
Once again people read about a laboratory experiment and assume the product is in production.

"This latest record involves an expensive combination of cells and the sunlight was focused to produce a much higher intensity than standard sunlight for these measurements."

If you are going to concentrate the sunlight, use solar-thermal. Much less expensive.
Koen
4 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2009
Not green? A million acres of these solar cells matches more than 5000 nuclear power plants !
But that is not the point.
The only point is the economy of it: how much energie or money does it take to produce/operate an electricity plant, and how much electric energy (or in terms of valuta) is delivered by the plant?
Calculations of the economy of electricity plants are complicated but of paramount importance for us all. It is very hard to find objective figures. My estimation (after a long evaluation and technical/financial study) is that solar cells will be competitive (the best economical option) within a few years everywhere (also in darker regions) on the globe.
Solar cells are not just 'green', it will be our only economical option for an ever lasting energy solution and world peace. I fear that the oil/banking/military cartels will not allow this, therefore were are "in crisis" now. Especially countries that are developing and producing/pushing solar cells (Germany, China) will be hit by artifically created crisis and lured into wars in the near future.
getgoa
3 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2009
Please look at popular science's article solar salvation Dec 2007 issue. This article says no silicon and produces for $.30 a watt(Moyer).
otto1923
not rated yet Sep 02, 2009
@Gosha
Do you have more info, a link, or some documentation on this?