This article was produced in partnership with Rayton Solar, a sponsor of IFLScience.
Solar power isn't just fantastic for the planet. It's also a huge opportunity. Fortunately for us – and the planet in particular – industry doesn’t care so much about what governments do in terms of climate change regulations, more whether it can make a profit or save money.
From the billions of dollars being injected into the Californian economy to the hundreds of thousands now employed in the solar industry, it is becoming more and more obvious to major companies and investors that the renewable sector is rapidly turning into quite a profitable business.
The main stumbling blocks in recent years, though, have been the cost of renewable systems, their efficiency, and their ability to store the energy they produce. But engineers have been pushing to solve these issues, hoping that when they do, there will be nothing holding the technologies back.
One of the biggest hitters in the sector is the ever-present Elon Musk, who pioneered the development of household battery storage devices by launching the Tesla Powerwall. Bringing the ability to store solar energy at home to the mainstream was a significant step forward, and one that has already inspired other companies to produce their own versions, from the Japanese car-maker Nissan to the Swedish furniture shop Ikea.
But one major issue is simply the cost. For a long time, the price of renewables suppressed the market, limiting its spread. But now things are changing, and a new company is hoping to radically alter the industry. A novel technique developed by the California-based solar manufacturing company Rayton Solar might be able to cut the cost of production by a stonking 60 percent while increasing efficiency of solar panels to 24 percent.
The system works by utilizing a new cutting technique to produce incredibly thin sheets of silicon, between 100 and 50 times thinner than what is currently achieved. This, Rayton Solar says, will mean it can produce far more panels from the same volume of material than other companies, slashing the price per unit. The technique also allows the use of higher grade silicons, like the float-zone silicon currently used by NASA, which has a far higher efficiency compared to other market varieties.
This would not only cut the cost for the consumer, allowing more people to install solar panels, it would also lower installation costs as 25 percent fewer panels would be needed. In terms of commercial use, this means that solar farms would require 25 percent less land.
Many suspect that the tide has already turned, and that the fossil fuel industry is now a dying sector. It will still take years to find out whether this is true, but what is certain is that renewables are looking like a far more logical investment for the future.