But the sun isn’t out at night

It's bright enough...

It’s something I’m a little tired of hearing about: a new breakthrough in solar technology. Not because it’s a bad thing – I think it’s fantastic – but because I’ve heard so many stories before, only for the research to peter out from lack of funding to carry projects through to commercialisation. Sure, some advances turn out to be unfeasible at large scales, or other such issues, but the level of investment in pushing renewables through to a mass production level pales in comparison to historical investment in fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Pointless griping aside, the new technology, developed by Professor Benoît Marsan and co. at Université du Québec à Montréal, looks very cool, in large part because it’s cheap. It does away with platinum electrodes, for a start, which would make scaling the technology up substantially more expensive. There are also substantial steps forward to the production of a solar cell which is cheap, flexible and scaleable. Mass uptake of technologies like this is inevitable; it’d be nice to see a kick along as soon as possible. Not only would I be able travel through remote Australia with a functioning laptop and digitial camera, powered by the sun, but it would also contribute to energy independence and mitigating climate change as well.

We’d all win!

Categories: Problems, Science | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “But the sun isn’t out at night

  1. This is what you need in the outback.

    Joke aside, Solar Energy is such a good investment. Many of the house in reunion Island are using solar energy to heat the water in the houses. It’s really affordable (compared to what people could pay for a Third car…) and works really well even during cyclone periods.

    I was also astonished by the energy performance at “La boite” on South Straddie which is fully Solar powered if my memory is right.

    • If I didn’t have to fork out a monstrous amount of cash for tuition in London, I would be tooling up with a solar backpack for my travels, haha.

      We’ve just had solar hot water fitted, I think it was accounting for a large fraction of our energy use and now it’s dropped right off. And La Boite is awesome, totally solar, the fact that it can house 15 people on a party weekend and not need mains electricity goes to show what good design can do!

      Though some fool ran the toaster too long on the first year we were there and depleted the battery so we had a blackout…

  2. I got my home power bill today. Odd feeling after being on a solar powered yacht for 4 years.

    Apparently AGL tells me (on thin slivers of tree, pulped, bleached and then coated with inks and dyes) that 47% of the cost of my bill went towards getting the electricity to me from the power station.

    I wonder as I look at the house opposite with its 7 solar panels on the roof taking up about 10-20% of the roof area, surely solar panels aren’t that inefficient? I used to get by with just 2 on my boat.

    Just who/what is inefficient? The panel, the coal fired power grid or the people using the power?

    • James, like Nic said in his comment, we stayed in a fully solar beach house. More than a dozen people, no mains power at all, no noticeable drop in living standards. Just a bit more care with appliance use and a well designed building.

      It’s crazy that 47% was lost in transit!

      • That 47% was cost not lost. Got no idea how much energy is lost, maybe more maybe less on average.

  3. Ah, OK. I’d guess it’s less, though still significant. The benefits of decentralisation, eh?


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