After posting last week about polysilicon and China, Robert came over to my desk and pointed out that what I wrote about is first generation solar technology. He asked if I had looked up the developments in second and third generation solar technology. In all my reading and research on the topic of polysilicon, I had not . So he gave me some tips of what to look for, terms like thin-film solar.. which admitedly, I had never heard before. (remember I’m new!)
Some initial browsing provides interesting and encouraging information when it comes to new and better ways of harnessing the sun’s energy. Developments like being able to roll a thin film, with a consistency similar to wallpaper, onto the roof of a house, or a wall.
Previously I referred to the problem of the manufacturing of first generation solar panels, polysilicon, which requires alot of energy to produce, not to mention the processing of waste. Producing thin-film uses dramatically less raw materials than those panels, therefore less waste as well. One example of a company involved in thin film solar technology is the German-American First Solar. Their website provides some background information as well as graphics illustrating what they are doing with thin film.
But perhaps even more encouraging is that there are more advanced methods currently being developed to further reduce the amount of energy and the environmental impact of producing thin-film solar panels. At the university of Arizona, researchers in the chemistry department are trying to use molecules made out of organic compounds that could make up a super thin film solar panel. By super thin they mean 100 nanometers thick… many times thinner than human hair. Such a breakthrough would not only make for lightweight, easy to deploy solar energy collecting material, but also the production clean and environmentally safe production of solar panels.