Transcript of Photovoltaics 101 - Solar Electricity Workshop

The transcript of today's Photovoltaic workshop follows. (It has been edited to remove personal information and to correct some typos and mispellings.)

[9:57] Plautia Corvale: Welcome everyone!
[9:58] AnthonyCl Yalin: hello sorry lag
[10:00] Archivist Llewellyn: Is the talk in voice?
[10:00] AnthonyCl Yalin: i hope not. i can't hear a thing.
[10:00] Archivist Llewellyn: lol
[10:00] Archivist Llewellyn: me either
[10:00] Royk Humbridge: haha
[10:00] Plautia Corvale: The speaker has just arrived!
[10:01] Plautia Corvale: We are not using voice at this time :)
[10:01] Archivist Llewellyn: ok ty
[10:01] Royk Humbridge: ok
[10:02] Plautia Corvale: A little bit of background: This workshop on the basics of solar electricity. This workshop will be focusing on alternative sources of energy for the home and work place.
[10:02] Ariell Enoch: Let me dress him
[10:02] Royk Humbridge: hahaha
[10:02] Plautia Corvale: The workshop, presented by Philip Friendman, will be an open-ended discussion, so get your questions ready!
[10:02] Royk Humbridge: ok
[10:03] AnthonyCl Yalin: can you stand in for phil?
[10:03] Plautia Corvale: Phil has been working in photovoltaic design, installation, and renewable energy education since 2003. He holds a Masters Degree in adult education and training from Colorado State University and electronics technology certification from Front Range Community College
[10:03] Plautia Corvale: Phil is here, his avatar is Sam Arriaga.
[10:04] Plautia Corvale: I believe his avatar lost most of his clothes, so Ariell is attempting to help him get dressed, lol
[10:04] Plautia Corvale: Phil has worked in the field and in front of a computer with PV installs, technical support, and design and consultation. Now he is primarily consulting on PV design work and solar site analysis. Phil is also an online instructor for Solar Energy International in Carbondale, Colorado and is helping with developing new course curriculum.
[10:04] Plautia Corvale: You can find more information on SEI at and
[10:04] Plautia Corvale: Are we ready to begin?
[10:05] Ariell Enoch: yes
[10:05] Plautia Corvale: Everyone, please welcome Phil/Sam!
[10:05] Plautia Corvale applauds
[10:05] AnthonyCl Yalin: /clap
[10:05] Royk Humbridge: appaluds
[10:05] AnthonyCl Yalin: /applause
[10:05] Royk Humbridge: /applause
[10:06] Sam Arriaga: hello all
[10:06] Sam Arriaga: I am here to answer all your questions
[10:06] Plautia Corvale: Hello, Phil/Sam
[10:07] Sam Arriaga: I am new to SL, but have used computers and worked in the computer field since BEFORE the Internet so bear with me for my SL faux pas
[10:07] Plautia Corvale: No problem, we've all been there!!
[10:07] Sam Arriaga: begin
[10:07] Royk Humbridge: :D
[10:07] Sam Arriaga: does anyone have some basic question about solar photovoltaics or would you ratherme give some information?
[10:08] Ariell Enoch: Start with some basics
[10:08] Ariell Enoch: info
[10:08] AnthonyCl Yalin: well this class is about the basics?
[10:08] Sam Arriaga: OK
[10:08] Ariell Enoch: right
[10:08] Sam Arriaga: here goes
[10:09] Sam Arriaga: First, PV has ben around since the mid 1800s when Jacque Becarel (sp) of France first discovered the PV effect. That is
[10:09] Sam Arriaga: when sunlight shined on a particular surface made of certain materials an electric current was generated.
[10:09] AnthonyCl Yalin: what materials were those?
[10:11] Sam Arriaga: I cannot remember for certain but they were substances that what today we would consider semi conductors such as silicon (the bases for all integrated circuits).
[10:12] Sam Arriaga: Today those materials are things like cadmium telluride and cadmium indium gallenium diselenide,
[10:13] Sam Arriaga: But the wonderful fact was that these materials produced electricity when their atoms where excited by certain wavelengths of light.
