Thin film solar panels promise to provide some of best alternative energy solutions to come forward these past few years--perhaps ultimately fulfilling the hope that solar advocates have long held for this evolving technology. Thin film overcomes some of the shortfalls of traditional photovoltaic cell technology although they introduce a couple of obstacles that are yet to be overcome.
Traditional solar technology consists of converting the suns energy into electricity using bulky flat panes with crystalline silicon solar cells. The cost of production is relatively high (compared to traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas), the panels are bulky and the efficiency is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20% for most residential applications (though near 40% efficiency is possible if you have deep enough pockets).Read more: Thin Film Solar Panels
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently put a moratorium on all new solar power projects on Federal land, citing the need for further environmental impact studies. According to the NY Times, "The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah."
This decision comes at a particularly tough time for the solar industry as public interest, and demand, for solar power are on the rise. Rather than encouraging the relatively nascent industry, this move may diminish some of the headway the industry has been making. According to one solar industry person, Lee Wallach of Solel the problem is that this is a very young industry, and the majority of us that are involved are young, struggling, hungry companies. This is a setback.
The freeze is set to last two years and will allow time for the government to evaluate the environmental damage that may occur from solar power plants, electrical transmission lines, the necessary water usage impact and so forth.
This decision leaves the environmental community in a unique position as it pits different factions against each other. Some conservation groups laud the move and welcome the studies as crucial to maintaining the habitat for many desert creatures while renewable energy interests are frustrated with the move to stall solar power.
Using the Sun for Power - How It Works
By Richard Chapo
Generating electricity from the sun is all about converting sunlight into power. Importantly, the process has nothing to do with converting the heat produced by sunlight into energy. This common misconception leads to a lot of confusion regarding solar systems.Read more: Using the Sun for Power
The Palo Alto Research Center has recently announced a collaboration with SolFocus, Inc. to produce a low-cost solar energy systems, which will employ PARC technology to cut the cost of solar power by as much as half.
The new technology found in PARC's solar cells feature a reliance on mirrors and lenses to better direct or "focus" the sun's light on to the area of active semiconductor PV cell material. This new research helps to eliminate one of the most expensive aspects of PV energy, that of the silicon or other simiconductor material. More information can be found on www.parc.com.