Perhaps the biggest development in solar panel technology for residential
applications in recent years is the seemingly steady decline in price.
According to a study conducted last year by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, from 2009 to 2010 the price of a residential solar electric system fell 17 percent.
And this trend continues as the price of photovoltaic panels steadily declines with products flooding the market from low cost providers like China and Taiwan.
With current market prices combined with federal and state financial incentives we are getting very close to “grid parity”, the point at which the cost to generate electricity from alternative sources is equal to or less than the price of purchasing power from the grid.
The “3d” type of solar panels that you mentioned are really just a specialized version of a flat panel that allow for higher efficiency by trapping sunlight in a photovoltaic structure where photons bounce around for longer allowing more of them to be converted to neutrons.
This technology also allows for the collection of sunlight over a wider range of angles throughout the day making them more efficient.
The rub here is that the cost delta for these technologies generally far outweigh any increase in efficiency so really all that they are saving you is roof space.
The only compelling reason to explore this type of technology is if your roof space comes at a premium (i.e. you live in a high cost densely populated area like New York City).
Traditional photovoltaic panels based on crystalline silicon modules are now encountering competition in the market from panels that employ thin-film solar cells, which has been rapidly evolving and are expected to account for 31% of the global installed power by 2013.
Thin film products although significantly less efficient than crystalline silicon, are far less expensive as well as easier to install as they are flexible and can be applied directly to roofs and walls in certain applications.
The downside for residential applications is that you need a lot of roof space in order to get enough production.
The real efficiency increases will come when thin film solar is integrated into products like roofing and siding and can be applied everywhere on the outside of the house
As far as actual “new” technologies go, researchers from the University of Toronto have recently made a breakthrough in the development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, leading to the most efficient CQD solar cell ever.
These researches created a solar cell out of inexpensive materials that was certified at a world-record 7.0% efficiency.
I believe that this is where future technologies will go, towards inexpensively manufactured film products.
While films are less efficient as far as energy production goes, they will allow integration into other construction products allowing us to turn our buildings into energy producing solar collectors.
For more information:
To find out more about emerging solar technologies and costs check out the US Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative website here; http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/solar_program.html