[10:13] Fim Fischer: HI everyone
[10:13] Plautia Corvale: Hello, Fim!
[10:13] Archivist Llewellyn: so cadmium as in batteries
[10:13] Plautia Corvale: Welcome to Photovoltaics 101
[10:13] Sam Arriaga: yes the same element
[10:14] AnthonyCl Yalin: sorry rl
[10:14] Sam Arriaga: but in nickel cadmium batteries the effect is purely electrochemical; sunlight is not part of the picture!
[10:15] Sam Arriaga: let's fast fwd to the mid-1950s
[10:15] Ariell Enoch: everyone if you have questions please feel free to interrupt
[10:15] Sam Arriaga: Enter Bell Labs (remember them?)
[10:15] Sam Arriaga: part of the ATT monolithic empire that was broken apart in the 1980s
[10:16] Sam Arriaga: Anyway two scientist there discovered (along with research that developed the transistor) using silicon (the basis of transistors)
[10:17] Sam Arriaga: and "doping" that silicon with two other elements -- boron and phosphorous -- they could reliably enhance the PV effect and
[10:17] Sam Arriaga: generate useable electricity.
[10:18] Sam Arriaga: 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 Blast off!
[10:18] Sam Arriaga: the first use of PV was in outer space in the American space program.
[10:19] Sam Arriaga: SO commercially viable PV was one of the first, if not the first, manufactured item that found its first application not on the Earth, but in space.
[10:19] Sam Arriaga: The cost of the first PV cell that went into a US launched satellite was approaching USD$200 per Watt!
[10:19] Sam Arriaga: Yieks!!!
[10:19] Archivist Llewellyn: :)
[10:20] Sam Arriaga: Not a very viable use.
[10:20] Sam Arriaga: In contrast today PV panels cost between 3-5 USD a watt. The industry hope is to get that down to under 1$USD
[10:21] Sam Arriaga: AT that level we reach grid parity.
[10:21] Sam Arriaga: ANy one have an idea what grid parity might mean?
[10:21] Stonewire Python: pardoy?
[10:21] Sam Arriaga: parity as in equality
[10:21] Stonewire Python: Parody? *Rather
[10:21] Sam Arriaga: OK
[10:21] Archivist Llewellyn: electricity grid - equally take and give?
[10:21] Stonewire Python: Reduce our dependence on Foreign Oil?
[10:22] Sam Arriaga: Grid parity mean the cost of PV generated electricity per kilowatt hour (1000 watts or ten 100 watt lightbulbs) would be equal to the cost of all other elect gen in the USA
[10:23] Sam Arriaga: Today in the USA the national average is about 11 US cents per kWhr. That is cheap!
[10:23] Plautia Corvale: Wow!
[10:24] Stonewire Python is resisting the urge to ask 100 questions
[10:24] Sam Arriaga: The cost varies though with the demand and with the locale. Say, in Calif it can be as high as 30 cents and in parts of New England can be 16 cents.
[10:24] Royk Humbridge: depends from demand?
[10:24] Sam Arriaga: ask away
[10:25] Sam Arriaga: depends on demand meaning the electricity market like many other markets is supply/demand sensitive.
[10:26] Archivist Llewellyn: What is the concept called then about you use so much electricity pulling from the "Grid" and using solar power or wind power can get your use to 0 or actually produce a surplus to give back to the "Grid"?
[10:26] Plautia Corvale: Stonewire, please ask as many questions as you like - this is an interactive session!
[10:26] Sam Arriaga: Good question!
[10:26] Sam Arriaga: That is called net-zero.
