Magazine article E Magazine

Generation Solar: Third-Generation Solar Cells Will Work Better, Cost Less

Magazine article E Magazine

Generation Solar: Third-Generation Solar Cells Will Work Better, Cost Less

Article excerpt

Turning sunlight into electricity is big business, with the market for photovoltaic technologies expected to grow a whopping 39.9% over the next five years, according to Georgina Benedetti, an energy analyst for Frost & Sullivan.

"Solar is predictable," says Robert Wendt, a chief technology officer for solar company XsunX. "It's adaptable. It's compatible with other renewable sources such as wind. It allows installers to provide performance guarantees; it requires little maintenance; and it has no negative impact on the environment."

And soon, solar may be cheap enough to compete with traditional power. Third-generation solar will "provide electricity on a massive scale, using low-cost raw materials," predicts Stephen Squires, CEO of solar cell manufacturer Solterra Renewable Technologies, Inc. "A third-generation solar power plant will produce more megawatts per day than first- or second-generation solar plants can produce in a month" he says.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

First-generation solar cells, accounting for the lion's share of today's market, are mostly silicon-based, while second-generation refers to "thin films" made by layering plastic or glass with photovoltaic material such as copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

High-efficiency third-generation materials include polymers and plastics; molecule-sized semiconductor particles called quantum dots and biomimetic, or "life-imitating" dyes. All can convert more than silicon-based cells' 31% of solar power to electricity. …

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