mirrorshard: (Terrella)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
Via the Guardian, Nanosolar have started mass-producing flexible thin-film photovoltaic panels. Apparently, these ones have several major advantages over the first- and third-generation solar cells:

  • Flexibility means they're easier to put up and much less likely to shatter and break
  • They don't use any silicon in their manufacture, which is a big plus for the environment - it's a horribly messy process
  • The energy output is substantially higher
  • It's possible to produce them in a continuous process, rather than delicate labour-intensive plate-by-plate.
  • Because these guys have developed a proprietary ink dispersion for the CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide) semiconductor, it can be printed directly rather than having to control four different atomic deposition sprays at once.

On the other hand, it still requires substantial amounts of the four metals involved, two of which are highly toxic and teratogenic, and Nanosolar are being extremely close-mouthed about the ink's adhesion to their aluminium substrate and overall lifetime. If it needs a glass or polymer cover plate, that'll reduce the conversion efficiency by quite a bit, and that (and/or a rigid sub-substrate) will up the price of installation units too. I really wouldn't bet on water resistance without, especially given the possibilities of indium and selenium compounds getting into the water table.
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