The gang behind laser printing and graphical user interfaces is now looking at making solar power as competitive as fossil fuels. The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox, has developed superefficient solar systems that some say could make photovoltaic power at prices equivalent to the power produced by fossil fuels. These new conductors not only are much more efficient than current solar energy panels, they are also much smaller and lighter, which would make them much easier to mount of rooftops of commercial buildings such as big box retailers. While PARC estimates that the power produced by this process will “easily compete with fossil fuels”, unfortunately they won’t be available commercially for a few years.
“The second-generation system shrinks the collectors 90 percent and makes them about half an inch thick, creating a honeycomb of precision-molded glass coated with mirrors. The newer technology uses chips just 1 millimeter square made from layers of germanium and silicon. The layers absorb different parts of the solar spectrum to increase efficiency.”