[10:26] Stonewire Python: Kk
[10:27] Stonewire Python is taking notes
[10:27] Sam Arriaga: That is, if you use 10,000 kWhrs per year (the US national residential average) you would also produce that same amount on an ANNUAL basis,
[10:28] Sam Arriaga: would be net zero...neither using net energy nor producing net energy -- again on an ANNUAL basis
[10:28] Stonewire Python was just curious how cost-effective, and/or sensible to run a bar/grill from solar; Walk-in Coolers=alot of kwH
[10:28] Archivist Llewellyn: can net zero be achieved realistically for industry using solar? I thought I heard of one company trying but cost of solar panels was daunting.
[10:28] Sam Arriaga: Lots of kWhr are not now cost effective to run on PV.
[10:29] Sam Arriaga: That is because the average small scale PV system generates electricity at approx 30 cents per kWhr.
[10:30] Ariell Enoch: oops
[10:30] Archivist Llewellyn: I also thought I heard Google uses solar panels for parking lots to charge electric cars? Is that true?
[10:30] Stonewire Python laughs
[10:30] Sam Arriaga: Yes
[10:30] Stonewire Python: That's neat
[10:30] Sam Arriaga: They do, but there are not that many electric vehicles on the road yet...but wait – there will be.
[10:30] Stonewire Python: YET!
[10:31] Royk Humbridge: there a car, aptera
[10:31] Royk Humbridge: use electricity 100%
[10:31] Sam Arriaga: And to know why we don't have viable electric cars on the road now…. see the movie "who killed the elec car?" The answer is GM!!!!!!!!!!
[10:31] Plautia Corvale: The oil industry in general!!
[10:31] Sam Arriaga: The very same company we are now spending billions of taxpayer money to bail out.
[10:32] Stonewire Python saw a neat project involving the sun heating an amonia condensor thing, to cool a freezer
[10:32] Sam Arriaga: GM was solely and unequivocally the culprit--they killed their own product. And the oil companies certainly helped there, too!
[10:32] Sam Arriaga: But we digress
[10:32] Archivist Llewellyn: So the problem with the electric car is a technology/engineering to develop a battery that can support regular driving habits ... and the lack of infrastructure like "gas stations" as well as time to recharge... can you imagine waiting hours to "fill up your battery" on a trip?
[10:33] Stonewire Python ripps his hair out in distress! HOURS?
[10:33] Archivist Llewellyn: The battery capacity is a serious problem.
[10:33] Sam Arriaga: yes...all that you said is true...but in the late 90s GM and other were pouring money into technology to solve this problem, and then, well, they pulled the plug.
[10:34] Sam Arriaga: Today Toyota and Nissan and an Israeli company (whose name escapes me) are on the brink of solving this problem. It could have been the US but we blew it.
[10:35] Sam Arriaga: So Google has about 1.7 megwatts of PV on their roof at their campus in Silicon Valley,
[10:35] Sam Arriaga: I believe it is the largest commercial rooftoop system in the US.
[10:35] Archivist Llewellyn: cool
[10:36] Plautia Corvale: I knew I loved Google for a reason. :-)
[10:36] Sam Arriaga: They provide dedicated reserved parking space for EVs
[10:36] Stonewire Python: Google is Awesome
[10:36] Sam Arriaga: The plugin hybrid will be the next major step.
[10:37] Plautia Corvale: We will have a reserved space for hybrid cars at our new library in RL!
[10:38] Sam Arriaga: There is a company called Better Palce (website is the same .org) that is on the forefront of elec vehicle technology...see what they have to say...the concept of "changeable batteries is thinking out of the box.
[10:38] Royk Humbridge: but the problem is that the hybrid engines
[10:38] Sam Arriaga: That is Better Place.
[10:38] Royk Humbridge: work with fuel gasoline
[10:38] Sam Arriaga: say again
[10:39] Royk Humbridge: fuel (gasoline) i mean that, hybrid cars works with an electric engine and gasoline one
[10:39] Sam Arriaga: yes...
[10:39] Royk Humbridge: or hydronge who is not sustainable
[10:39] Plautia Corvale: Hello Dali!
[10:39] Archivist Llewellyn: McCain proposed $300M prize for hybrid electic battery development but that tanked.
