Current solar energy technology uses silicon plates. In fact, over 90% of solar electricity generated today uses solar panels made up of these silicon plates. Although silicon is one of the most common elements on earth, it bonds easily to other elements. Solar panels require nearly pure silicon.
Pure silicon is created in smelters requiring a substantial use of energy. These smelting factories supply silicon bricks shaped like firewood. The solar panels are made out of slices of this material. Unfortunately, in this process almost 50% of each silicon brick is wasted, turning to sawdust. Nearly 100,000 tons of silicon is consumed every year, adding significantly to the cost of solar power.
Scientists are working on ways to create thinner, less expensive solar cells. They are currently experimenting with silicon micro beads, a promising new technology that reduces the total amount of silicone needed to harvest light energy. This new process nearly eliminates silicon waste and reduces overall silicon consumption significantly.
What does this mean for solar companies in Sacramento? The future is bright for solar energy in our area. As technology continues to improve, the cost of solar panels continues to fall. Solar energy is more cost effective than ever.