Path to Affordable Solar Electric Power &

The 35% Efficient Solar Cell

 

Foreword

 

          It is generally believed that solar energy today is intrinsically too expensive to compete with traditional forms of electric power generation.  Therefore, it is often argued that the cost of solar energy should be subsidized because of its long-term social benefits.  These benefits include a cleaner environment and reduced carbon dioxide emissions thereby hopefully avoiding global warming.  Meanwhile, it is argued that the government should fund research in Universities and government laboratories in an effort to find a miraculous breakthrough that then can make solar energy economical.

 

         The thesis of this book is that the above perceptions are wrong.  In fact, the breakthroughs required for making solar energy potentially cost competitive have now already been made.  These breakthroughs include a 35% efficient solar cell as well as other developments outlined in this book.  These breakthroughs are now in the hands of small businesses but these small businesses have not had the resources to integrate these breakthroughs into systems and to qualification test these new systems and bring them from small volume production into high volume production.   In fact, it is ironic that the subsidies in place for solar energy today are locking in 20-year-old solar technology and discriminating against innovations. 

 

         This book argues for a much larger top-down commitment from government to solar energy including contracts for small businesses to assist them in system integration and qualification testing for these innovations.  There should also be government incentive programs to encourage investors to help bring these new systems from small volume production into high volume production. Such a government program might entail billions of dollars. However, it would be less expensive than commitments our government has made in the past to nuclear weapons programs like the Manhattan Project.

 

A national commitment to a solar energy program would bring us a benign form of energy, solar energy, and it would bring several distinct benefits including:

  1.  A reduced dependence on foreign oil and natural gas.

  2.  A reduction in the vulnerability of our electric power grid to terrorist attack

  3.  A reduced import / export trade deficit

  4.  The creation of jobs and a reduction in our unemployment rate, and

  5.  A boom in our economy after the solar systems are paid for in ten years and the solar electric power rate approaches zero because of free solar energy.

          This book has been written for a large audience, not just a technical audience.  It is hoped that any educated reader will find this book interesting, especially any reader who believes that resolving our energy problems at home is preferable to present and future wars over oil and natural gas.  The political and economical arguments in favor of solar energy are presented in chapters 1, 2, and 10, and 11.  These arguments are substantiated technically in chapters 3 through 9 where the important innovations that promise major cost reductions in the future are described. A background for today’s solar cells is included in chapters 3, 4 and 5.  Readers interested in the history of some of these technical innovations will find chapters 5, 6 and 7 of particular interest.   Technical readers from related science and engineering fields will find chapter 4 quite informative but non-technical readers may find some parts of chapter 4 difficult.  Nevertheless, I am confident that non-technical readers will understand enough of chapter 4 to be able to understand the chapters that follow it.  There is also a bibliography for further reading to substantiate the major points made herein.

 

         The thesis of this book is that solar energy can be cost competitive with other forms of electric power production and that the technical innovations required for this have already been made.  Incentives for investment are needed to bring these innovations into high volume production.  It is hoped that this book will help educate the public, possible investors, as well as policy makers about the potential for a bright sunny energy future.