New advances in solar ...

IBM’s solar tech is 80% efficient thanks to supercomputer know-howA few days ago I was surfing around and saw a story on Ars Technica, “IBM’s solar tech is 80% efficient thanks to supercomputer know-how” which I found of interest, and figured you might as well.

The system that’s being outlined in this not only uses solar tracking and a mirrored parabolic dish to concentrate the sun’s rays onto photovoltaic cells (which in itself only reaches about 30% efficiency in energy collection), but adds a water system factor, which (by capturing what would otherwise be waste heat radiated off of the equipment) moves that efficiency up to 80%!

If systems could be developed (with the energy distribution question solved) that were able to convert incoming solar radiation into useful energy at that level, it could quickly solve most of the world’s power requirements:

Dr. Michel raises the possibility that these larger HCPVT collectors could one day be used to build solar power stations in, say, the Sahara Desert. According to the team’s calculations, covering 2 percent of the area of the Sahara with HCPVT would meet the world’s electricity needs

In the video in that article they note that the surface of the earth gets hit with 85,000 terawatts of solar energy annually, and our current global needs are only 15 terawatts per year, so only capturing a tiny fraction of a percent of that could put the Earth on a totally sun-based energy regimen.

Of course, so far the solar energy field has been a disappointment, and has been a hole into which the current administration has thrown good money after bad, paying off a string of politically-connected energy start-ups, rather than pushing basic research. It’s great to see an established entity like IBM seeking out innovations to take what works, and make it work better.

If this particular technology takes off, perhaps more buildings will move to water heat/cooling systems (which are very cost effective vs. standard a/c units) as the hot water will be part of the entire energy “take”.

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