127: A Bright Future? Solar Panel Breakthroughs

Matt and Sean discuss solar panel tech advances in efficiency breakthroughs, organic solar cells, perovskites, and multi junction solar panels. 

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “Exploring Solar Panel Efficiency Breakthroughs in 2022”: https://youtu.be/m8crjuL8FFs?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7UWp64ZlOKUPNXePMTdU4d

YouTube version of the podcast: https://www.youtube.com/stilltbdpodcast

Get in touch: https://undecidedmf.com/podcast-feedback

Support the show: https://pod.fan/still-to-be-determined

Follow us on Twitter: @stilltbdfm @byseanferrell @mattferrell or @undecidedmf

Undecided with Matt Ferrell: https://www.youtube.com/undecidedmf 

★ Support this podcast ★

Hey, everybody on today’s episode of still to be determined, we’re gonna talk about what it means when your a chiros become chiros. you don’t wanna get this mixed up. I hate it when that happens. Yes. Hmm. Hey everybody as usual, I’m Sean Farrell. I’m a writer. I read some sci-fi. I read some books for kids and I’m curious about technology and how it evolves as we do as well.

And luckily for me, my brother is Matt of undecided with Matt Farrell, a YouTube channel title that just. Easily comes to mind whenever you need to say it right, Matt that’s right. Rolls right off the tongue rolls right off the tongue. How are you today? I’m very good. How about you? I’m doing okay. I’ve spent part of my morning outside, killing and looking for lantern flies.

Which that sounds like fun. Yeah. It’s a good time. They are an invasive species from China. They have no predators and unfortunately for the environment, they’re also pretty. So I think people probably spot them and think, Ooh, pretty instead of, Ooh, I should kill that.

And last year that when they first made their appearance in New York city, it was, there was literally like a bounty system. Please. If you see them kill them and go online and let us know where you killed them. And really they are the, the pupa stage, which is the stage they want us to kill is the adolescent stage.

And they are somewhat triangular in shape, like a little body and little wings that come out in a sort of triangle shape, a little bit bigger than fly. And last year they were black with red dots. They’ve changed and now they are red with white dots, so. Oh, nice. Yeah. Nice. So, and they look very festive.

They look like they sort of look like a ladybug if ladybug was going to Mardi GRA. Okay. Yeah. It’s like all decked out and super big and like, wow. That’s a lot of color. And then I kill it. So we’re not here to talk about that. We’re not here to talk about lantern flies or my sociopathic urges to kill them all.

We’re here to talk about Matt’s most recent episode from his channel, which is exploring solar panel efficiency breakthroughs in 2022. This episode dropped in July 12th, 2022. And as his title would suggest this isn’t just limited to one thing. This wasn’t like one team in one place and they went, aha.

We did it. Now we can do this thing with this superb solar panel. This is a bunch of small changes that across the board collectively. I don’t wanna oversell it, but would you say this is a pretty major step forward for the industry? Just because of the number of paths that are opening up for, for potential changes down the, down the road?

Oh yeah. I think this is a huge step forward. I mean, we’ve been seeing, I, I did a video like this. I think it was two years ago where I talked about some of the same things, but they’ve come a long way since then. And we’re starting to see this stuff get closer and closer to production. Like perovskites, mm-hmm are getting really close to product.

So it’s like, this is stuff that’s gonna be coming in the next few years to market. And it’s, it’s pretty exciting to see this stuff hitting. And it’s, and also there’s some technology I did talk about that are probably further out than that. Yeah. But you can see where this is going. It’s it’s like, it’s like looking at like smartphones or, you know, CPUs and Silicon designs for chips and like where we were 10 years ago and where it’s going 10 years from now, it’s the same thing with solar panels.

You can see what’s coming down the road

and it’s pretty exciting. Right. And this falls firmly in the category of, I think at this point you should probably have, t-shirts made that say the right tool for the right job. Yes. Uh, These are not all like, oh, this is a panacea for every solar panel problem. Or this is the solution for all of this use.

