Solar energy just might get a lot cheaper

I researched the idea of adding a solar array to power both houses that I own here in Green Acres, but the cost estimate was around $30,000, and either I would want to get a new roof now first or put the solar array on a tall pole in the GANG garden. Frankly, the prospect felt daunting. My son Colin keeps telling me that new inventions are about to make solar much, much cheaper. Maybe he’s right!

Even with much preferable decentralized solutions to energy such as this one, however, I am among those who are concerned about unintended side effects. For example, the invention of the internal (infernal) combustion engine spawned the automobile, which led to interstate highways, to spreading suburbs, to increased anonymity and disconnection from Nature as people drive around in steel boxes that drink up the blood of Mother Earth and pollute sky and water and soil . . . not to mention the ongoing, murderous, soul-destroying wars over shrinking non-renewable resources.

For any high or low-tech “solutions” to the “energy crisis,” are there ways we can build in, as utterly necessary, the idea of looking at and mitigating, as much as possible, unintended side effects beforehand? I.e., before things “get out of hand?” Thanks to

Notre Dame researchers invent paint-on solar cells

December 23, 2011

by Brad McCarty

I’m constantly amazed by the movements that go on in the world of green tech. A few months ago I took a look at what I would need to do in order to provide enough solar power to simply power my office in case of severe weather and I was impressed by the advances that had been made. But nothing stands up to what we’re seeing out of Notre Dame University where researchers have invented a paint-on solar cell.

According to Science Daily, the cells use “power-producing nanoparticles” that, while not as efficient as traditional solar cells, are considerably less expensive and can be painted onto any conductive surface.

“The best light-to-energy conversion efficiency we’ve reached so far is 1 percent, which is well behind the usual 10 to 15 percent efficiency of commercial silicon solar cells. But this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”

The lead researcher, Prashant Kamat, says that the team wanted to do something “transformative”, and they truly have. The team says that no special equipment is required to apply the paint, and they’re presently working on ways to improve the stability of the material.

Picture it – In a few years when you paint your house, you could be pulling yourself off the grid and reducing your carbon footprint as well. Nice work, Notre Dame. You win the Internet today.

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