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Revolutionary new solar-powered technology out of Africa

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 2:30 pm    Post subject: Revolutionary new solar-powered technology out of Africa Reply with quote

As the race to create a more applicable affordable solar energy heats up, a new development from the University of Johannesburg seems to hold the promise of lowering the cost of solar panels. This appears on the heels of several other types of new developments in solar technology to capture more of the suns energy in the most unlikely conditions. This should also bring the cost of acquiring this technology to a more realistic practical level.
NextGen Energy News
JST Develops Thin-Film Solar Panel that is 100x Thinner

Professor Vivian Alberts at the University of Johannesburg has developed a revolutionary new solar-powered technology that could transform the solar industry and make solar power for the first time competitive with grid based power.

He has spent the past 13 years developing highly advanced photovoltaic, or thin-film, solar panels that could be the solution to South Africa - and the world's - scramble for power.

The panels are already being constructed by Johanna Solar Technology (JST) in Brandenburg, Germany, and will go on sale in Europe this year.

According to JST, current solar modules convert only direct sunlight into electrical energy, but thin-film solar modules convert any light across the spectrum into electricity - generating power even under low-light conditions.

Due to the construction of the cells, comparatively high yields can be obtained even under partially shaded or overcast conditions.

Alberts, interviewed in Germany this week, said plans to make the photovoltaic panels commercially available in South Africa were at an advanced stage and there would be a major announcement at the end of March about when they would go on sale.

Alberts said agreements had been signed with major investors and they were in the process of finalising agreements with banks for the funding, which prevented him from giving further details on the sale dates.

JST reportedly has seven shareholders, including South Africa's state-owned Central Energy Fund and private investors Richemont, VenFin and Anglo Coal.

Alberts has already identified a site for a factory in Cape Town and has designed the factory building where the photovoltaic solar panels will be designed.

He said production would be well below the current price of solar panels - at least 50 percent cheaper than anything that is commercially available at present.

Based on improved temperature coefficients - which means lower performance losses at high temperatures - thin-film modules were especially suited to temperatures over 25C, which was the case in South Africa, he added.

The new thin-film solar modules are based on a wafer-thin, semiconducting absorber layer made of copper, indium, gallium, sulphur and selenium, and are just half the thickness of a human hair and almost a hundred times thinner than a silicon cell.

JST spokesperson Heide Traemann said the Brandenburg factory's target was to produce about 500 000 panels a year.

"We now have 90 people working for JST. We are not producing yet but are currently focusing on the so-called 'process set-up', which means the qualification of machines. Once this is completed, production will begin."

Hermann Iding, spokesperson for Aloe-Solar, the German company which will distribute the panels in Europe, said they were preparing for the launch of the thin-film modules later this year.
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