Why Go with Solar Panels Now . . .

Commenter SW who has a background in Solar Panels technology talks about them in response to a posted commentary First generation of solar panels is wearing out – A recycling industry is salvaging them. SW gives a good perspective on why we should go with Solar Cell powering our needs now.


I worked as a researcher at SERI and then NREL for nearly thirty years.  I worked developing Photovoltaics (PV) technologies (solar panels).  Lots of folks were involved in economic analysis.  In the eighties and nineties that analysis showed that a major government investment would be required to drive down the cost and make PV cost effective.  The U.S. declined to make that investment.  The Chinese went ahead and followed the roadmap.  

I am retired now.  I have a modest three-bedroom ranch on a marginal lot because of heavy tree shadowing.  I went and put a 10 KW system on my roof sighted as best I could.  In the summer it pays my bill.  In the winter not so much although it makes a major contribution.  Was it cost effective?  Probably not.  But there is more to this decision than dollars and cents.  Having built an entire career from the technology I felt a particular imperative to support it by adopting it.  There is the environmental element many consider worth a premium.

We are headed towards a model where instead of relying on the grid and the grace of the power companies you can have your own storage bank in the form of an EV.  Two-way charging will allow you to use the grid when the rates are low and run your home from the EV during power outages and peak hours.  Smart charging stations will do all the calculations.  But we aren’t there yet.  The Nissan Leaf and maybe the Ford lightning are the only options at this point.  You can look at Tesla but you can’t drive a power wall and they don’t seem all that interested in integration.  In the meantime the power companies are passive aggressively doing all they can to discourage adoption with pointless fees and delays.

Oh and my advice, don’t wait for Perovskites.  Their primary problem is long term stability.  All the cost analysis of PV depends on a long lifetime.  Without that it doesn’t really matter what sort of performance you are able to squeeze out of a sample in the lab.  Don’t believe the PR.  There is a ton of research money, probably the only really sizable chunk going to this area.  Mostly of what is generated are press releases.  Stick with high quality crystalline Si.  At least for the next twenty years I should think.