We’ve looked at the concept of organic solar cells before, and while they are unlikely to reach the operating efficiencies of silicon based PV any time soon, they do offer the potential for substantially cheaper manufacture. Now we hear from the UK that the Carbon Trust, which is already well known for handing out cash to worthy projects, is funding a research project, led by the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory with The Technology Partnership, to the tune of £5 million (US$10 million) that aims take organic solar cells from the laboratory and on to rooftops. The eventual aim is to have 1 gigawatt of generating capacity installed by 2017. However, the researchers have no intention of replacing conventional silicon-based solar, merely to complement it:
Is organic solar likely to replace silicon, then? Even though the more efficient silicon has an obvious cost penalty, Greenham doesn't think so: "There's going to have to be a lot more PV of all kinds. We want to make it cheap enough to really expand the market."
That view is shared by Professor Paul O'Brien at the University of Manchester. He's been involved with solar cells for more than 20 years, especially those that don't use silicon. "Silicon is made in a foundry and the technology is the same as we use to make silicon chips. That, of course, is far too expensive," says O'Brien, who reckons that solar cells need be no more pricey than high-performance self-cleaning glass. "Get the cost down, and the whole thing becomes viable."
As the twin crises of climate change and dwindling oil reserves unfold, lets hope that more funding bodies step up to the plate to develop real alternatives to fossil fuels, and then set equally ambitious goals for implementing them. ::The Guardian::via site visit::