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Power Technology

Printable, Rollable Solar Panels Could Go Anywhere 187

Posted by timothy
from the why-isn't-my-car's-dome-light-an-led dept.
Al writes "A startup based in Toledo, Ohio, has developed a way to make large, flexible solar panels using a roll-to-roll manufacturing technique. Thin-film amorphous silicon solar cells are formed on thin sheets of stainless steel, and each solar module is about one meter wide and five-and-a-half meters long. Conventional silicon solar panels are bulky and rigid, but these lightweight, flexible sheets could easily be integrated into roofs and building facades."
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Printable, Rollable Solar Panels Could Go Anywhere

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  • Re:Imagine that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 07, 2009 @07:24PM (#28245175)

    "Imagine that (Score:3, Insightful)
    by tyrione (134248) on Sunday June 07, @06:51PM (#28244925) Homepage
    Isn't it amazing how all of these advancements show up when given a little push?"

    First, what "little push" would that be? You (quite deliberately) don't say. Second, quite frankly, the technique means crap, because they are inefficient, cheap panels, which makes no sense unless you have a huge roof.

    The main reason stuff like this is coming to market is because energy prices were and will be so high. The second reason is that the advent of the computer and hence technology age, more people have the means and opportunity to look into and acquire the materials without going through a misinformed, costly local middleman.

    Still, this is a pretty crappy system, a part of the whole solar setup, and /. should know better. A HUGE part of the system cost aren't the panels, it's the damn electronics, and those prices are really high for a large installation. Anyone who has looked into solar panels, whether hot water pv, knows this. For non-grid tie but grid tie quality AC power, the inverters alone are damn expensive. Those prices aren't likely coming down, given the amount of quality raw material in them which keep going up due to global demand.

    In a lot of situations, a better system is going with a geothermal heat pump or similar, not your entire roof of crappy, inefficient solar panels, tied to your high quality inverter, and thousands of dollars in batteries. I like solar a hell of a lot, but what we need is highly efficient, cheap flexible panels, with correlating consumer priced inverter and battery tech, not this crap.

  • by SourPatchKid (1571523) on Sunday June 07, 2009 @07:36PM (#28245289)
    There are some on Ebay from a company called Power film Solar and they go for $320 for a 21 watt. I can't imagine this company would be much cheaper. So it is a little pricey for the average consumer.
  • by ChartBoy (626444) on Sunday June 07, 2009 @07:38PM (#28245301)
    Big sheets of PV are wonderful when you have big open expanses, but real world roof surfaces have vents, pipes, drains and the like. Rather than play tetris with rigid panels, or even with flexible panels, I'd love to be able to cut an opening in the PV material for each opening and get maximal use of the roof surface.

    Is anyone working on that?
  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 07, 2009 @09:01PM (#28245859) Journal

    What I want to know is this: why is everyone jumping on the solar cell idea instead of the molten salt tank idea? It seemed to make more sense in those naturally hot and sunny desert areas to go with the salt tanks as opposed to the solar cells, and it looked like it would be pretty efficient as well as cheaper in the long run.

    The sun is tracked by mirrors which focus the rays on a black tank filled with molten salt, which in turn drives a generator. You would only need wires for the tracking mirrors and the generator as opposed to a whole roof for solar cells, and as a bonus the heat from the molten salt would be high enough that you would be able to get after dark power generation which of course you don't get from the cells.

    Was there a problem with the tech? Because it seemed like a perfect fit for the desert states. If we would couple those with reactors and recycle the nuclear fuel we could get rid of those nasty coal plants while allowing us all to have cheap and reliable power. So was there a problem? Because until we figure out how to make solar cells that are extremely cheap and efficient the salt tanks+nuclear reactors like AR 1&2 [wikipedia.org] in my home state seemed like the best way to cut carbon while keeping from having to go backwards technologically. Did I miss something?

  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday June 07, 2009 @09:25PM (#28245999)
    Not really, Typically you're going to cover all of the roof, or at as much as the tracking system will allow. If you're limited to doing a third of the roof due to cost considerations then that's feasible, otherwise you're probably going to have to make due with less electricity.

