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Discovery May Spur Cheap Solar Power

A European semiconductor maker announced a materials that may result in solar power that undercuts the price of fossile-fuel-produced electricity. We had better hope so, before the ice caps melt, the next brilliant petroleum war, or (worst case) the planet becomes one big suburb.

Discovery may spur cheap solar power

Thursday, October 2, 2003 Posted: 4:13 PM EDT (2013 GMT)

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- A major European chip maker said this week it had discovered new ways to produce solar cells which will generate electricity twenty times cheaper than today's solar panels.

STMicroelectronics, Europe's largest semiconductor maker, said that, by the end of next year, it expected to have made the first stable prototypes of the new cells, which could then be put into production.

Most of today's solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity, are produced with expensive silicon, the same material used in most semiconductors.

The French-Italian company expects cheaper organic materials such as plastics to bring down the price of producing energy. Over a typical 20-year life span of a solar cell, a single produced watt should cost as little as $0.20, compared with the current $4.

The new solar cells would even be able to compete with electricity generated by burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas, which costs about $0.40 per watt, said Salvo Coffa, who heads ST's research group that is developing the technology.

"This would revolutionize the field of solar energy generation," he said.

ST's trick is to use materials that are less efficient in producing energy from sunlight but which are extremely cheap.

Coffa said the materials should be able to turn at least 10 percent of the sun's energy into power, compared with some 20 percent for today's expensive silicon-based cells.

"We believe we can demonstrate 10 percent efficiency by the end of 2004," Coffa said.

Following that, ST and others would need to develop production technologies to make solar cells and panels in large quantities to achieve the $0.20 per watt target, he said.

"Our target is fixed at $0.20," said Coffa, who expects no major technological difficulties in going from prototypes to mass-produced commercial products.

Renewable energy is an essential part of research for ST, which says its chip and material expertise can be used to develop future solar cells and fuel cells.

ST said three weeks ago it had found a new way to produce tiny yet extremely efficient fuel cells that could power a mobile phone for 20 days.

this is the right idea. 04.Oct.2003 07:45

this thing here

now, take this same intent to improve and modify, and apply it wind energy, and increase the efficiency of the electrical generators and turbines themselves, to produce more electricity using less wind. take this same intent to improve and modify, and put hybrid engines in every new car and truck. take this same intent to improve and modify, and figure out how to use the least amount of fossil fuel as possible to generate the most amount of hydrogen. and finally, tell all the naysayers and critics to fuck off, and go back to 1903 and be the ones telling the wright brothers they would never get their project to work...

Hope on the Horizon 04.Oct.2003 12:13

ANT www.gorgedefensenetwork@graffiti.net

This technology could not come any sooner. Cost is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when advocating solar energy. Don't get me wrong, to make solar panels we must still destroy the Earth. If we want electricity the Earth will suffer. If we try to live on the amount of energy that we all use today our planet will still crumble but it is a good step. In mass wind turbines also destroy. All the infrastucture that goes with them, there are dead zones around every turbine and we still need to mine for the metals to make them. All power production can be bad. We need to keep it small and local. NO large powerplants. If you would like to work with a local sustainable living advocate group contact us. GORGE DEFENSE NETWORK (541)490-2106

p.o. box 1588 Hood River, OR 97031

hemp energy is the real anwser 09.Oct.2003 05:30

harry anslinger

solar power is a possitive step away from fossil fuels but, industialized Hemp is the only thing that can and will save us.
biomass needs to be our top priorety. if only six percent of current american farmland was converted to hemp for biomass, that would support the entire United States energy needs. Hemp would make america completly energy independent. along with so many other benifits, Hemp will literally save the world! we just need to start educating ourselves and others about the true purpose and history of (marijuana) and stop this ignorrance we know as the drug war!