Tag Archives: Solar Power

The Rise and Fall (and possible resurrection) of Thin-Film Solar Technology

Solar powered calculator

A tiny strip of thin film powers this calculator.

Thin-film solar technology has been around for quite some time and most of us have benefited from it’s use. Thin-film is most commonly used to power small hand-held calculators and watches and is created by depositing a number of thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a solar wafer. More recently, thin-film PV has become available in larger module form and is being used for building integrated installations (like this) and vehicle charging systems. Thin-film PV has grown in popularity due to its sleek look and light weight, which reduces the cost of installation and allows solar installations in areas not traditionally suited for large solar panels.

  • From 2004 to 2009 shipments of thin-film PV grew from 68 MW to 2 GW.
  • The market share for thin-film decreased to 11% in 2011. Down from 18% in 2009.
  • Thin-film solar panel sales reached $4.53 billion in 2010 but are expected to drop to $2.9 billion in 2012.

This decline in thin-film solar panel sales is due in part to the dramatic price drops in crystalline PV technology (the main alternative to thin film) the past few years. The price advantage thin-film panels held over crystalline technology is no longer relevant and the fact the crystalline PV panels are generally more efficient have given them the recent edge over thin-film technology.

First Solar – Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. They posted their second-ever loss in Q1 2012 and they also recently closed down their Germany factory and fired 30% of their workforce. First Solar anticipates producing 1500 to 1800 megawatts this year. (Green Tech Media)

Nanosolar – Headquartered in San Jose, California. This company has an ink-based solar technology that won the Innovation of the Year Award from Popular Science in 2007. They have recently secured funding to pursue the development of large scale solar systems that will cost no more per watt than conventional electricity and they have passed critical milestones to meet that goal by 2015 – a promising report. (Clean Technica)
 

Solar manufacturers had a tough time staying afloat in 2011. Chinese solar companies were accused of dumping solar panels in the U.S. at lower prices than the cost of manufacturing and in turn forced many manufacturers to file for bankruptcy or close down plants/cut their workforce. The most newsworthy of this bunch was Solyndra but other manufacturers closed down as well, including Evergreen Solar, Energy Conversion Devices, and SpectraWatt.

This does not bode well, especially for thin-film manufacturers, who are struggling to keep up with price drops and efficiency increases. However, all is not lost. According to GTM Research:

” Venture capital investment into thin film in Q4 2011 and Q1 2012 combined to reach nearly $300 million. Solar Frontier continues to ramp up its GW-scale CIGS facility. Tokyo Electron bought Oerlikon Solar for $275 million, affirming long-term faith in the thin-film silicon manufacturing space. With CdTe, GE continues to invest heavily in Primestar, and First Solar still intends to open new capacity in Vietnam and Mesa, Arizona.”

It seems that if a handful of thin-film manufacturers can weather the current storm then they can hopefully restore some life to the industry by continuing to create innovation solar panels that push the limits of size, weight, cost, and efficiency.

Additional Resources:

Forbes “First Solar Struggles Amid Decline of Thin-Film Solar Market”
GreenTech Solar “Nanosolar Scores $20M to Keep Its CIGS PV Dream Alive”
GTM Research ” Thin Film 2012-2016: Technologies, Markets and Strategies for Survival”
How Stuff Works “Production of Thin-Film Solar Cells”
NREL “Thin Film CIGS and CdTe Photovoltaic Technologies”
Wikipedia  “Thin Film Solar Cell”
Uni-Solar Thin Film residential installation

5.6 KW Uni-Solar system in Heillbronn, Germany (Photo Courtesy of Rheinzink GmbH & Co.)

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Filed under Alternative Fuel, Environment, Manufacturing, Renewable Energy, Solar

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 9

We have taken a few weeks off so for this edition of ICYMI we are bringing you important news from what has been taking up all of our time.
Anywhere Solar Technologies is bringing you the most versatile and innovative solar modules to hit the market. The official release party took place last week at the International Builders Show in Orlando, FL on February 8th.

SS-3205 – It’s Time To Get Smart About Solar

The SS-3205 is the perfect combination of performance, style and innovation. It’s compact size, coupled with the ability to be arranged virtually anywhere the sun shines will create a whole new view on the collection of solar energy. No longer are we tied to expensive, distracting roof-top arrays. Today, believe that solar power where you want it is the future and the SS-3205 is the perfect vehicle to move the world beyond conventional solar power!

With Anywhere Solar’s highest powered solar module there are truly no limits to where you can produce free clean energy!

Check out this unique installation we just completed. By attaching SS-3205’s around the entire roof railing we have been producing on average 723 watt hours per day for the past week.

Before

Simple attachment to the roof

After the Install - Can you spot the solar?

Contact bennet@anywheresolartech.com for more information about Anywhere Solar Technologies and the SS-3205.

