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Perovskite: new type of solar technology paves the way for abundant, cheap…

Perovskite: new type of solar technology paves the way for abundant, cheap…

    What Do Solar Panels Cost and Are They Worth It?

    Consider solar panels for your home if you have a high utility bill, live in a prime location and qualify for tax breaks or other savings.

    Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet who covers debt, budgeting and money-saving strategies. She contributes to the Millennial Money column for The Associated Press. Her work has also been featured by USA Today, MarketWatch and more. Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is based in San Francisco.

    Tommy Tindall Lead Writer | Consumer debt, saving money, gig economy

    Tommy Tindall is a personal finance writer who joined NerdWallet in 2021, covering consumer debt, practical ways to save money and the gig economy. Before NerdWallet, he worked on the marketing and communications team at Fannie Mae. Today, Tommy strives to make the topic of money approachable for all. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Associated Press and on MarketWatch. Tommy is based in Bel Air, Maryland.

    Courtney Neidel is an assigning editor for the core personal finance team at NerdWallet. She joined NerdWallet in 2014 and spent six years writing about shopping, budgeting and money-saving strategies before being promoted to editor. Courtney has been interviewed as a retail authority by Good Morning America, Cheddar and CBSN. Her prior experience includes freelance writing for California newspapers.

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    The rising cost of electricity from traditional sources and government incentives to go green make the idea of installing solar panels more attractive for many homeowners.

    But the true cost of solar panels, and whether they’ll help you save money. depends on a few key factors.

    How much do solar panels cost for homes?

    On average, solar panel installation and the system together can run from 15,000 to 25,000, according to the latest information from the Center for Sustainable Energy. Home services booking site Angi bumps that up, putting the normal range for solar panel installation in the U.S. from around 18,000 to 35,000 based on its database of completed projects.

    Before you make the leap, learn how your electric bill. location and incentives can impact your wallet over time. Here are five steps to take to determine whether you’ll save more than you spend on solar panels.

    Review your electric bill

    Solar panels generate their own power and can therefore greatly offset your monthly electricity bill. if not eliminate it. The higher your bill, the more likely you’ll benefit from switching. But be aware that electricity rates and usage — the main charges on your statement — are volatile.

    If a utility’s electricity fluctuate, so could the amount of savings, says Garrett Nilsen, deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s solar energy technologies office. Similarly, if energy consumption changes, the amount of savings can also vary.

    Electricity rates vary by location. The national average is about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to year-to-date 2022 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration [0]

    Visit the EIA website to view the most recent per state.

    Evaluate your sunlight exposure

    sun means more energy produced and a greater potential to save with solar. Certain states, like Arizona and California, average more sunlight hours per day.

    Your home’s orientation toward the sun, the amount of shade it gets, and its roof type also affect a solar system’s output. You can estimate the efficiency of panels on your home using this solar panel cost and savings calculator from SolarReviews.

    Estimate and compare the cost of solar panels for homes

    The brunt of the expense with solar panels is in installation and the purchase of the actual panels.

    Minimal long-term costs can make up for the upfront costs. “Most systems don’t require much maintenance and are designed to last for 20 years or more with little change to the amount of electricity produced,” Nilsen says.

    When calculating the total price, consider how much energy you regularly consume — your usage is listed on your monthly utility bill — and what size system will generate the amount needed. Some tools, like the SolarReviews calculator, estimate the system size for you.

    With installation, an average residential 5-kW system costs from 3 to 5 per watt, according to the CSE, which results in the 15,000 to 25,000 range. That cost is before any tax credits or incentives.

    If you know your current energy usage, you can calculate how much you’ll need to pay for solar panels.

    Then comparison shop for solar panels as you would other big-ticket items, such as a car or TV, says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of the solar marketplace EnergySage. Some companies reduce installation costs through rebates and other programs.

    Aggarwal recommends getting quotes from three to five contractors. EnergySage compiles solar companies’ customer reviews, certifications, Better Business Bureau profiles and other information to help you find reputable providers.

    Take advantage of government incentives

    A federal law passed in 2022 incentivizes consumers to make clean energy enhancements, like installing rooftop solar. A substantial update to an existing energy-related tax break that was set to expire at the end of 2023, the Residential Clean Energy Credit allows taxpayers who have solar (and other approved clean energy equipment) installed to recoup 30% of the cost in the form of a federal tax credit.

    What that means: A solar setup that costs 15,000 would yield a 4,500 credit (30% of 15,000) that you can take advantage of come tax time to reduce any federal taxes owed. The credit isn’t refundable though, meaning any money left over after your full tax bill is covered won’t be paid out to you. But you may be able to apply the remainder of the credit toward taxes owed in subsequent tax years.

