NewEnergyNews: BETTER THINNER SOLAR

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    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    BETTER THINNER SOLAR

    “Thin film” is the name for solar panel-like material specially made for convenient building-integration, usually as roof shingles, siding, sunroofing or windows. It is less efficient that the traditional roof-mounted photovoltaic panel but it is cheaper and it is installed as part of a building’s structure, further defraying cost.

    Investment in thin film is booming even as some give up on the long term promise of standard photovoltaic panels for any use except individual home and small business installations. Yet there is no certain formula for thin film. More test sites are necessary. Enter the Department of Energy's
    Solar America Initiative.

    By California or German standards, the Missouri undertaking reported here, funded in a public private-partnership, is really “small potatoes.” But it will be studied under exacting academic standards and it will allow cutting edge thin film technology to show what it can do, right in the heart of the heartland where a lot of people think alternative energy means ethanol.

    So here’s a chance for solar energy to take some advice from the great
    Mae West (who was anything but thin film): “If you got it, flaunt it.”

    Interest in thin film is booming. (click to enlarge)

    Solar project aims for cheaper solar
    Kat Hughes, January 24, 2008 (Columbia Tribune)

    WHO
    U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), w/partners Columbia (MO) Water and Light Department (Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman), University of Missouri chemistry department, Prost Builders Inc. (Vaughn Prost, president/owner) and Dow Chemical;

    WHAT
    DOE and its partners will test a thin film solar installation as part of the Solar America Initiative.

    From a Solar America Initiative webpage. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    The system will be operational in April 2008.
    - A Bush administration initiative, the Solar America Initiative aims to make solar energy cost competitive by 2015.

    WHERE
    Dow will fund a 5-kilowatt thin film photovoltaic system at Columbia, MO’s West Ash Street pump station.

    From a Solar America Initiative webpage. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    - The installation will cost Dow $50,000.
    - Columbia is donating land and spending $23,000 to fence and monitor the installation.
    - The MU chemistry department and its graduate students will study and evaluate the system’s performance with rigorous academic research standards.

    From a Solar America Initiative webpage. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Prost, Prost Builders: "Dow makes many building products, and the idea is to incorporate solar voltaic technology into the shingles of a roof or the siding of a house, something homeowners already have to spend money on anyway, but it will also collect energy. That is the Holy Grail…But it obviously has to be cost-effective where the typical homeowner would think to do it. Also, silicone is very brittle, but a shingle has to be flexible, so how do you do that? That’s what we’re working on."
    - Kacprowicz, Water and Light: "Right now there are not a lot of Midwest applications for solar technology…This is important because it will help measure solar efficiency from this location, which will give not only the utility but also residential users more information on what to expect from solar systems."

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