Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bringing PV Cells from Space back down to Earth

PV cells
During the 1960s and early 1970s the use of solar cells in space flourished but down on Earth electricity from the sun seemed not very perspective option. The high costs of the PV cells made them uneconomical for use on the earth where low price is the main factor.

In the early 1970's a way to lower to cost of solar cells was discovered. Dr. Elliot Berman, with financial help from Exxon Corporation, designed a significantly less costly solar cell by using a poorer grade of silicon and packaging the cells with cheaper materials. This brought the price down from $100 per watt to around $20 per watt.

The energy crises of the 1970s led to a worldwide push for alternative renewable sources of energy, and photovoltaic were seen as a possible solution. Major research activities in the field took place and the main objective of photovoltaic research has been to reduce costs in order to bring solar power to people.

Significant efforts were made to develop PV power systems for residential and commercial uses, both for stand-alone, remote power as well as for utility-connected applications. The photovoltaic industry attracted the interest of large energy companies and government agencies. With their investment of capital, tremendous improvements in manufacturing, performance and quality of PV modules were possible.

In the 1980s, photovoltaics became a popular power source for consumer electronic devices. PV cells were incorporated in watches, radios, lanterns and other small battery-charging applications. During the same period, international applications for PV systems to power water pumping, refrigeration, telecommunications, rural health clinics, and off-grid households increased dramatically, and remain a major portion of the present world market for PV products.


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