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Solar Cell Inventor Wins Millennium Prize 147

Posted by samzenpus
from the fun-in-the-sun dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "The inventor of a new type of solar cell won the Finnish state and industry-funded, €800,000 ($1.07 million), Millennium Technology Prize. According to the foundation, Michael Graetzel's dye-sensitized solar cells, known as Graetzel cells, could be a significant contributor to the future energy technologies due to their excellent price-performance ratio."
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Solar Cell Inventor Wins Millennium Prize

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:05AM (#32521098)

    I still think we should decrease our use of energy, instead of inventing new ways to increase its production.

    Dr. Pekka Paisti

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:12AM (#32521126)

    You are right. And naive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:14AM (#32521134)

    Dear Paisti, Increasing the performance of energy production and decreasing use of energy can both be goals at the same time.

  • by PhongUK (1301747) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:25AM (#32521190)
    In order to decrease our use of energy, or atleast to have any chance of doing it at all, we need to stop making babies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:04AM (#32521328)

    Actually...I may have a.. modest proposal along these lines.

    - J. Swift.

  • by kcelery (410487) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:33AM (#32521448)

    Everyone seems to have the same idea as yours, but they don't seem to agree upon whose babies.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:55AM (#32521544)

    You're actually wrong. The sort of people who are upgrading computers and plasma screens (North Americans, Europeans and similar) are actually not increasing their per-capita energy use each year. They're the same people who are upgrading their insulation, light bulbs, etc.

    All the increases in energy use is from the global poor, the people who are just now acquiring computers, light bulbs and cars. And I know that orthodox environmentalists disagree with me on this, because they're assholes and want the destitute to stay destitute, but I say that it is a good thing that the world's poor are using more energy. A life with any reasonable standard of living is necessarily going to involve some significant energy use, and if we want people to escape from poverty (and the non-assholes among us do), we have to welcome this.

    Those of us who waste energy should cut down, but not to the point of making ourselves poor. And since that won't save nearly enough energy to allow to poor to escape poverty, what we need is a lot more energy. I would guess at least 10 terrawatts more. It's that simple. Solar will help.

  • by Candyban (723804) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:56AM (#32521754)

    Yes, we should decrease the amount of power we use. I totally agree, yet, the chances of getting the average consumer to actually do so, keep dreaming. As long as people keep coming up with power hungry devices that people want (read: air conditioners, plasma TVs, faster PCs and just about every other imaginable device), people will in fact keep buying them. Will they pay vastly larger sums for them if they are power efficient? Unlikely, some might, most won't. Will they put up with lower/smaller/decreased functionality? Again, some might, most won't.

    I disagree. If you look fuel consumption in cars, you will notice that in the last 20 years, they consume LESS fuel, have MORE power, safety and luxury. Are they so much more expensive than they were 20 years ago? I don't think so.
    LCD screens consume less power, are more space efficient and have less negative health effects than their CRT equivalents. (though some purist may say there is loss of quality as well). CRT TVs the size of the average TV sold nowadays would be vastly more expensive not to say the electricity bill which would make you think twice
    When people start to better insulate their houses, they will consume less power for heating/cooling while getting more comfort. This investment is payed back within 1-2 years.

    With regards to faster PCs, I beg to differ. If you didn't notice already, current generation CPUs are consuming LESS energy than their predecessors while still getting more work done and this is where we need to evolve to.
    People need to start understanding that power efficiency is SAVING money without a need to compromise on features or comfort.

    Getting back on topic. Even though power consumption for each device needs to go down, we will need more power as there will be more devices and more people using them. The biggest challenge in this century will be to get India and China up to Western standards. Both countries combined have about 3 billion people. Just providing them with the same amount of meat would require massive amounts of power, and then I'm not even talking about gadgets. So whatever we do, there will be a massive need for power no matter how much more power efficient we will become. Efficiency is key to preserve our way of life but clean and cheap new energy sources will be our only salvation.

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:03AM (#32521788) Homepage Journal

    Not only that, I love how people say that we can simply reduce usage over building new power plants, then turn around and rave how electric cars are going to solve all of our problems.

    The 'average' household uses something around 700-1400 kwh a month.
    The 'average' electronic vehicle gets about 5 miles to the kwh, and the average vehicle is driven around 10-15k miles a year.
    Don't forget that the average household is 2 cars today.

    So, you're looking at probably around a 22% increase in electricity usage if people go to EVs. You just can't reduce energy usage that much via other means, especially when you also have 5% growth in population/households on top of it.

    Still, I salute the inventer in the op, because he's, well, actually addressing the problem. The moment I can make solar panels make sense in a cost-benefit analysis is when I recommend all my relatives in Florida get them.

    I'm moving to Alaska(work), so they'd probably still have to come down in price another 50% before they'd make sense for me.

    Until I was informed of my exciting new opportunity, I was looking at a wind turbine for the small town I live in - because a turbine big enough to power a town costs a lot less per watt of capacity, and by reaching higher has steadier wind, resulting in lower costs when you factor the cost of the turbine into the cost per kwh it produces. Small $10k turbine = 5k kwh per year, expensive. $1M turbine = 1M kwh per year, much better. These figures are example only. Actual production is so location dependent it's hard to put proper figures on.