[10:39] Dali Waverider: Hi Plautia
[10:40] Sam Arriaga: and a plugin hybrid uses a higher capacity battery to give say 40 miles on elec. Then the ICE (internal combust engine)
[10:40] Royk Humbridge: do you think that PV systems can be use in cars? I read some days ago about a paint who can be used in cars and homes to catch solar energy
[10:40] Plautia Corvale: Here is the link to Better Place that Phil/Sam mentioned:
[10:41] Sam Arriaga: is used to charge up the battery as you are driving. Voila! you can go forever. But they key is that most daily commutes/driving in the USA are under 35 miles, I believe the exact number is 70% of the daily commutes.
[10:41] Plautia Corvale: That would be interesting, Royk
[10:42] Sam Arriaga: Back to PV
[10:42] Royk Humbridge: haha yeah
[10:43] Sam Arriaga: Today in the US cost of installing a PV system is about $7-8 per DC watt on the roof. That is for small scale systems under 10kilowatts.
[10:44] Sam Arriaga: That cost is for the PV modules, the DC to AC inverter, the mounting hardware, elec switch gear, instlal labor, permits, etc. Turn key.
[10:44] Royk Humbridge: pretty cheap
[10:44] Sam Arriaga: But at the cost per DC watt, the amortized cost over say 20-25 years (the expected life of the system) is till approaching 30 cents per kilowatt hour AC,
[10:45] Sam Arriaga: too high for widespread adoption without utility incentives and government tax credits.
[10:46] Dali Waverider: ...or ballooning fossil fuel costs.
[10:46] Royk Humbridge: yes
[10:46] Sam Arriaga: With those incentives the cost can be cut in half to about 3-4 $ per watt installed and a similar reduction in the cost per kwhr
[10:46] Sam Arriaga: yes...increasing cost of fossil fuels would do it, too.
[10:46] Royk Humbridge: whats the average develop of PV system
[10:47] Sam Arriaga: Today, in the US and in most of the developed world, the cost of fossil fuels in subsidized to a tremendous degree.
[10:47] Sam Arriaga: so why not PV? what are we afraid of?
[10:47] Sam Arriaga: I will tell you what...we are afraid of the OIL and COAL companies
[10:48] Royk Humbridge: totally true
[10:48] Archivist Llewellyn: Dali, I think we have seen that ballooning fossil fuels does spark interest and action in development of alt. energy resources, but also nearly crippling people... and rising cost of food and other deliverables is a social problem as a result
[10:48] Royk Humbridge: but the problem is sustainability
[10:49] Sam Arriaga: Yes that is true those ballooning costs do affect us all, but for far too long we have lived a dream that energy was unlimited - costs would always be low and the supply would be unlimited,
[10:49] Sam Arriaga: Ain't so.
[10:50] Sam Arriaga: We have wars, supply disruptions, environmental issues, and have vs. have not disparities across the globe.
[10:50] Dali Waverider: We have China.
[10:50] Sam Arriaga: At some point we must hop off the never-ending fossil fuel bandwagon,
[10:51] Sam Arriaga: PV, wind, geothermal, ocean tide and current and biofuels (not from food stock) can all do this and can provide long term sustainable energy.
[10:52] Sam Arriaga: And we must not forget energy efficiency. That is the FIRST place for all of us to start.
[10:52] Archivist Llewellyn: well, not so sure about hopping off... more like a slow and painful dragging on the asphalt behind the bandwagon...
[10:52] Sam Arriaga: Agreed...hopping off would be too abrupt....
[10:53] Fim Fischer: /thx for the class. need to go. *waves*
[10:53] Sam Arriaga: That is why most studies and research into transitioning view this as very long term say 25-50 years, But... it CAN be done,
[10:53] Loki Ishmene: bye fim!
[10:53] Ariell Enoch: bye
[10:53] Ariell Enoch: thanks for coming
[10:54] Plautia Corvale: Bye Fim!
[10:54] Plautia Corvale: Hello, Clodilla!
