With normal solar cells, you need direct sunlight for them to generate power, and if the panels are at all shaded the efficiency drops significantly. A new type of solar cell, being developed in Jerusalem, is making huge waves because it can generate power from diffuse light using a specialized colored panel. They look a bit like colored plexi-glass but are actually panes made with fluorescent dyes and nanoparticle metals, and could possibly eclipse traditional solar panels in terms of price.
The smarter panel is being developed by GreenSun Energy, a Tel Aviv-based energy start-up. The new solar panels also use 80% less silicon than traditional solar cells. As the direct or indirect sunlight hits the panels, it diffuses across and the nanoparticles of metal direct and concentrate the sunlight to the edges where the silicon is.
So far, GreenSun has achieved a 12% efficiency rate with their panels and can produce them for $2.10/W compared to around $4.54/W for a conventional panel. They can achieve such lower costs because they use so much less silicon. Also in normal cells, there is some efficiency loss due to heat, which cannot be converted into energy. With GreenSun’s panels, the sunlight is diffused over the whole panel and the nanoparticles deliver light at the right energy to the edges where it can be converted, which means less efficiency loss due to heat.
GreenSun is still working hard on making their panels more efficient – 12% is good, but it’s not great compared to the world’s most efficient solar cell at 43%. They hope to achieve an efficiency of 20% and reduce the cost even further to $0.94/W. For those with aesthetic interests in the look of solar cells, these might be right up your alley. Imagine all the amazing designs that could be created from colored panels on the sides and tops of buildings.