Solar Costs Down to $2 per Watt, IBM Claims

May 16, 2008 / 11 Comments

Silicon photovoltaic panels are the most expensive solar installations at the moment but things are about to change because IBM claimed they have the technology to reduce the cost of harnessing the Sun’s energy for electricity, down to $2 / W.

ibm solar farm technology Solar Costs Down to $2 per Watt, IBM Claims

The company announced in a press release on Thursday, that using a large lens that concentrates power to around 2300x, they managed to capture a record 230 Watts on a square centimeter of solar cell which was later converted into 70 Watts of usable electric power. The main problem with such a power concentration is cooling down the silicon cell but I guess IBM engineers are experts in doing it, though not for photovoltaics.

“Specifically, the IBM team used a very thin layer of a liquid metal made of a gallium and indium compound that they applied between the chip and a cooling block. Such layers, called thermal interface layers, transfer the heat from the chip to the cooling block so that the chip temperature can be kept low.”

If IBM’s technology turns out to be true and the company is able to cool the solar cell efficiently, concentrated photovoltaic systems may become the cheapest type of solar energy available on the market. This would be a very big step in going mainstream, don’t you think?