Quantum Materials’ quantum dot solar cells not only enable sustainability, but also innovation.

The manufacture of thin-film quantum dot solar cells introduces a cost-effective disruptive technology that can help accelerate the conversion from a fossil fuel dependent energy infrastructure to one based on renewable, carbon-neutral solar energy sources.

The Sun's Rays are Free

More than any other energy source, solar energy has the ability to fill current and future needs by orders of magnitude more power availability. Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth, with about 885 million terawatt hours (TWh) reaching the surface of the planet every year – 6,200 times the commercial primary energy consumed by humankind in 2008, and 3,500 times the energy that humankind would consume in 2050 according to the IEA 2015 Energy Technology Perspectives. Of the 120,000 Terawatts (Tw) of solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface each year, only .02% needs to be utilized to meet our current energy needs, including oil, gas, and nuclear energy.

The Current Solar Energy Market

The extensive Wikipedia entry, Growth of Photovoltaics summarizes the state of the solar photovoltaics market and presents multiple sources for each of its assertions. According to their sources, somewhere between 159 Gigawatts(Gw) and 176 Gigawatts of solar panels are in service as of yearend 2014. Total solar panel production put in service in 2014 was between 38 Gw and 60 Gw. 2015 predictions average 55 Gw. The range of total installed production predicted for 2020 is from 403 Gw to 696 Gw. Even with this growth, solar energy supplies only at 1% of total energy utilization worldwide, and the industry is in its infancy.

Global Environmental Awareness

Entwined with energy economics is new environmental awareness that today’s actions have environmental consequences. Rising global temperatures along with rising ocean levels, a higher incidence of devastating storms, and other consequences of these changes are causing environmental organizations to ask for more regulation of greenhouse gases and other harmful byproducts of energy use and seek development and expansion of renewable energy.

Climate change studies by many global organizations (IEA, IPCC, U.N., MIT, IRENA) attempt to categorize what level of mitigation, adaption and transformation will be necessary to achieve a global energy-related CO2 target in 2050 of 50% below current levels and limit global temperature rise by 2050 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The IEA 2014 Technology Roadmap Solar Photovoltaic Energy best case scenario for solar envisions solar photovoltaic’s share of global electricity production rising up to 16% by 2050. At over 4.6 Terawatts (Tw) (4,600 Gw) of installed PV capacity, this would prevent the emission of up to 4 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. The report estimates a cost of USD 7.8 Trillion, adding that the cost would be more than made up in cumulative fuel cost savings. One key finding of the report concerning the investment needed stated, "To achieve the vision in this roadmap, the total PV capacity installed each year needs to rise rapidly, from 36 GW in 2013 to 124 GW per year on average, with a peak of 200 GW per year between 2025 and 2040. Including the cost of repowering - the replacement of older installations - annual investment needs to reach an average of about USD 225 billion, more than twice that of 2013.

Solterra Renewable Technologies recognizes this is a complex issue, and not one that can be simply explained or solved. We wanted to establish that there is a large unmet need for solar energy, and that we see one of the main problems as being the enormous initial investment needed for each solar project. We see the answer in changing the paradigm from one of a Herculean task of raising impossible amounts of investment, to investing in new next-generation solar technology that requires only a fraction of that investment. By removing the bar to investment, low-cost replication of solar factories and increased solar cell module production can be achieved.

Cost per Peak Watt: Now and Future

In a 2014 paper entitled, The promise and challenge of nanostructured solar cells, NREL esteemed researchers Beard, Nozik and Luther estimate the present (.10$/KwH) silicon panel technology against the future (.03/KwH and lower) next-generation solar technologies to come in a illustrative graph, Relationship between power conversion efficiency, module areal costs and cost per peak watt (in $/Wp). It graphically shows silicon technology limited from this point in time, but next-gen solar has the advantages of potential MEG and the Shockley-Queisser limit to reach its potential.

A Grand Challenge

The various Climate Change reports can state the problem and estimate what is needed to solve the problem, in different scenarios, but their Grand Challenge is finding a way to pay for slowing global temperature increases and reducing greenhouse gases to meet these goals. There is another way. Quantum Dot Solar is so new none of the reports factor it into their solutions. Quantum Dot Solar has the potential of more than double the efficiency of silicon, and small improvements in efficiency make a large difference in the amount of solar cells needed. Roll-to-roll manufacture of QDSC and economy of scale savings in materials and labor have the potential to scale productions to Gigawatts per year from each plant.

Quantum dot solar cell factories can be built at a fraction of a silicon wafer-based solar module factory cost, as can the quantum dot solar cells themselves. With a low initial investment, quicker investment payback, lower operation costs, and a solar cell product priced to spur mass acceptance, QDSC will make solar energy affordable for any region or nation. Solterra’s solar cells will come to market competitively priced, with the opportunity to reduce prices even further as economies of scale come into effect.

We can change the timeline for broad solar energy implementation to near-term rather than long-range forecast. Implementing quantum dot solar cell plants worldwide is a Grand Challenge that will change the energy load from greenhouse gases to clean energy. We commit the dedication of our employees, our knowledge of nanotechnology, and our promise to keep innovating to meet this challenge.