With more than 40 percent of the pavement in an average city tied up in parking areas, it’s safe to say that garages and carports are all around us. Many urban areas are changing the way these concrete blocks are being viewed–one solar panel addition at a time. Solar panel carports have the ability to incredibly impact energy-production all while looking like something straight out of the future.
Certain high-profile corporations and universities have given the special carports a whirl and have since generated an abundance of power. Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ, currently houses the largest solar parking canopy project in the U.S. With a 28-acre installation, it is no wonder over 60% of the campus’ annual electricity is provided for by the plant. With such incredible amounts of energy produced at Rutgers University by way of “solar parking”, many are left to wonder why similar additions have yet to be started in their area. The discouraging factor for such projects, as stated by Chase Weir of TruSolar, is money. Weir goes on to say, such projects are “The most expensive type of system to build”. Solar carports may be impressively beneficial and aesthetically awing, however there is no denying they are also incredibly expensive…“So at least for now, the market remains relatively niche.”
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Global Photonic Energy Corp. (GPEC), has created a thin-film solar cell that has the ability to provide electricity at grid parity or the cost of traditionally provided electricity.
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) is a better photovoltaic candidate than silicon reaching 30% or better efficiency. Problem with Gallium Arsenide cells is that they are very expensive to manufacture in large sizes. Instead these cells are used in concentrating solar PV arrays where the sun image is concentrated some 500 times focusing the light onto a small millimeter sized GaAs cell.
Dr. Stephen R. Forrest of the University of Michigan said the breakthrough, presented at the Fall Meeting of the Materials Research Society, is the result of substantially reduced production costs. It is based on a patent-pending invention that reuses the same Gallium Arsenide wafer multiple times to produce solar cells. This unlimited wafer reuse approach to conventional “epitaxial lift off” technology that typically leads to wafer damage, and hence only a very limited number (1 to 2) of wafer reuses, has the potential to reduce the cost of a typical Gallium Arsenide solar cell to below $1 per Watt (peak).
“This exciting development implies that ultra-high efficiency solar cells based on Gallium Arsenide can eventually produce electricity at or below grid parity.” Dr. Forrest stated. “Using integrated solar concentrators and our adhesive-free, cold-weld bonding technology to plastic substrates, we estimate electricity could be produced as low as $0.45 cents per Watt, compared to traditional grid parity of $1 per Watt.”
GPEC is excited by the discovery. With this new discovery, the cost structure is dramatically reduced and can be used in numerous applications. The high efficiency, light weight and flexible solar cells are deployed on roll up plastic sheets. GPEC anticipates their use in spot powering vehicles, mobile military equipment and satellites, and off-grid locations. The company has big plans and want to license its intellectual property in order to commercialize the technology. To date, GPEC has a total of 425 patents.
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