Senator Al Franken recently held a Minnesota Renewable Energy Summit at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. Arun Majumdar, head of the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, stated that the United States is approaching a “Sputnik moment” in renewable energy, and Minnesota is one place that could help it meet that challenge. "We have to work toward . . . getting the cost of producing solar energy down to 5 cents per kilowatt hour, so that it can be sold without subsidies.”
Researchers around the world are working on just this effort to reduce the cost of solar energy. Giles Parkinson writes in The Climate Spectator that "significant new technology developments promise to take solar much closer to the cost of coal than anyone would have expected, even just a few years ago, and at a quicker rate." At the Australian National University, Research Fellow Dr. Kylie Catchpole leads a team using nano-particles – devices so small that 50 of them could fit on the width of a human hair - to create a plasmonic light trap. See a 2 1/2 minute video on her work.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a $60 million investment over 3 years for applied scientific research to advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies. The goal of the research is to reduce the cost of solar energy 75 percent to make it cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. At this point, CSP has not had a dramatic drop like that in the cost of solar photovoltaic panels, but a new version of CSP that combines concentrating solar power with photovoltaic cells looks like it's on the way to achieving that goal.
The Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Solar Power Generator, developed by Amonix and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory costs much less than concentrating solar power generators because it uses efficient small solar cells. It delivers more "energy per acre" than anything yet available in the solar energy world.
The public-private partnership won a 2010 R&D 100 award at the annual event honoring the greatest breakthroughs in technology, often called "The Oscars of Invention." NREL's partnerships with industry, such as this one with Amonix, are key to reaching aggressive White House goals including lowering solar energy's installed cost to $1 a watt, which would make America a leader in renewable energy.
The Amonix Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Solar Power Generator uses acrylic Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight up to 500 times its usual intensity and direct it onto 7,560 tiny, highly efficient PV cells. For more details on how the CPV Solar Power Generator works, see: Super-Efficient Cells Key to Low-Cost Solar Power