[10:54] Sam Arriaga: Many studies have shown that the US can provide 20-25% of its entire elec energy supply with a combination of wind solar PV solar thermal by 2020 or 2025.
[10:54] Clodilla Sciavo: Hi everyone
[10:54] Ariell Enoch: Hi Clodilla
[10:55] Sam Arriaga: And I should mention that on the large utility scale there are two kinds of solar electric power generation.
[10:55] Archivist Llewellyn: Actually other studies show that is not possible to replace all use with alt. energy.
[10:55] Sam Arriaga: I never said all energy, and some studies say it is possible
[10:55] Royk Humbridge: its all about common sense
[10:55] Royk Humbridge: reduction plus alt energy production
[10:56] Sam Arriaga: Agreed
[10:56] Sam Arriaga: Back to solar elec.
[10:56] Sam Arriaga: PV uses sunlight directly to generate electricity from the PV effect.
[10:57] Sam Arriaga: CSP or concentrating solar power...
[10:57] Sam Arriaga: uses large mirrors to heat a thermal heat transfer liquid, which in turn heats water to make steam and voila
[10:58] Sam Arriaga: we have electricity from a steam turbine.
[10:59] Sam Arriaga: Not only will this make electricity, but it does it in a way the electric utilities really know..water to steam and then to a steam turbine.
[10:59] Sam Arriaga: This is how it is done in coal, oil and nuclear gen plates.
[11:00] Sam Arriaga: The great thing about CSP is that researchers have already designed working prototype plants the address the main bugaboo of all solar power
[11:01] Sam Arriaga: the lack of storage. CSP uses molten salts to store as much as 6-8 hours of "heat" to keep the turbines spinning.
[11:01] Sam Arriaga: And in the PV world, there is amazing work being done with super capacitors and battery technology to store energy.
[11:02] Archivist Llewellyn: Where would you say are the research hubs ?
[11:03] Sam Arriaga: Here in Colorado at the NREL -- the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO
[11:03] Sam Arriaga: At Sandia Labs in New Mex.
[11:03] Sam Arriaga: Los Alamos Labs in NM
[11:03] Sam Arriaga: Lawrence Livermore in Calf and many universities
[11:04] Sam Arriaga: And.....companies such as Energy Conversion Devices for batteries, GM and Toyota, and Honda for EV and plugin hybrinds,
[11:05] Sam Arriaga: Germany is doing some research...but they are much bigger in applied use.
[11:05] Sam Arriaga: In fact Germany is the number one installed base of PV in the entire world Spain is #2 and California is #3
[11:05] Sam Arriaga: Colorado is # 5 or 6,
[11:06] Sam Arriaga: Nevada is #4 and Hawaii is #3, I think.
[11:06] Archivist Llewellyn: could you explain, since you have a nice diagram... how solar cells (inside workings) convert sunlight to usable energy ? And could you explain, based on these research hubs, how the PV could be more readily implemented into our daily objects (other than cars) and not just the solar calculator?
[11:06] Sam Arriaga: take the first...and this delves a bit into quantum physics. Yikes!
[11:06] Plautia Corvale: I've seen a solar laptop bag that I'm dying to get!
[11:06] Plautia Corvale: That would come in handy :)
[11:07] Archivist Llewellyn: very!
[11:08] Sam Arriaga: goes...the silicon PV cell is a semi conductor. It is doped with boron and phosphorous. That "destabilizes" the chemical structure and creates a negative and positive energy "band" at the atomic level where the interface of phosphorous doped silicon and boron based silionv exitis.
[11:08] Sam Arriaga: This is at the atomic level. All of this is understandable and doable b/c of one man...any guess?
[11:09] Sam Arriaga: hint: E=m....
[11:09] Dali Waverider: Oh, that guy.
[11:09] Plautia Corvale: lol
[11:09] Plautia Corvale: :)
[11:09] Sam Arriaga: yes that guy with the curly hair. Old Albert
11:10] Sam Arriaga: Anyway that band gap contains destabilized atoms with electrons just dying to jump out of their orbits.