These are a number of different things that across the board, you, you pointed out, some of them might be as helpful as improving battery lifes span on wearable tech, where another solution might be improved efficiency on a panel on, you know, a, a major. yeah. Solar panel farm, as opposed, you know, something you would see in your home, but exactly all of them collectively show tremendous progress.

And I wanted to, to kind of build big first and then work down to smaller topics that were brought up in the comments as usual. Mm-hmm everybody. If you have any kind of feedback, both here at still to be determined or on Matt’s channel, jumping into the comments or reaching out through the contact information in the podcast description.

both of those are what drive this show, especially mm-hmm and they lead Matt to paths that he might not have been aware of. We had something that came up last week in this program that potentially could be an episode for Matt. So, yep. Keep those comments coming. We really do appreciate it. You are definitely all of you listening and viewing us on YouTube.

You’re all a part of the conversation, whether you’re in the room with us when we’re recording these or not. So

you appreciate it. This is the, this is the whole point of this podcast. Exactly. Continue the conversation.

So when to start with this one from Rob Robert Palmore, who. His comment was, was lengthier than this, but I thought that to distill it down to this key point was a good starting point for our conversation.

He says something I’m surprised that you didn’t cover in the opening. You did actually touch on this toward the end. Efficiency is important and the higher efficiency is good and does play into the overall decision around this technology. But the primary driving factor is cost. K H and that would be kilowats per hour.

Am I correct? In my understanding of that per hour, it’s just, it’s just kilowat hour kilowat hour. Okay. Cost per kilowat hour. Yeah. Yes. Kilowat per hour would be a different thing. Wouldn’t it? It would be, yeah, discharge, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the kilowatt hour. So.

Robert’s point being, you talked a lot about the tech and what was going into it and the changes and efficiency numbers, and all of this. And then toward the end, you did bring in kilowat hour costs. Yep. So just to highlight this as, as a, to break this factor up into its parts, it’s not just about the efficiency and it’s not just about the power input or output.

it is about the production costs as well. That is a part of this number, correct?

Yes. It’s a, it’s a huge part of it, right? That that’s, what’s gonna drive adoption is cheap solar panels. Right. So I, I do agree with him and I didn’t really, like you said, I brought it up at the end and I’ve talked about this in other videos.

Like when I talk in some of my hydrogen videos, I bring this up, but being so focused on efficiency and a lot of people are focused on efficiency. When you talk about hydrogen, people always like downplay it of, it’s not efficient enough. that’s a, that’s a typical thing you often hear. And my reaction to that is it’s a red herring.

It’s it’s like when you look at just efficiency on its own, as your litmus test, you’re missing a huge part of the evaluation cost is a . It’s probably more important than efficiency because you could have the most efficient product that costs a hundred times more than a less efficient product. Right.

It’s it’s never gonna catch on. Nobody will ever use it. It’s like it has to make financial sense in addition to how efficient the product actually is. So it’s like, it’s a combination of the two. It’s not just one or the other, right. It’s

both just to look under the hood at how you put together your videos.

It seems like you are aware of that. And you incorporate that into your videos, in your discussion. And, and we’re doing that now, but when you’re putting together the video, there’s a certain point where you do have to set cost aside just to talk. The evolution of the tech. And that seems like that’s where your approach was in this video in particular that you were looking at it as, yeah.

Cost is a major factor about adoption. That’s years away for some of this tech. What we’re talking about right now is what is the breakthrough? What is the measurement, right?

Because, because you also have to look at it as manufacturing it’s like with scale costs drop, right? So it’s like, we’re talking about technologies that are just coming outta the lab or in pilot phases, and they’re just starting to roll out now.

Right? So they’re gonna be way more expensive than something else, but fast forward, five years, 10 years. And that thing is gonna be way cheaper because mass production, hopefully by that point will have scaled up to a. Where it’ll be super efficient to manufacture these things, which makes them dirt cheap.

