Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This Could Change Everything

Courtesy of Zembla, I was tipped off to this news item:
SA solar research eclipses rest of the world
Willem Steenkamp
February 11 2006 at 12:50PM

In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun.

This means high electricity bills and frequent power failures could soon be a thing of the past.

The unique South African-developed solar panels will make it possible for houses to become completely self-sufficient for energy supplies. [...]
One of the world leaders in solar energy, German company IFE Solar Systems, has invested more than R500-million in the South African invention and is set to manufacture 500 000 of the panels before the end of the year at a new plant in Germany.

Production will start next month and the factory will run 24 hours a day, producing more than 1 000 panels a day to meet expected demand. [...]
Production will start next month!  This could change everything, and I hope it does.  For example, the problem with electric cars has been that the electricity has to come from somewhere.  If it comes from burning coal, you don't really avoid the pollution problem.  But if it comes from the sun, then the only pollution is that associated with the manufacturing and disposal of the solar panels, batteries, etc.  

An earlier article gives us some indication of the potential cost savings associated with this technology:
Work done over the last two years indicates that panels can be produced in commercial volumes at a cost of about R 500 for a 50 Watt panel. This is much cheaper than existing solar panels available on the market. CIGS is a remarkably stable material and conversion efficiencies should be sustainable for 15-20 years in any given panel.
One South African Rand is worth about sixteen American cents.  That comes out to about $80 for a 50W panel, or $1,600 for a kilowatt.  If we see next month that this is meeting expectations, I would say that we could start bringing our troops home.  

In related a development, Donald Rumsfeld has directed the Pentagon to draw up plans for an invasion of the Sun.