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:04AM (#32521792)

    As a Finnish taxpayer, I'm happy that my government is once again [wikipedia.org] giving my tax money to foreigners, rather than keeping Finnish hospitals going [reuma.fi]. No, really, I'm sure that photovoltaic cells will do a lot of good to us here in the Arctic Circle where the Sun shines a few hours a day most of the year. Really, it's better to spend money on useless shit like this than to treat rheumatic children.

    Your government has spent loads to subsidize innovation. The Espoo campus (near Helsinki) is brand new, and produces a lot of knowledge which in turn keeps the Finnish knowledge-economy running. Finland is doing quite well because of these investments (it attracts companies).

    However, science is an international effort, and it's only fair to award a prize to whoever is the best... And why wouldn't you have some research on solar cells in Finland? It's not like you are actually investing in the production and implementation. It's just research. You can do solar cell research in the basement or any other place where the sun never shines, as long as you have the right equipment.

    Of course, healthcare is important. Finnish healthcare is among the best in the world... and already heavily subsidized. Perhaps you found that 1 single example where something went wrong, but the tone of your reply is in contrast with the Finnish reality.

  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:33AM (#32521926) Homepage Journal

    Then increase the price. That's the only way.

    The problem is that the practical effect of this falls disproportionately on the poor (as do the negative effects of current energy production). The wealthy have to adjust the distribution of their investments -- an inconvenience. The poor have to endure cold, give up that job that's too far to walk to, cut back on food which has become more expensive.

    Let's say the price of energy doubled overnight. A lot of us would lose our jobs as investments were shuffled around. But for those of us who didn't lose our jobs, we wouldn't go without. We'd have food, heat, transportation. We wouldn't stay home during vacation. We'd alter our use of energy by changing the kind of car we bought next time around, or keeping our thermostats set differently. We might go to one place instead of taking a driving vacation. In the short term the low inflation caused by lost employment would blunt the impact of the price increases, and in a few years we wouldn't even notice the difference.

    I'm all for conservation through tax credits, incentives, even carbon taxes with provisions for blunting the impact on people who will feel it the most. But we've had all our energy eggs in one basket for the last century: cheap oil. Moving some or even most of those eggs to the conservation basket is a good idea, but we can't do it overnight and we certainly can't move all of them.

    What's the "right" amount of energy to consume? That's a meaningless question when asked in isolation. You need to ask "for what" and "from what sources" and "with what impact?" Clearly the answer for fossil fuels, given their externalized impacts (pollution) and future availability (dwindling) is that we should be using less of them. But conservation is no more a panacea for our energy problems than nuclear power is.

  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:06AM (#32523026) Homepage

    It seems to me that you've eliminated the tiny ongoing costs of modern conveniences without doing anything about the infrastructure costs.

    When I lived too far, I took the subway.
    Huge infrastructure already in place, all the pollution to create and install the cars and track are already sunk. All you're avoiding is the tiny amount of energy your additional weight incurs.

    I don't print anything unless someone else requires me to...
    The printer and toner are already manufactured and the printer is plugged in consuming energy. The only thing you're preventing is the tiny amount of energy and paper (a renewable resource) used to print your pages.

    I have the cheapest cellphone I could buy (and I use it once every 2 weeks maybe) ...
    Again, huge infrastructure in place, etc.

    I don't play games on my computer...
    What does that matter, aside from perhaps having it on a little longer? You admit to 'play time', so what does it matter that your 'play time' does not involve games?

    My point is not to rag on your lifestyle - if that makes you feel good about your global impact, then more power to you. I just don't think that the things you mention have any real impact other than the tiny incremental costs of using existing infrastructures. You could argue that if _everyone_ lived like you those infrastructures would either be smaller or non-existent, but I don't think that argument would hold water.

  • by Bemopolis (698691) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:29AM (#32523268)

    So, you're looking at probably around a 22% increase in electricity usage if people go to EVs.

    And around a 100% reduction in the use of gasoline. You see, that's why it's called a cost-BENEFIT analysis.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @10:51AM (#32524250)

    Obnoxious ending aside, parent is right, and not a troll. The assertion that the rich world is not increasing its energy consumption pretty much flies in the face of the fact that it keeps building energy generators - be it dams, wind turbines or coal-fired plants. I'd like to find a citation that shows that the people who upgrade their plasma screens also improve their insulation. I doubt there is one, because most Americans have not heard squat about insulation. Even something as basic as a double-pane window is rare anywhere but the extremely cold areas.

    That said, grand-parent is correct in his second statement, if we ignore the hyperbole. The biggest danger to the lifestyle of the rich world is the rest of the world trying to imitate it. The world simply cannot support an India, China and Africa that consumes as much energy per-capita as the US or even Europe. Not unless we dramatically change how energy is created. In the meantime, India and China are trying as hard as they can to first consume as much as we do, and won't worry about their energy consumption until more people in their countries are suffering from it.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @10:54AM (#32524276)

    Simple solution to the downside of expensive gas: create a public transportation system that works. You can even fund it from a nice gas tax. Kinda like Europe does it. It's pathetic that the only places with a public transportation system that is worth taking is NYC and Boston.

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -Ronald Reagan

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