    The credit applies to eligible equipment installed after Dec. 31, 2021, and remains in effect at the 30% rate through 2032. It decreases incrementally after that.

    Depending on your state, you may receive extra incentives like cash back, property tax exemption, waived fees and expedited permits. In some states, homeowners with solar panels can sell excess power to their local utility companies. Look up credits available in your state by reviewing the database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency.

    Keep an eye on trade policy

    Changes in government trade policy also impact prices. There have been varying tariffs on imported solar cells and panels over the last decade affecting costs and supply. For example, tariffs resulted in a 16-cent-per-watt increase for the average consumer in 2018, which translated to an overall increase of 960 for a 6-kW system, according to EnergySage.

    President Biden placed a two-year pause on new tariffs on the solar industry in June 2022.

    Is solar panel installation right for your home?

    If you live in an area with high energy rates and a suitable solar rating, and if you can afford the initial investment, it’s worth installing solar panels on your home while the 30% tax break is in place — for the good of the environment and your wallet. But don’t expect to eliminate your power bill overnight.

    If you decide to purchase solar panels, shop around and search for incentives. Consider financing with a solar loan if you’d rather spread out the cost over time. Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy solar panels — you can lease them, too. Leasing offers a lower upfront cost, though since you don’t own the panels, they won’t raise the value of your home, and you may not be eligible for incentives.

    Going solar isn’t the only potential way to save money. Learn more about what you can do to lower your bills.

    Perovskite: new type of solar technology paves the way for abundant, cheap and printable cells

    David Beynon receives funding from EPSRC and the Welsh government. He has previously worked on research projects funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Tata Steel, Power Roll Ltd and European Union Horizon.

    Partners

    Swansea University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

    Silicon solar cells are an established technology for the generation of electricity from the sun. But they take a lot of energy to produce, are rigid and can be fragile.

    However, a new class of solar cell is matching their performance. And what’s more, it can now be printed out using special inks and wrapped flexibly around uneven surfaces.

    We have developed the world’s first rollable and fully printable solar cell made from perovskite, a material that is much less expensive to produce than silicon. If we can also improve their efficiency, this points to the possibility of making cheaper solar cells on a much greater scale than ever before.

    The silicon solar cells that are so recognisable to us have a significant limitation. If enough were made to cover our needs, we could run out of the materials to make them by 2050. So, we need something new and lots of it. The perovskite solar cell is emerging to fill that gap.

    Perovskite is a crystal structure made with inorganic and organic components, named after Lev Perovski, a Russian mineral expert of the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Perovskite solar cells first appeared in research labs in 2012 and caught the attention of researchers due to two factors: their ability to convert sunlight into electricity, and the potential for creating them from a combination of inks.

    In research labs, using highly controlled production methods in environments where oxygen and water are completely removed, perovskite solar cells can now match the electricity generation of silicon solar cells. This is a remarkable achievement.

    But cheap perovskite solar cells that do away with silicon have yet to be manufactured on a commercial scale. So what if these materials could be produced using the same sorts of processes we use for printing ordinary packaging?

    perovskite, type, solar, technology

    My colleagues and I recently demonstrated that a roll of plastic film can be loaded into a printing press, and working perovskite solar cells emerge at the other end. However, it’s not quite as simple as pouring ink into your desktop printer.

    For one thing, scientists have found that to achieve record efficiencies, the semiconductor and perovskite layers in this new form of solar cell must be extremely thin – between 50 and 500 nanometres (about 500 times smaller than a human hair).

    Also, the inks used to print them had required highly toxic solvents. But, after many years of effort, we have now formulated inks without toxic solvents that are compatible with the slot-die coating process – an established industrial technique originally used for the production of photographic film.

    How our solar cell works

    The printed perovskite layer generates free electrons from the energy provided by light hitting it. The semiconductor then prevents the perovskite re-absorbing these electrons with a good power conversion efficiency (the ratio of optical power in to electrical power out).

    One problem remained: how to extract the electrical charge. In the past, this had been achieved by heating gold in a vacuum until it evaporated, and catching the vapour on the perovskite solar cell to form electrodes.

    We took a different approach, creating a carbon ink compatible with both the perovskite material and the slot-die coating process. The result is large volumes of flexible, rollable solar cells that come out of the printing press ready to generate power.

    work needed

    Perovskite solar cells have demonstrated high performance in research labs, and have now been proven capable of making the leap to high-volume manufacturing. But the job is not quite done yet.

