Wednesday, December 17, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: New technology for solar panels

By
August 07, 2013 |

I recently pulled some weeds in my yard. I can only do a little bit at a time, having to take it slow due to arthritic knees. But one thing about pulling weeds in August stands out even when taken in small doses: it’s hot work.

With the sun beating down on us, warming the whole nation, it’s easy to wonder if solar power will some day replace fossil fuels as our mainstay energy resource. That could be a wonderful development from several perspectives: it could make the U.S. more energy independent and it could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we produce each day.
Some efforts to harness the sun depend on capturing energy to do things like warm up cold water. A few houses are designed to collect energy from the sun during the winter to “passively” warm rooms with southern exposures. Those are valuable efforts, but to my mind they pale in significance to work aimed at converting the energy of sunlight into electricity.
Electricity is a wonderful form of energy. We can do almost anything with it, ranging from cooling our houses in the summer via air conditioning to heating them in the winter. If we could engineer an economical and environmentally friendly way to convert sunlight into electricity, we might find ourselves on Easy Street with respect to the economic and political costs of our national power needs.
I once owned a solar panel I bolted to the top of my humble 1972 travel trailer. I about doubled the value of my investment in the trailer when I added that panel to it. I used the panel to power a single high-efficiency light bulb in the trailer that allowed me to read after dark.
Recently there’s been some good news about a new kind of solar panel that might really make a difference to the economics and the environmental impact of the devices. The news comes from Oregon State University. Using ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in anti-freeze, engineers have made progress researching what’s called a continuous flow process to making “thin-film” solar cells. With a continuous flow approach, things look good in terms of being able to scale up the process to industrial production at low cost per unit produced. Perhaps best of all, the panels would be based on a mixture of copper, zinc, tin and sulfur. These are all common and cheap elements compared to those used in most solar panels today.
“We need technologies that use abundant, inexpensive materials, preferably ones that can be mined in the U.S. This process offers that,” said Prof. Greg Herman of OSU in a press release.
A great deal about the energy landscape would be changed if we find a way to harness the sun in economically and environmentally attractive ways. Here’s wishing the best to researchers across the country who are working to crack the solar nut.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

Comments

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?

E. Kirsten Peters

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    News

    Grand Jury: King Fire suspect indicted

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Stormproofing the watershed after King Fire

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Esmeralda Tunnel repairs continue

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Harris’ murder trial pushed back

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Law enforcement cracking down on holiday drunk driving

    By Placerville Police | From Page: A3

     
    EDUHSD board members sworn in

    By News Release | From Page: A6

    School boundary complaints voiced at board meeting

    By Julie Samrick | From Page: A11

     
    Sanford adds attorney

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A12

    Giant Hanukkah menorah lit in Placerville

    By News Release | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    UMHS briefly locked down

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A12

    .

    Opinion

    My turn: Holidays, stress and fitness

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4

     
    Restoring salary cuts should lead to more cuts

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Letters

    Plastic bags

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    That arrogant man

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    ‘Life as I know it’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Wine in the Vines

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    0 ≠ 0

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Altshuler’s delusions

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    .

    Sports

    Sports Scene: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A8

     
    Lady D’backs fall to Laguna Creek

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A8

    Sabrina Tate overcomes physical setbacks

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Optimist All Stars play tomorrow

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A8

    Roundup: Two Trojan titles; two MVPs

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Prospecting

    New game plays in Old West

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Placerville Friends of Tibet present film

    By Tripp Mikich | From Page: B2

    At a glance: Hello winter

    By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

     
    Local photographers create postcards

    By Julie Samrick | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    CASA receives important gift from Wells Fargo

    By Court Appointed Special Advocate | From Page: B3

     
    El Dorado County libraries offer many programs

    By El Dorado | From Page: B3

    Golden Sierra grad hopes to release film

    By Rebecca Murphy | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Life as I know it: New and moving experiences

    By Robert F. Boggus | From Page: B5

    Grow For It! Citrus Basics

    By Debbie Hager | From Page: B5

     
    Sierra Repertory presents play

    By Sierra Repertory | From Page: B7

    .

    Essentials

    Building permits 12/8-12/2014

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

     
    Crime Log: Nov. 20-22

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

    Weather stats

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Real Estate

    .

    Comics

    Speed Bump

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

     
    Tundra

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

    Horoscope, Thursday, December 18, 2014

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

     
    Horoscope, Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

    TV Listings

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

     
    Shoe

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

    Sudoku

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

     
    Rubes

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

    New York Times Crossword

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

     
    Long Story Short

    By Contributor | From Page: A10

    Flying McCoys

    By Contributor | From Page: A10