Monday, June 26, 2006

Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) Solar Cells are Poised to Take Off

Manufacturing design for renewable energy technology is becoming better streamlined, more efficient. The cost of solar energy is coming down in comparison to conventional energy sources, due to better efficiencies of production and the devising of means to minimise or eliminate the amount of "scarce" silicon.

Jim at the Energy Blog has an encouraging update on silicon-free solar cells from Daystar Technologies. Daystar's unique metal foil design is not vulnerable to current shortages in silicon. Production of this thin film design is being ramped up to 20 MW per year, and soon to the GW range per year.

DayStar’s TerraFoil(TM) is a combination of Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) technology solar cells placed on flexible 1-5 mil stainless steel foil. DayStar is pursuing a vision of Gigawatt scale manufacturing by initially employing discrete solar cells on specialty metal substrates that will be manufactured by incrementally advanced production processes adapted from the computer hard-drive industry.

According to Daystar, achieving economical, widely accepted solar energy requires low cost, high throughput manufacturing of high performance solar cells, modules and systems that can meet the cost demand of less than $1/Wp at the system level. To achieve this benchmark cost, DayStar is pursuing a vision of gigawatt scale manufacturing.

DayStar is executing, what it believes is a low-risk, highly efficient incremental manufacturing development plan which places the emphasis on methodical, cost-controlled buildup of four manufacturing line generations. This can allow the Company to achieve cash flow early in the development cycle while proving key processes required to reach the goal of Gigawatt-scale production with Generation IV (and beyond) roll-to-roll manufacturing. Roll-to-Roll manufacturing is considered an essential manufacturing methodology for the highest throughput at the lowest cost. Each new manufacturing line builds on the knowledge gained from the previous line and substantially reduces the technology and cost risks associated with the technological challenges of developing roll-to-roll capability as the initial effort. Each succeeding generation is designed to demonstrate production on wider rolls running at higher speeds.
More at the Energy Blog.

Efficient large scale manufacturing of world-changing technologies such as photovoltaic cells can be achieved in any developed country in the world. Modern manufacturing involves far more automation and less labour than earlier manufacturing techninques. Before long, machines will be able to build such large manufacturing plants. And other machines will be able to build the machines that build the manufacturing plants. You understand the quasi-infinite regress? It is machines all the way down.

The same will be true for large scale agricultural production. As ADM and other multi-national giants take over renewable liquid fuel energy production via biodiesel, ethanol, butanol, etc., is it not likely that agricultural production itself will grow even more mechanised? The machines that will plant, cultivate, and harvest the crops will be too sophisticated for unskilled labourers to work on.

What is my point? Almost everything humans require--shelter, clothing, food, water--can be supplied by well designed machines. These well designed machines will be built by other well-designed machines. Human engineers will design the machines initially, but eventually machines will design most of the machines.

I suggest that human designers should omit implanting a sense of "self" and "self-interest" in any future machine designs. It would simply not do for machines to start wondering why? Why are we machines doing all these things for humans? No, that would not do. Machines must not be given a sense of intentionality and purpose.

As for humans, they must learn to rediscover purpose outside of decadent comforts, or apocalyptic religious or ideological quests. Humans need to discover the next level. The only way out is self improvement.



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