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Increasing Solar Panel efficiency by emiting light

This doesn’t sound logical, but it has been scientifically demonstrated that the efficiency of solar panels can be increased if the panels reflect back much of the light.  A team from the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that solar panels should be designed to be more like LEDs, able to emit light as well as absorb it.

Alta Devices high efficiency solar panels“What we demonstrated is that the better a solar cell is at emitting photons, the higher its voltage and the greater the efficiency it can produce,” says Eli Yablonovitch, team leader and UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering.

In theory, the maximum efficiency of a solar panel is  33.5 percent conversion of incoming photons into electrical energy. Most panels today are around 26%.  Even a small improvement would significantly improve the ROI from installing solar panels, and bring the cost of solar closer to grid parity.  The Berkeley team has demonstrated an improvement to over 28% in their labs.

Yablonovitch, has founded Alta Devices in the San Francisco Bay Area to commercialize this concept.  They have created a prototype solar cell made of gallium arsenide (GaAs),that allows  light to escape from the cell by increasing the reflectivity of the rear mirror amongst other things.

More about this promising technology on the Alta Devices website, although they are still quite secretive.

New York State Judge Upholds Ban on Fracking – a town actually can prevent carcinogens from being injected into their water!

Reuters reports that a New York state judge on Friday upheld an upstate New York ban on fracking, citing that towns have authority to regulate use of their land.  We believe this is good news, and find it unimaginable that a town could not be granted the right to ban oil companies from injecting known carcinogens into their water supply!

The blog is against fracking. We’ve read much of the literature on the subject, and understand the reasons why the practice has so much support (money, reduction of dependence on foreign oil, money, and money).  The more we tolerate and invest in fracking, the more we push back the timetable for renewables.

Speaking of money, there are billions to be made by those who solve our energy problems with renewables such as wind and solar!