Solar breakthroughs


One of the biggest problems plaguing our society is the energy crisis. We need to find a way to eliminate the need and dependency on fossil fuels. One of the most viable options for this is solar power. In 2012, the global energy consumption was estimated at 559.8 EJ (exajoules). In one years time, solar energy potential is 1,575-49,837 EJ. You do the math.

But these are things we have known for years, so what has changed?

First, the cost of solar power has dropped 25% in the past 5 months. This is because of cheaper solar panels becoming available on the market. This number is based off of two bid recently placed; one by Dubai, and one by China. This is great news considering that one of the biggest drawbacks for solar power is the cost of solar panels not being worth it for the at home consumer.

Second, there have been recent breakthroughs in solar cell technology. We have managed to create solar cells that can perform at 20.2 percent. This is extremely close to the 33.7% that is known as the thermodynamic limit, which is the theoretical maximum efficiency of solar cells. The largest issue with this break through is that the solar cells were only stable above 300 C. But a breakthrough in recent weeks has brought that number extremely far down into more appropriate ranges. The patent on these cells is pending approval before  production begins.

And finally, Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory has created a window that can produce electricity through solar power. They have done this by placing a mix of polymers and quantum dots onto the surface of the glass. They have combated the problem that all other attempts at creating solar cell windows face by limiting the wavelengths that the cells react to. However, they are able to get an efficiency of only 1.9%, which is quite low, yet, they stated that this was still a high enough efficiency that “the 12,000 windows at New York’s One World Trade Center alone could power over 350 apartments”.

One issue remains still. It is not yet totally cost effective to switch to solar power in all areas of the globe, i.e. Minnesota, but at the rate that technology in solar power is growing, it many not be long before Minnesota, too, could be powered by the sun.

~Kyle Towberman

Week 6





  1. 2014 Key World Energy Statistics” (PDF). IEA. 2014. pp. 6, 24, 28. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014
  2. Energy and the challenge of sustainability” (PDF). United Nations Development Programme and World Energy Council. September 2000. 
  3. @futurism. “Future Cities Could Be Powered by Windows That Absorb Sunlight.” Futurism. 2016. Accessed October 14, 2016.
  4. @futurism. “Breakthrough in Solar Cells Could Lead to a More Stable, Efficient Energy Option.” Futurism. 2016. Accessed October 14, 2016.
  5. @futurism. “Breakthrough in Solar Cells Could Lead to a More Stable, Efficient Energy Option.” Futurism. 2016. Accessed October 14, 2016.

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