"FOTUR

By Josey Paul

\^?k,s\os\.m\\ve.-«\ovs\^tvt. At the other end of the table, one of the
world's pre-eminent scientists in solar energy, impressively maned with
unruly white hair, was attacking the last of a Burger King sandwich
while simultaneously discussing the follies of America's energy policy
and describing the most successful business plan that he had ever drawn
up, so to speak, on the back of a napkin.
So I hardly noticed when Dr. Lewis Fraas' wife, Jany, But first a litde background, just in case you slept
came in quietJy and lit the wick of a small table lamp. through that lecture in high-school physics.
Almost as soon as the flame flickered to life, a radio
started up, forcing my attention to the lamp. But this was The vast majorit)' of today's commercial solar panels
no surprise. I knew from reading Dr. Fraas' book, Path convert between 6 and 15 percent of the sunlight they
to Affordable Solar Electric Power e^" the 35 Percent Efficient
see into electricity. Thin-film panels fall at the lower end
Solar Cell (2005, JX Crj'stals Inc.), exacdy why that radio of that range, and single-cr\'stal modules are clustered at
had suddenly come to life. the upper end. The most efficient cells on the market are
made by Sunpower Corp. These single-crystal cells are
Surrounding the flame was a ring of gallium anti- 20-percent efficient, largely because the metal contacts
monide (GaSb) crystals. These thermophotovoltaic (TP\') needed to collect and conduct electricity^ are on the back
crystals are similar to ordinary photovoltaic (PV) solar surface of the cells. This configuration eliminates the re-
cells, except they produce electricity when exposed to flective metal contacts that are normally wired across the
photons in the infrared range, what we feel as heat. The top of the solar cell. The rear placement exposes the cell
little ring of GaSb crystals surrounding the flame was to more sunlight.
cranking out 100 milliamperes of electricity at 3 volts of
electromotive force, plenty to run that noisy radio. Dr. Fraas' muldjuncdon solar cells do much better.
Here's how he does it;
The radio is a neat trick, but Dr. Fraas has put his
GaSb cr)^stals to much better use. One ofthe best Is the TVve, mXcwavVj ol V i n ^ t s\it\^^x at noon is 970
35-percent efficient solar cell, an invention that may some- watts per square meter (a little less than 11 square feet).
day power much of the world. So 10.8 square feet of the most efficient commercial
panels can turn bright sunlight into 150 watts of electric-

• See "Name Index" for Names in Chinese on Back Cover 19

these 3-Sun modules are very cost effective. Bringing the costs of solar-energ)' systems down crystal solar cells in half (or in thirds. m [ i \ i . and litde of that money is avail- red energy. being made on other fronts. LiL^utiUvrauiiL^LiUiL-Lmai atinp solar Dr.October 2007 . progress is many other forms of energy. which is what UlLilVtlil M^[' m i i . llLuL-liteu-. [iL^ltl[. is that small companies don't have access to the capital necessar)' to The idea behind the new "3-Sun" technolog)' is remark- bring that promising technology to the commercial mar. of angled mirrors that reflect concentrated sunlight onto Taking solar to that scale. rural areas. rising from 48.Volume XXIII. say $1. The result was a solar module that was 35 percent The solar industr)''s older-technology market is grow- efficient (340 watts per square meter). in the case of to a commercially competitive cost. Shipments of photovoltaic (PV) panels nearly doubled in 2004. the millions. IX Crystals . light into electricit}' while greatly decreasing the costs of this electricity' to the point where solar is cheaper than . JX Crystals plies and increasing energy costs that this kind of discov. which is fUt^i VJliU ti b l LLLtLLlLiU L^UUU^tlL^l tU ii lid a 100 what conventional solar panels use.. JX Cr}fstals has solar module makers cut single- ketplace.or 200 watts in the case of the best Sunpower pan- els. Incentives are driving much Dr.-tii^aLiduii it}' . where he has struggling to get from the laboratory' to the marketplace. the high-efficienc)' cells. Fraas' gallium antimonide (GaSb. Fraas and his team added a second layer of gallium andmonide cells under the first layer. multilayer solar panels have today are locking in 20-yeat-old solar technology and the potential to greatly increase our ability to convert sun.50 a watt. ing fast. generating solar power. Because mirrors are far cheaper than solar ol to make an cells. remember) cells use.their You might think that in this day of dwindling oil sup. of that market. Sunpower's cells). according to the U. The Chinese. Fraas esdmates. Dr. Fraas left Boeing with the license to produce the dual. These cut cells are laid out between rows would require growing the industry to 100 gigawatts. cause the mirrors triple the sunlight intensity delivered to each solar cell.U[[^LiUU[L^ ill LilL-L^U^llV itlLili^ L^ Now go back to the 970 watts per square meter of bright sunlight Only a bit more than half of those watts lUtiLiLti tu dtiiiv't. so Energy Information System. would re. and it is still not in production. m [u L^iiiiLt'. But those incentives apply to the older- layer panels and joined JX Crj'stals.490 to be exact .S. been president for the past 11 years. the first layer into electricity. not the hot new technology that is development company based in Issaquah. Thej' are called 3-Sun modules be- quire an investment of about $100 billion. But remem. able to take promising research to the marketplace. The remaining power in sunlight comes from infrared energy. oh yeah. m M \ i \ m Uiti I tltii LjaLLi[iti[Lv li fopad to During his days as a top scientist for The Boeing Co. not billions.come from visible light. On a happier note. That panel had a top PV layer . Fraas says. Fraas says. and the U.much like today's solar panels . Although the tech. No. Thanks to Jany's contacts in China. nology is ready. ably simple. discriminating against innovations. 20 Chinese American Forum . are using American tcchnolog)" breakthroughs to electrif).S.l ' liitllLl ilL \1'' ising a new Dr. 2 . in these panels. Dr.that converted visible light to elec- tricit\\ Dr. The invest- cells converted the infrared energy diat passed through ment needed is too big for small business. a solar research and technology modules." Dr. 2003 to 78. the problem. Fraas led a research team that perfected a tu'o-layer solar panel. "It is ironic that the subsidies in place for solar energy The 35-percent efficient. Department of Energ)-'s budget for solar research is in ers: a PV layer for visible light and a TPV layer for infra.346 kilowatts in 2004. solar power plant in China using a new technology that ber that this super-efficient panel was invented 16 years the company developed to gready reduce the cost of ago." he says. The GaSb impact in the energy field is massive. for one. just won a S2 million contract to build a 100-kilowatt er}' would be seized upon by policy-makers.664 peak kilowatts in And. So these panels had two lay. that was back in 1989.

