IS SOLAR POWER?
Solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and some alternative
energy sources, as it gives off no carbon dioxide waste and uses the natural
energy from our sun to generate electricity. After the lifetime of the
panel, the materials that were used to make it could be recycled as no
material is used in the energy generating process. There is also a lot
of room for solar power to be used in the development of 3rd world economies,
as it is extremely cost effective in the long run.
DOES IT WORK?
Solar panels have always been thought to be very expensive as it used
to be made only from the purest silicon. Solar power has in many ways
been eliminated as a viable option as a result of its high manufacturing
costs. But a recent breakthrough in the hunt to find an alternative to
silicon has dramatically decreased the price of solar power, and also
increased it’s effectiveness. This achievement came from South Africa’s
own Professor Vivian Alberts from the Johannesburg University and his
team of physicists, who have formulated a new procedure of making solar
panels using copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS).
production of CIGS solar panels is very complex and any slight deviation
from the purest, high-quality elements can result in an ineffective solar
1. Three metals: copper (Cu), gallium (Ga), and indium (In), have to be
formed in an extremely pure alloy.
2. Next, the alloy that was formed needs to be converted into an equally
pure semiconductor. This is done by adding selenium (Se)into the alloy.
This creates a completely new crystal structure forming the CIGS layer
of the cell.
3. Then a buffer layer of other semi-conductors are laid carefully on
the CIGS layer.
4. The cell is then finished off by attaching conductive electrical contacts
(usually molybdenum) on either side
Solar power is one of the most renewable ways of energy production. The
sun as the energy source is, at least in the foreseeable future, endless
and will keep providing us with power. There is no way for us to use up
the sun and we don't even have to replenish it. Therefore solar power
is definitely a renewable means of energy production.
APPLICATIONS OF SOLAR POWER
The use of CIGS in the productions of solar panels as an alternative to
silicon, gas been undergoing research since 1974, but scientists struggled
to find reliable, repeatable, commercially affordable processes to produce
this type of solar panel. Professor Alberts revolutionised this industry
in inventing an entirely new procedure based on the way that the atoms
behave from the beginning to the end of the process. His procedure is
going to be implemented in the first full-scale CGIS production plant
that uses this procedure, currently being built in Germany by IFE Solar
Systems a company that has invested R500-million in this South African
· The sun's energy is free to use, which makes the process cheaper.
· The process is completely non-polluting.
· Can be used in a wide variety of locations the world over. Wherever
there is sun.
· Cost of the panels and equipment is expensive. This will, however,
become cheaper in time.
· Can only work when the sun is available; therefore weather dependant.
POWER IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is at the forefront of developing new CIGS technology (see
above). The country does not however make enough use of its own technology.
This is due in part to the costs involved but with price decreasing there
is great possibility for solar panels to be installed throughout the country.
Less than one micrometer of CIGS in the form of a thin film absorbs more
than 99% incident solar energy, compared to the 350 micrometers of silicon
to absorb the same amount. CIGS is therefore very effective, as it can
be used in a flexible form, making the possibilities for its use in the
production of other products endless.