Sometimes it just takes one big investment to push technology forward, and with General Electric hopping on board the solar train, new innovations in solar technology may be forthcoming.
GE Global Research, the company’s technology development subsidiary, announced that General Electric will be investing millions of dollars into research to help solar energy become even more affordable.
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Charlie Korman, GE Global Research Manager of Solar Energy Programs, stated that the goal was to cut the cost of installing a residential solar system by half.
Two projects are being implemented. The first is a $2.9 million program that focuses on reducing the cost of PV system components through improvements to underlying technologies.
The second is a $3 million program that will focus on configuring system components so that they can be more easily installed.
“New technologies are needed to simplify and standardize how solar installations are made,” said Korman. “The process has to be as routine as putting a new roof on your home.”
Both these programs are being partially financed through government funding. GE is already working with the New York State Energy Research Development Authority in one program, and is now joining the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Sunshot Initiative to gain further financing.
The DOE Sunshot Initiative’s goal is to reduce the total cost of solar energy systems by 75 percent by 2020. The Initiative’s mission is to meet this goal by driving innovation, either with grants or through loan guarantees to companies and universities that are developing new technologies.
Last month, DOE Secretary Steven Chu announced a new $60 million investment into the Sunshot Initiative to help finance research that advances concentrating solar power technologies.
With the cost of residential PV systems already reduced by 43 percent in just 12 years, some may be wondering how much lower solar can go. Judging by research already underway, further reductions appear promising. Solar companies are scrutinizing every aspect of the solar panel production process to find ways to make them faster, cheaper and smarter.
Earlier this year, Canada solar company Day4 Energy, in partnership with solar manufacturing Roth and Rau, increased the efficiency of a solar module to 19.3 percent primarily through simples changes in soldering methods and materials. California solar company Sun Power increased the efficiency of their modules by focusing on the backing of solar panels.
Toshiba’s solar subsidiary improved efficiency by placing electrodes on the back of solar panels, reducing reflective light loss.
Other researchers are looking at ways to create multi-junction solar cells, cells that can absorb sunlight on wavelengths outside of the red spectrum. Solar Junction, a solar company based in California, has achieved a 43-percent solar cell efficiency rate in laboratory experiments with multi-junction cells.
So, welcome aboard, GE. For advancement to continue, your researchers, scientists and funding are needed. Best wishes to any electrical energy company that helps to make the world less dependable on fossil fuel-based energy, and that can help communities turn to clean, green, renewable solar.
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