    The 10% power conversion efficiency achieved by these rollable printed cells is useful, and higher than the first commercial silicon panels. But it lags behind the typical 17% conversion efficiency of domestic solar panels in use today.

    We know there are further increases available by taking advantage of higher-performing perovskite chemistry.

    There is an engineering challenge to overcome in order that high-volume, commercially produced perovskite solar panels can match the energy generation of silicon. Further improvements in the lifetime stability of perovskite solar cells are also required – through a combination of chemistry, device design, and other strategies such as protective coatings and laminated barrier films.

    In short, research needs to FOCUS on converting what’s happening in the labs into real-world devices. But the possibility of producing hundreds of thousands of square metres of flexible perovskite solar cells is now a step closer.

    Perovskites, a ‘dirt cheap’ alternative to silicon, just got a lot more efficient

    A perovskite crystalline stone isolated on white background. Perovskites, like the one shown here, show great potential as light-absorbing material for solar harvesting. (Getty Images photo)

    The secret, a University of Rochester optics professor explains, is to harness the power of metals.

    Silicon, the standard semiconducting material used in a host of applications—computer central processing units (CPUs), semiconductor chips, detectors, and solar cells—is an abundant, naturally occurring material. However, it is expensive to mine and to purify.

    Perovskites—a family of materials nicknamed for their crystalline structure—have shown extraordinary promise in recent years as a far less expensive, equally efficient replacement for silicon in solar cells and detectors. Now, a study led by Chunlei Guo, a professor of optics at the University of Rochester, suggests perovskites may become far more efficient.

    Researchers typically synthesize perovskites in a wet lab, and then apply the material as a film on a glass substrate and explore various applications

    Guo instead proposes a novel, physics-based approach. By using a substrate of either a layer of metal or alternating layers of metal and dielectric material—rather than glass—he and his coauthors found they could increase the perovskite’s light conversion efficiency by 250 percent.

    Their findings are reported in Nature Photonics.

    “No one else has come to this observation in perovskites,” Guo says. “All of a sudden, we can put a metal platform under a perovskite, utterly changing the interaction of the electrons within the perovskite. Thus, we use a physical method to engineer that interaction.”

    This illustration from the Guo Lab shows the interaction between a perovskite material (cyan) and a substrate of metal-dielectric material. The red and blue pairings are electron-hole pairs. Mirror images reflected from the substrate reduce the ability of excited electrons in the perovskite to recombine with their atomic cores, increasing the efficiency of the perovskite to harvest solar light. (Illustration by Chloe Zhang)

    Novel perovskite-metal combination creates ‘a lot of surprising physics’

    Metals are probably the simplest materials in nature, but they can be made to acquire complex functions. The Guo Lab has extensive experience in this direction. The lab has pioneered a range of technologies transforming simple metals to pitch black, superhydrophilic (water-attracting), or superhydrophobic (water-repellent). The enhanced metals have been used for solar energy absorption and water purification in their recent studies.

    In this new paper, instead of presenting a way to enhance the metal itself, the Guo Lab demonstrates how to use the metal to enhance the efficiency of pervoskites.

    “A piece of metal can do just as much work as complex chemical engineering in a wet lab,” says Guo, adding that the new research may be particularly useful for future solar energy harvesting.

    In a solar cell, photons from sunlight need to interact with and excite electrons, causing the electrons to leave their atomic cores and generating an electrical current, Guo explains. Ideally, the solar cell would use materials that weaken the ability of the electrons to recombine with the atomic cores.

    Guo’s lab demonstrated that such recombination could be substantially prevented by combining a perovskite material with either a layer of metal or a metamaterial substrate consisting of alternating layers of silver, a noble metal, and aluminum oxide, a dielectric.

    The result was a significant reduction of electron recombination through “a lot of surprising physics,” Guo says. In effect, the metal layer serves as a mirror, which creates reversed images of electron-hole pairs, weakening the ability of the electrons to recombine with the holes.

    The lab was able to use a simple detector to observe the resulting 250 percent increase in efficiency of light conversion.

    Several challenges must be resolved before perovskites become practical for applications, especially their tendency to degrade relatively quickly. Currently, researchers are racing to find new, more stable perovskite materials.

    “As new perovskites emerge, we can then use our physics-based method to further enhance their performance,” Guo says.

    Coauthors include Kwang Jin Lee, Ran Wei, Jihua Zhang, and Mohamed Elkabbash, all current and former members of the Guo Lab, and Ye Wang, Wenchi Kong, Sandeep Kumar Chamoli, Tao Huang, and Weili Yu, all of the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics in China.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Army Research Office, and the National Science Foundation supported this research.

