Friday, 13 January 2012

Technology: New Solar Tech 2011-12

Solar Power Plant
Image from smithheggumreport

Yesterday's solar energy stocks around the world soared and trading volume was one of the highest since last October. News reports have it that this reaction in the markets was a reflection of "higher-than-expected demand at the end of 2011" and this year [1][2], that the Asia-Pacific solar market is "to grow 130% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of this year."[3], and Claymore/MAC Global Solar Index (ETF), "a global sector benchmark, is up 27.2 percent since Dec. 28, when it closed at a historical low" [4].

So much support from the recent news articles, I doubt that optimism would suddenly surge in a single day causing global markets to react violently. It was just one big excuse for the big cheese to earn quick money.

That doesn't mean I don't agree with whatever reasons they have listed. In fact, I agree with them totally! Just don't agree that it is anything new. For years, I have always stayed positive in the solar industry and have more than once mentioned the saviour role of solar energy in the life and death of the human race [5][6][7][8]. My money invested in the industry has gone up and down with the markets like a roller coaster, but the industry has been improving in terms of technology all along and it has never stopped improving.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has already been held for five years [9] and new ideas for more energy-saving comfy homes are still popping up like wild flowers!

Several new ideas have sprung up just last year!

A scanning electron microscopy image of carbon nanotubes bundles
Image from Wikipedia
Carbon Nanotube Structure
Image from Wikipedia

Copper nanowires and carbon nanotubes are potential candidates for the future generations of solar cells [10][11] with carbon nanotubes standing out due to its bendability [12] and strong UV/Nis-NIR absorption characteristics [13].

The most exciting, I reckon, goes to quantum dot as its production cost is considered to be one of the lowest. [14][15] So far, the technology is far from mature to be commercially produced, but the advancement of such technology seems to be improving exponentially as the number of news article increases daily.
"Life finds a way."
Sunflower's design a hint to efficient harvest of sunlight
Image from
Yesterday, a news article which talks about how sunflower actually hints the design of solar power plant. [16] The engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), were quoted

"It is very scary that we did all the [numerical optimization] work and then we go back to nature," he noted. "We could have started there.""

Well of course!!!! Do you think that thousands of years of evolution of the sunflowers means nothing??? The sunflowers date back to 2600BC and each floret is at a Golden Angle of 137.5° adjacent to another [17] [18] allowing maximum efficiency of sunlight harvest. This is no accident!!!
Head displaying florets in spirals of 34 and 55 around the outside
Image from Wikipedia
Haven't they watched Jurassic Park?

In terms of investment, even Google and non-tech investor Warren Buffett have begun to invest in the solar industry [19][20] !

Are they too slow? Or have they just got on the train at the right time?

saviour -- (n) UK a person who saves someone from danger or harm (US savior)
decathlon -- (n) [C] a competition in which a male athlete competes in ten sports events
copper nanowire 
carbon nanotube 
quantum dot 
floret -- (n) [C] a small part of a vegetable that is shaped like a flower
Golden Angle -- (n) 137.5° see Golden_angle

[1] Solar Stocks Rise on Surging German Installs, China Growth @ Bloomberg Businessweek

[2] Solar Stocks Rally on Surging German Installs, China Doubling Capacity @ Bloomberg

[3] Asia Pacific solar market to grow 130% @ My Sinchew

[4] Vestas Trouble for Wind Energy Co. not Clouding Solar Energy Prospects - Analysis @ International Business Times

Claymore/MAC Global Solar Index (ETF) @ Google Finance

[5] Economics & Environment: The Green Energy Debate Amid Japan's Nuclear Crisis @ Locky's English Playground

[6] Investment: What's after Solar? Wind Power @ Locky's English Playground

[7] Investment: Electric Cars vs Future -- Part 2 @ Locky's English Playground
[8] Investment: Electric Cars vs Future -- Part 3 @ Locky's English Playground

[9] Student Architects Shine in Solar Energy Contest @ VOA

[10] The next best thing for solar cells: carbon nanotubes @ bits of science

[11] Improved solar cells and electronics thanks to copper nanowires @ bits of science

[12] New material for 'bendable' solar cells @ UPI

[13] Carbon Nanotubes @ Wikipedia

[14] Quantum dot @ Wikipedia

[15] Colloidal Quantum Dot Solar Cells Improve Energy Conversion Efficiency @ IEEE Spectrum

[16] Sunflowers inspire improved solar power plant @ Future of Technology

[17] Sunflower @ Wikipedia

[18] Golden Angle @ Wikipedia

Jurassic Park @ IMDb

[19] Buffett investment in California solar farm could boost industry @ Los Angeles Times

[20] Google Invests $75 Million in Solar Panel Firm @ Mashable Business