    That being said, having even that much is a help, it's more likely to come down to durability than capacity and every bit does help. If they're of comparable durability, then there's definite potential.
  • by upuv (1201447) on Sunday June 07, 2009 @09:35PM (#28246063) Journal

    In the last 18 months we have seen numerous announcements regarding solar power generation.

    We've seen advances in
    -Manufacturing speed.
    -Toxic material reductions.
    -Efficiency boosts in rigid cells.
    -New products like this flexible.

    Yah sure solar has issues. But now given a space that may be inappropriate for wind you can now find a solution in solar.

    This is all good.

    Maybe one day industry will be draining it's massive power needs from the residentially power generating grid. This should be more than doable in 20 years.

    ( Next item we need to add to the list of critically needed tech. Water purification and desalination that can be applied in the residential markets. Imagine how much land would open up for crops, settlement, and carbon sinking if we just had cheap and easy to deploy water desalination. )

  • by physburn (1095481) on Sunday June 07, 2009 @11:56PM (#28246915) Homepage Journal
    Very true, the cost is more important, solar power is approaching parity with oil and gas, and is supposed to reach it at 5 cents per watt. The article didn't give the price of the roll up solar cells, so i've no idea how close to that it is, but such advances will steadier push the balance of prices into solars favor, which is to happen expected by 2012.

    Solar Power [feeddistiller.com] feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • Re:Imagine that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisty (1335733) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:13AM (#28247011)

    Inverters are a cost, but thin film is no worse off - your inverter won't care that you have a larger area of cellls to produce the same voltage.

    Besides, a lot of electronic equipment can run off DC. Why should you invert the power, then run it through a rectifier, then pump it into your laptop?

    AC power is good for long-distance transmission, but it's no better for consumer use. Air conditioners might prefer AC, but mostly a move to DC could be just as good. Houses could be wired to have an AC system (for obsolete equipment, and stuff that needs electric pumps), and a low voltage DC rail (for new stuff). It might also mean cheaper electronics, if you don't need a bloody rectifier in every piece of white plastic you own.

    Edison FTW!!!!

  • Re:Imagine that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FordPrefect276709 (1346539) on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:36AM (#28249651)
    if you have a roof or any other solar exposed surface, go and mount panels to heat water. it's the only reasonable thing to do. solar power is great for low-temp heat harvesting and you don't need expensive (in terms of $ or in terms of resources wasted) controlling electronic. water saves 4.182 kJ per K at no cost & you will save a big lot of $$$ in heating too cold water with valuable electricity or oil! producing electricity from solar power will almost never pay out. and PLEASE: never ever lay those panels flat out on the floor or flat on a wall. it's the most stupid thing I see so often! mount it in an angle of about 45 degrees, 'cos that's the angle you gain the biggest cross-section to the average sun beam (the angle varies by your geo-spatial position and can be calculated (we did it in the university and round our place its 43.xy degrees.... everything else is just a huge waste of too expensive panels!
  • Re:Imagine that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:40AM (#28250941)
    8% efficient cells might not be sufficient to provide ALL the power for a house, but they can make a heck of a dent. I have a very modest home (~1,600 sq ft roof area with attached garage) and if you take the tiny solar insolation we get here in NE Ohio (~4kWh/m^2/day) and multiply it out with the 8% you get ~360kWh/month which is almost half my average monthly power draw. If I could buy these cells for little more than what shingles cost then paying for the inverter to reduce my power bill by half would have a pretty quick ROI.
  • Re:Imagine that (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EtherMonkey (705611) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:05AM (#28251231)

    It's Firefox. Slashdot has looked like crap for at least a month now. For a news for nerds site, it's curious that they aren't concerned with making it look decent on one of the most popular browsers among nerds.

    It's not Slashdot OR Firefox. PEBKAC [wikipedia.org] Configure your script blocking to ALLOW FSDN.COM and the problem should disappear.

  • Hurricanes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JMandingo (325160) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:17PM (#28252057)

    Here in Florida we have plenty of sun available. However, one prohibitive problem with solar panels is the occasional hurricane. If you have large solid panels installed on your roof, a strong wind will pick them up like a kite and tear them (plus a good chunk of your roof) right off.

    I like the idea of something cheap and flexible because you could either have a system of rolling it up when a storm approaches, OR let the storm have it (like pool screen enclosures) and install a new one afterwords.

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