    In a historic achievement, University of Rochester researchers have created a superconducting material at both a temperature and pressure low enough for practical applications.

    The Rochester research lab that recently used lasers to create unsinkable metal structures has now demonstrated how the same technology could be used to create highly efficient solar power generators.

    Inspired by diving bell spiders and rafts of fire ants, Rochester researchers have created a metallic structure that is so water repellent, it refuses to sink—no matter how often it is forced into water or how much it is damaged.

    Solar energy is about to get a whole lot cheaper

    The cost of solar panels has dropped by 90% in the past decade — it’s even cheaper than coal and gas in most countries. But still, for individuals, the upfront cost can remain a barrier to entry. And although solar is one of the fastest-growing green energy markets, it still makes up only 3% of the world’s electricity. If we want to beat climate change, we’ve got a long way to go. We need to make solar energy even more affordable. However, there’s a problem: most solar panels use silicon. And silicon has just gotten a whole lot more expensive. Bottlenecks in the silicon supply chain are putting solar panel manufacturing at a standstill. The silicon problem: ​​Silicon has dominated the solar panel industry for decades. Although other thin materials, like copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe), exist in the market, silicon remains the most prevalent semiconductor material used in solar cells, accounting for over 95% of all modules marketed today.

    “You have this very limited supply chain that you can pull from, and that’s complicated, because it’s just prone to disruption.” David Berney Needleman

    Solar panel companies turn to silicon because it is efficient and lasts a long time. A single panel lasts for at least 25 years, providing more than 80% of its initial power. Despite the benefits, crystalline silicon is difficult to produce, which slows down the solar panel manufacturing process. In the past year, the cost of silicon has skyrocketed, up to a 300% increase, and the U.S. banned imports from China, due to a violation of international standards on child labor — making the second most abundant element on the planet an actual scarcity. Alternative semiconductors: Some companies are ditching silicon for perovskite, a cheaper alternative. If they can commercialize low-cost perovskite films, the solar industry would change dramatically. Perovskite panels can generate more power from the sun than almost anything else — at a fraction of the cost of silicon solar panels. Perovskite solar cell efficiency has increased quicker in the lab than any other PV material, from 3% in 2009 to over 25% in 2020. In 2019, Polish start-up firm Saule Technologies outfitted the Henn na hotel in Nagasaki, Japan (the same hotel that had robot dinosaur concierges) with a striking curved wall of prototype perovskite solar panels. While perovskite is gaining momentum as a real possibility, this is one of the earliest out-of-the-lab installations. than a dozen companies worldwide want to sell perovskite panels, but most haven’t reached widespread commercialization. The companies include the British firm, Oxford PV, which is testing them at a site in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany. Microquanta Semiconductor and WonderSolar, both Chinese, have been conducting field testing in Hangzhou and Ezhou. There are still technical challenges to overcome: namely, the panels aren’t durable enough. They need to be stable enough to survive a few decades in the harsh outdoors — something researchers are working on. To speed up the process, skip a step: A California startup is taking a different approach. They aim to speed up the manufacturing process by skipping a critical step altogether. Leap Photovoltaic has designed a panel that eliminates silicon wafers, which are the single most expensive component in the production of solar panels. Even the factories are expensive to build, so only a few manufacturers exist. A wafer is a thin slice of crystalline silicon semiconductor. Semiconductors are used extensively to fabricate electronic circuits, such as within solar cells. The wafer is used as underlying material for building small electronic devices. “You have this very limited supply chain that you can pull from, and that’s complicated, because it’s just prone to disruption,” David Berney Needleman, CEO of Leap Photovoltaic, said. “It’s prone to not knowing if you’re going to be able to get material and components that you need, when you’re going to get it, and how much it’s going to cost—all the things that you think about being core to building a business are very shadowy in the solar industry right now.” To alleviate this issue, Leap Photovoltaic skips the wafers and goes straight from silicon to completed solar cells, which may subsequently be turned into solar panels, reports Fast Company. Doing so could cut the cost of solar panels in half, they say. The process is similar to how 3D printing works: the solar cells are “printed” from a single layer of silicon. This could cut the cost of a solar panel in half, making it a more affordable energy source for more households. Leap Photovoltaic is still in the early stages, having started in earnest in 2020. But Needleman thinks they could have prototypes ready for customers by 2023. Leap Photovoltaic’s potential for helping the solar business scale-up is huge: They told Fast Company that the company will have helped prevent more than 100 gigatons of emissions in just a few decades. We’d love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at tips@freethink.com.

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