[11:10] Sam Arriaga: With me?
[11:10] Archivist Llewellyn: Alessandro Volta?
[11:11] Dali Waverider: put some light on the subject.
[11:11] Sam Arriaga: Not quite. Albert Einstein E=mc2 the spring board to quantum physics
[11:11] Royk Humbridge: so cells change photones
[11:11] Sam Arriaga: Anyway those agitated electrons really want to leave their orbits...but they cannot quite do it
[11:12] Sam Arriaga: even in a destabilized atom there still is enough force to hold that we need a stimulus (President Obama can you help?)
[11:12] Royk Humbridge: :D
[11:12] Sam Arriaga: ah...the stimulus is not economic but....any guess...
[11:13] Dali Waverider: put some light on the subject.
[11:13] Sam Arriaga: yes, light
[11:13] Archivist Llewellyn: (Yes, I meant the name that comes to mind when talking about photovoltaics is Volt himself.)
[11:14] Sam Arriaga: yes PV = photovoltaics voltacis from Ales, Volta. Correct.
[11:14] Sam Arriaga: So recall from high school physics that light is both a wave and a particle.
[11:14] Sam Arriaga: The particle is a photon,
[11:15] Sam Arriaga: The photon is the stimulus.
[11:15] Sam Arriaga: With just the right wavelength....
[11:15] Sam Arriaga: It bombards the destabilized silicon material and give the extra ‘umph’ to dislodge the electron.
[11:16] Sam Arriaga: Voila! We have current flow.
[11:16] Sam Arriaga: Add enough of these together give some good sun and you have a PV cell that produces electricity infinitely with no fuels as long as the sun shines
[11:16] Sam Arriaga: A few good websites:
[11:17] Royk Humbridge: and the effectiveness of the PV systems
[11:17] Ariell Enoch: I'm sorry to interrupt
[11:17] Sam Arriaga:
[11:17] Ariell Enoch: Can we wrap up?
[11:17] Sam Arriaga: PV cells are between 12-21 % efficient. The theoretical max is about 49%. So we have a long way to go.
[11:17] Sam Arriaga: another website:
[11:17] Royk Humbridge: yes
[11:18] Sam Arriaga:
[11:18] Sam Arriaga:
[11:18] Sam Arriaga:
[11:18] Plautia Corvale: We will be posting these and other websites, plus books for further reading on our blog:
[11:18] Sam Arriaga: and the NREL website whose URL escapes me...just Google it.
[11:18] Plautia Corvale:
[11:19] Sam Arriaga: Also, the US DOE has an amazing array of information on all kinds of energy use in the US and worldwide.
[11:19] Royk Humbridge: nice, thanks
[11:19] Ariell Enoch: I want to thank you
[11:19] Ariell Enoch: all for coming
[11:19] Sam Arriaga: DOE is US Dept of Energy
[11:20] Sam Arriaga: actually it is the US EIA Energy Information Agency,
[11:21] Ariell Enoch: Thank you Phil
[11:21] Plautia Corvale: And a big thank you to Phil Friendman, for this teaching us all about Photovoltaics and Solar Energy.
[11:21] Dali Waverider: thanks Phil
[11:21] Plautia Corvale applauds wildly
[11:21] Royk Humbridge: /applause
[11:21] Sam Arriaga:’s been fun,
[11:21] Plautia Corvale: Please return to our library for further programs and exhibits.
[11:21] Archivist Llewellyn: ty Phil
[11:21] Ariell Enoch: I hope you all look for our future workshops
[11:22] Ariell Enoch: : )
[11:22] Plautia Corvale: We will always send out notices to library groups and green groups of future workshops and programs
[11:22] Archivist Llewellyn: would you be able to give a tour of the library now Plautia?
[11:22] Plautia Corvale: Oh, yes, definitely!
[11:22] Ariell Enoch: I'm with Phil bye
[11:22] Ariell Enoch: thanks again
[11:22] Royk Humbridge: by Phil
[11:22] Plautia Corvale: Thank you Phil!