When discussing solar panel efficiency bear in mind that scientists have calculated the solar energy striking the earth’s surface is one thousand watts per square meter. This then is a bench mark against which we can evaluate efficiency. If one square meter of solar panel can deliver 1000 watts of electrical energy it would be 100% efficient. Unfortunately nothing manmade is 100% efficient. To assess what the real efficiecny is, divide the actual output by the theoretical output. this will give you a fairly accurate measure of efficiecny at your installation site.
For the past decade the target price of solar panels has been $0.50 USD per watt produced. This is approximaterly the cost per watt for more conventional generators in the smaller household sizes under 100 kilowatt generation capacity market.
When I joined Xantrex a decade ago, the price per watt of installed solar panels was almost $6.00 per watt and the best price I have seen this past week is around $3.70 per watt.
Supporters will praise this as a gain of cutting the cost almost by half while detractors will say this price is still seven times as much as other power generating choices.
Its a case of; is the glass half full or half empty?
What really irks me is the claim of FREE POWER. There is no such thing as totally FREE POWER. There is a cost associated with building the infrastructure needed to collect and store any form of energy. Some forms of power collection and generation cost more and some cost less.
Throughout history we have seen various methods developed to harness nature’s power. At one time animals wer hitched to treadmills to thresh grain and grind grain into flour. Apart from cost of building the threadmill and the thresher or grist mill there was the ongoing cost to feed the animals. Stop feeding them and they soon die and you now had to buy fresh animals to run the mill. Falling water was used but it cost time and materials to make an effective water wheel. Wind was also tried. History abounds with examples of technical solutions to get power to replace human muscle power. Some with more success than others.
However among the biggest lies are those that claim “clean and green power.
Solar and LED light has been touted as clean and green. What most people are not aware of, is what manufacturing steps are involved in the process of making semiconductor electronic equipment. Every step in the process requires cleaning; often using chemicals that are toxic and or carciogenic.
Many people are not aware why almost thirty years ago the industrialized nations began shifting electronic manufacturing overseas to third world countries. The reason was simple. Our goverment agencies charged with identifying hazardous materials deemed most of the cleaning solvents used in the electronic industry to be too dangerous to be kept in our environment. Solution? Move the facility elsewhere to a place where the population was unaware of the hazards or too poor to protest. In exchange they received some jobs at better than local average pay.
I don’t know how many readers remember Love Canal or Bhopal. Both are place names for environmental disasters involving death and birth defects reaching across generations to a huge number of people. In both cases it was a question of dangerous chemicals being accidentally released so unwitting people could come into contact with it and either dying outright or suffer lingering diseases that eventually killed them. Genetic birth defects was mong the medical problems that linger on.
‘Green electronics industry’. There probably is no such thing.
To call solar a ‘green’ technology is NIMBYism at its best or worst depending on your viewpoint.
There is a cost associated with everything. Question becomes are we truly aware of the hidden costs and would we still pay it if we knew?