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Filed under Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Building, Green Technology, Renewable Energy, Solar, Uncategorized

In Case You Missed It: Volume 7

    1. Perhaps the biggest news of the week came from the office of the President. The Obama administration rejected the current proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline which would carry over 500,000 barrels of oil a day across key aquifers that supply drinking and irrigation water to much of the Great Plains. The pipeline is not gone forever as TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, can submit another proposal suggesting a different route. Read more about the fight.
    2. The second biggest story came from our office. We are successfully packed and ready to take on the International Builders Show in 3 weeks. The trade show booth crate was packed in record time with minimal hang-ups. Anywhere Solar will be showing off our newest solar module!
    3. In other news, the Department of Energy released a report“showing that waves and tidal currents off the nation’s coasts could contribute significantly to the United States’ total annual electricity production, further diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, and provide clean, renewable energy to coastal cities and communities.” Go Ocean!

      A map that shows mean current speeds of tidal streams. Source - Georgia Institue of Technology

    4. Finally, we leave you with this cool video about a windmill farmer.

The Windmill Farmer from Joaquin Baldwin on Vimeo.

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Filed under Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, NAHB, Renewable Energy, Solar

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 1

Each and every day we come across some very interesting goodies on the World Wide Web. Each week we will compile our favorites right here so you can share in some of that goodness. Here is Volume 1 for your viewing pleasure!

  1. Terracycle – we did a spotlight (found here) on this wonderful company recently and love what they are doing. They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again. They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material). For example here is a large tote bag made entirely from used Capri Sun drink pouches and here is a short video with the founder and CEO of Terracycle, Tom Szaky.
  2. PlanetSolar– The logbook of the crew with the goal to be the “first to circumnavigate the globe in a “solar” boat, i.e. one driven by a silent, pollution-free electrical engine powered exclusively by solar energy.”

    PlanetSolar team navigating near Monaco

  3. Solar Power is not just for your roof anymore. Within the next five years expect to see it popping up in your siding, windows, walls, and more. Installed building integrated photovoltaic technology is predicted to exceed 1 gigawatt by 2016.
  4. Solar Roadways – An awesome documentary clip explaining the research and development of solar roadways. I encourage you all to watch!
  5. And finally, in light of the recent success of The Muppets…

    Kermit the Frog reminds us all to "be green" and recycle!

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Cell Phone, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar, Upcycle

Solar Roadways – “Roads that pay for themselves.”

This past Tuesday, I was invited to a screening of  the documentary Y.E.R.T.(Your Environmental Road Trip) at California Center for Sustainable Energy.  It was an inspiring film and I thought I’d share clips from the flick that I can’t stop thinking about.  First up…SOLAR ROADS!

Bennet – PNS Energy

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Filed under Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar

Imagine Solar on Every Rooftop in the USA

What would putting solar on every rooftop in the U.S. do?  I see three pretty big benefits.

  1. In the US alone, we generate a lot of electricity – almost 4,000 billion kWh of power —  and less than .01% of that comes from solar.   If we imagine solar on every rooftop, we could, according to some pretty good estimates and some sophisticated models, produce about a third of the energy that the US uses annually – about 1,400 billion kWh of power.
  2. That’s a lot of clean, renewable energy and a whole lot less dependence on coal and nuclear resources.    If we imagine solar on every rooftop, we would be able to reduce how much we worry about dirty air from burning coal, what to do with nuclear waste, and the possibility of reactor meltdowns.
  3. US system designers, installers, contractors, and solar maintenance workers would be needed to make this happen.   If we imagine solar on every rooftop, that could translate to millions of US jobs.

Solar on every rooftop?

Who knows, with increased US demand for solar modules, we might be able to lure PV cell and solar module manufacturers back to the US.

-Dan, PNS Energy

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Good Energy = Good Business

Having solar panels has, to this point, been a luxury item and, even in the corporate world, only the elite brands (those we all know make tons of money) have been making the commitment to change to solar power.

Kohl’s Department Stores has taken their commitment to using solar (as part of their energy usage reduction plan) so much more mainstream.

The brand recognizes that as a company that focuses on their retail stores, their biggest environmental impact is in energy usage.  How about these accomplishments (taken from http://www.kohlsgreenscene.com/Energy/EnergyEfficiency.html):

  • 50 ENERGY STAR labeled stores
  • 116 activated solar sites
  • #1 Retailer for Green Power Purchases, #2 Overall and #12 for On-Site Generation
  • 100% of all Power used by Kohl’s comes from renewable energy sources
  • Energy Star Partner of the Year Award—2010 and 2011

Kohls has Installed Solar Panels on 116 Stores (solarpanelspower.net)

You can check out the Kohl’s Green Scene to see the depth of their whole environmental commitment.  You can go to your local Kohls and see the corporate commitment in action.  How cool is it that more people can exercise their option to choose to buy from a company that is really practicing great environmental leadership?

As more companies prove that you can be both environmentally friendly and profitable, choices will open up.  For example, look at what is happening at Johnson & Johnson or IKEA or Google.   It is so exciting that it might be time to start looking at the companies we buy from every day and try to make buying choices that reflect environmental values.

-Ruth

The Johnson & Johnson Solar Array – the largest solar array in New Jersey

PNS Energy

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar, Uncategorized