Affordable Solar Power from a weed?


Believe it or not weeds can provide a very positive effect on global warming. Thepokeberry weed – native to North America, South America, East Asia and New Zealand and whose red dye was once used by American Civil War soldiers to write letters home – may now hold the secret for revolutionizing the next generation of low-cost photovoltaic cells, making widespread, affordable homegrown solar power a real possibility. Especially for countries who find themselves in unfortunate economic circumstances.

Researchers at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials were able to create a more efficient fiber-based solar cell by coating the solar cell’s fibers with the pokeberry dye, which helps the fibers absorb more sunlight. This, together with the humble pokeberry’s red dye, the fiber-based solar cells generate twice as much power than current thin-film technology. And what’s even better is that the pokeberry can grow anywhere, including dry and inhospitable places.

“They’re weeds,” says the center’s director Dr. David Carroll. “They grow on every continent but Antarctica.”

With their spin-off company FiberCell Inc., Wake Forest is now developing these fiber-based solar cells for the commercial market.

So how does a fiber-based solar cell work? Made of millions of tiny, plastic cylinders or fibers that trap sunlight until it is absorbed, this configuration means that a fiber-based cell can collect light at any angle, from sunrise to sunset because there is much more surface area available.

To manufacture these highly-efficient ‘hybrid’ cells, the plastic fibers are stamped onto plastic sheets and the absorber dye (this is where cheap and locally-grown pokeberries come in) is sprayed on. The sheets are flexible, which means that manufacturers can make them and ship them at a low cost to developing countries. Once there, local factories can spray the absorbent pokeberry dye on the cells.

Dr Carroll points out that compared to a plant making flat-cell solar panels, which would cost about $15 million, a fiber-based solar cell finishing plant would only cost $5 million, which would make this kind of solar power much more accessible. “We could provide the substrate,” says Carroll. “If Africa grows the pokeberries, they could take it home. “It’s a low-cost solar cell that can be made to work with local, low-cost agricultural crops like pokeberries and with a means of production that emerging economies can afford.”

Weeds may have been given a bum rap with everything they do to grow in the cracks of our sidewalks and driveways, but perhaps one day we will all be fortunate enough to also have them on our roofs.

KACO NEW ENERGY USA partners with distributor Aten Solar


KACO new energy the world’s second largest inverter manufacturer; with over 2GW of PV inverters in the field to date is thrilled to announce the most recent partnership with distribution specialist Aten Solar.

Aten Solar has been a presence in the solar market for the past 20 years with a heavy focus in distribution for the past ten. Their commitment to superior customer service and supplying the most reliable products on the market make them an ideal distribution partner for KACO. They have a reputation in the solar industry for providing their clients with personalized support similarly to how KACO prides itself on interacting with partners. “It’s a perfect marriage of ideals” says sales rep Clinton Porter.

As of April 2010 the blueplanet brand KACO 02xi inverters will be readily available off the shelf at the Aten Solar warehouse in Bradley Beach, NJ.

A powerful partner for PV system solutions, KACO new energy has built a tradition of excellence in the photovoltaic inverter and power electronics industries. Our German-based factory engineers have been developing, designing and manufacturing current inverters and power electronics for more than 60 years.

The KACO blueplanet product family has set new standards in photovoltaic applications – particularly in reliability, efficiency, power density, and patented technology to meet NEC requirements. As the heart of your photovoltaic installation, your KACO inverter pumps electricity into the public grid continuously and efficiently. The efficiency of the KACO blueplanet inverters will earn you money and a solid return on your solar investment. Additional information about KACO is available at

ABOUT Aten Solar:
Aten Solar is a leading value added distributor of complete environmental and sustainable products. Engineers from the solar thermal heating, conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning industries created Aten Solar to meet the demand for solar energy solutions globally. The company’s purpose is to provide a unique product mix that is compelling for buyers amidst a plethora of products and technologies.

Thin Film vs. C-si Modules


As you probably well know, we have been in front in promoting thin film modules for 3 years now when most online sellers were selling pricey c-si modules. Based on our modeling software, our testing and user testimonials, we are convinced that a-si modules will produce at least 9% more Kwh/yr than 12-14% more efficient (due to better temperature coefficients) c-si models in sunnier places; and suffice to say isn’t the name of the game Kwh produced and not DC STC watts?

So as long as you have the surface area, we have advocated and endorsed these modules. The concern about increased a-si framed module degradation compared to their c-si brethren has no substance. So based on my premise, how do you feel about thin film modules today? Would you use thin film modules in your current or future projects?

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