Sunday, July 30, 2006

Going solar: panel possibilities

Back in the old days, solar panels (photovoltaic, that is) were made from wafers of sliced crystal sandwiched together with, essentially, wiring (material to transmit the electricity generated) in between the crystal slices. Nowadays, they can be made from spray-on plastic of the electrical transmitting variety (tho' these are experimental and not very efficient). What I can easily buy, of course, will be much different than the cutting-edge technology still being experimented with at research institutions. Here's a little list of what I've been finding on the web:

Photovoltaic glazing or thin film photovoltaics: This is a system of photovoltaic panel sandwiching used in windows, such as shown here on Wisconsun, or it is photovoltaic window glass, or it is a film that covers the glass and generates and conducts electricity (very good in big high-rise buildings). As I don't have much in the way of window space in the Republic, these options aren't very useful for conversion of this rather non-solar building into a solar one. I do, however, have good roof space. Many thin film photovoltaics are flexible, which is a valuable property, and can be mass produced easily, but don't necessarily have good efficiency.

Organic photovoltaics: These are systems using carbon-based films or organic polymers. Global Photonic Energy Corp. is one company developing this technology. Capturing a wider spectrum of light and converting it to electricity makes a PV cell or panel or sheet more useful and efficient. These types of panels are also flexible, and keep getting described as "nanotechnology"--they're concentrating on molecular levels of construction, here.

Quantum dot photovoltaics: These are high-efficiency nanotech photovoltaics. Basically, they are nanocrystals embedded in a colloid. These can be incorporated in a film or flexible sheet, but are still experimental.

These are pretty cool, but they're not going to be all that available for a while yet. Solar panels operate more efficiently at cold temperatures (lucky Alaskans!) The more I look, the more it appears that, if I'm willing to learn a whole lot about wiring and electricity and widget-tinkering, I can wangle a decently cheap system. (Of course, the question becomes, do I really want to DO all that, or just pay somebody else to do it and not have to think about it?)

I've been finding some nifty, not necessarily related, sites in the process of looking this stuff up:

Captain Ozone (Go take a look. Go on. I dare ya.)
4 Hydrogen (Really clean power.)
The Energy Blog (The Energy Revolution will change your lifestyle!)


Rob said...

I would suggest cross posting this latest on community blogs such as My Left Wing. It's the sort of topic people need to be educated on, the audience there will be receptive and it's important enough that it should be read by as many people as possible.

Anonymous said...

Build a nifty box to hold one of those shower doors you and Hans have been collecting, pipe the top end into your office near the ceiling and the bottom to somewhere near the floor. Without using any electricity at all I bet you could shave two months of heating oil off your bill. All you have to do is remember to plug up the holes when not in use.
Take care,

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Sounds like a solar concentrator to me, Jeff! This is turning into a very interesting project. I'm going to see just how independent I can make the Republic office, and then we'll work on our house...heh. If me and my impoverished not-profit business can do it in frozen interior Alaska, NOBODY has an excuse not to go solar. Check out "Going solar in the snow".

Solar dumpster divers, unite!