direcdy facing the sun.just like that cute little Oak Ridge National Laboratory is beta testing a roof- table lamp that runs the radio — to cogenerate electricit\'.when burned in a central power plant.are show.including Trane . the Oak Ridge out of our remaining fossil fuels. NW. centrated visible light onto a solar cell. except that instead of shining con- co%ttvfctaA. A regular 32-cell Sunpower module produces 90 watts T\ve Cassc^avcvvaxv tnodxAe \vis a secoxvd^ XrvcV that of electricit)'. Issaquah. That dem. The mirrors on the 3-Sun JX Cr\'stals has also won a contract to build a demonstration project of 3-Sun mod. That heat can be con- overhead florescent lights. What makes the Cassegrainian module so effective is ules for the California Energy Commission. But borrows from the light-management systems of reflect- it takes money. stalling a million of these collectors nationwide would JX Cr\'stals built 20 demonstration propane heaters save ratepayers billions of dollars a year in reduced elec- between 1998 and 2000 under the brand name Midnight tricit)' costs. JX Crystals is sitting on a wealth of is in the direct rays. but the company Dr. which like planting seeds and hoping something will grow.000 Btu heaters cogenerated 100 watts of electricit}'." ing telescopes. the primary mirror where a high-efficiency solar cell con- WA 98027. Because about 80 percent ofthe power of sunlight In the meantime. Like the 3-Sun module. "but it's module called the Cassegrainian Solar Module. the JX Cry'stal 3-Sun is a GaSb thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell that converts module produces 180 watts. Fraas says some large furnace makers . Sunlight reflects off the large primar}' mirror and Percenl Bffidetii Solar Cell. Most of the ing interest in the technology." says Dr. Path to Affordabte Solar Etectric Power & ihe 35 rors. dimming or brightening them verted into electricity with the GaSb cells. Harvard and LJSC. The technology worked. Lems M. author and entrepreneur. which in rum reflects the shipping to Canada and $9 for shipping to Europe. really hot technology is waiting for funding that will en- able it to scale up to full manufacturing and marketing. direct reflectors are extremely effi- solar technology that is ripe for a market to develop.) Make checks light in concentrated form back down to the center of payable to Lewis M. for example. Dr. J X Crystals. Fraas. Fraas is even more excited about a new 500-Sun "We do a lot of show and tell. otherwise the mirrors sunlight onto these cells. and the This tj-pe of module has to be mounted on a tracker large primar\' mirrors effectively focus large amounts of so that it constantly faces the sun. that it is a direct reflector. Dr. mounted Cassegrainian light collector. full manufacturing scale. however. from the entire sky as well as direct rays from the sun itself. such as regular solar modules. This system converts both visible and infrared energy into electricity. The The hybrid light is ded to a panel that also controls rest is thrown away as waste heat. Fraas. Fraas hopes to one day put his TPV cells into these light collectors so that they cogenerate electridt)' as was unable to raise enough money to take the heater to well as light up rooms. can be purchased for $35. cient Those GaSb cr}'stals. Oak Ridge estimates that in- ciencies would rise to about 90 percent. capture reflected light sidy program. the 500- would shade the solar cells during much of the day and Sun Cassegrainian module must be tracked to keep it reduce efficiency. These 25. which means that it reflects onstration could help these modules make the state's ap. Fraas is a scientist. tors. 1105 12th Ave. See "Name Index" for Names in Chinese on Back Cover 21 . Sun. light coming direcdy from the sun itself Global reflec- proved list of solar panels eligible for California's sub. By cutting just 24 cells into thirds and lining makes it extremely efficient. can be arrayed in a propane or natural gas furnace . Only about one. and fuel effi- as sunlight intensity requires. version shines the light onto an array offiberoptic cables third of the chemical energy in natural gas is converted that pipes the sunlight into office buildings. (Include $5 for up to the secondary' mirror. Behind thesecondar}' mirror them up betu-een angled mirrors. It works like the Cassegrainian module. ### The Cassegrainian module contains a series of con- Dr. He cave mirrors (think of a mirrored satellite TV dish) that holds degrees from Caltech. into electricit}.votv -wouVd sojueexe far more en. Lately. But all that potendal is still in the future. Fraas' book. collect and reflect large amounts of sunlight to second- ary mirrors raised above the centers of the primary mir- Note: Dr. verts the light into electricity. the infrared energy to electricity.