Yeah. So it’s we, like I said, it’s like, you can’t, you can’t look at just one of these issues in isolation. You kind of have to look at it collectively, but when I’m breaking down these topics, when me and my team come together on put the stuff together, the way I’m always formulating it is I’m trying to look at it from that point of view.

Go high level. Okay. What’s the breakthrough here? What makes it really interesting? Does this have a potential path forward? Yes, it does well. Okay. That means five, 10 years down the road. It might be a viable player. So when those efficiencies come into play and the cost drop it’s like this could be a potential path forward.

That’s how I’m typically looking at these things right. When I’m evaluating what we’re gonna cover. Yeah.

It would be a little bit to, to blow it up in hyperbolic terms. It’d be a little bit like if somebody invented a car that ran on tap water. but it cost 10 million to make the car. Correct. You would still talk about that as a, this is pretty incredible.

Look what somebody did. It runs on tap water. Yeah. Making that video about that car is not the same as saying, therefore, this is the car that’s gonna replace all other vehicles. This. You’d be talking about the tech, you’d be talking about the breakthrough, the amazing advances that were made, and then the follow up to that is, but will it ever work because of cost, so, correct.

I think that’s what you’re doing as well. Yes, exactly. There was also this in the comments from Hayes Clark who wrote, and I’m gonna need your help, Matt, with an acronym here that I’m not familiar with. I’ve had solar on our home for the past 10 years and have generated 60 M w H in the P N w. What is P w are you aware P N

w I’m not sure.

All right. I dunno.

Hey, if you’re listening, drop into the comments and let us know what P w is. I think we can still get to his larger point though. The second part of his comment is this, in my experience, I’ve had little to no issues with my panels. However, I run into issues with bad micro invertors. The reason I brought this comment up is because I’m at, I’m wondering the technology that you’re talking about.

What is the issue with the surrounding infrastructure around potential adoptions of the tech that you talked about? So is this a case of, well, any poorly manufactured product might fail and so that’s bound to happen in some cases or the tech that you’re talking about? Does it invite an issue? Along the lines of well there’s infrastructure that’s currently being used in the solar tech industry.

These new advances are fantastic, but the current underlying infrastructure might not be in the right place to support the advancements. Yeah. There,

there are different points of failure in when you’re talking about solar specifically, there’s definitely different points of failure and the inverters are one of the big ones.

I don’t think there’s a limitation right now. Like, based on what I talked about in this video, I don’t think like the inverters. Other equipment around it is going to be an issue, holding it up at all. Mm-hmm if that’s what you’re getting at. I think it’s, I, I don’t think it’s an issue. And too specifically, his comment about having issues with his micro inverts.

I’m curious like who the manufacturer is when they were made, because micro inverts have come a long way in are today away in our, today. Like an in phase micro inverter today is just as reliable as a string inverter. So. It things have changed even in that space and become more reliable and cheaper to produce as well.

Mm-hmm so it’s like micro ERs used to be more expensive and they’re not anymore. They’re basically costs on par, you know, with other systems. So everybody’s mileage is gonna vary, but in generally speaking, I don’t think there’s a difference. I don’t think there’s, there’s a problem with the surrounding of structure for these kinds of advance.

I also wanted to mention this comment from Ruby rocks who wrote, it’d be interesting if you could wrap car windows sunroofs in EVs with these organic power cells and use that as both window tenting and solar powered range extension, is there likelihood to that that some of this technology would actually generate enough power to extend your range on a solar vehicle?

Or is we’ve had conversations in this vein before? Is this still in the realm of, well, you might be able to do stuff like. Power, some of the interior lighting, maybe some of the dashboard features, maybe some of that could be powered, but there’s not gonna be enough energy generated from this being on the car to actually say, oh, I’m parking my car.

I’m going into the store. When I come back out, I’ve got another a hundred miles on the car. Yeah.

The, this goes back to the efficiency conversation. This is where I’ll bring up and say, efficiency here is kind of key to this transparent. Solar is what you’d need for that. And I actually have a video on.

The efficiencies of transparent solar is dramatically less than the stuff I’m talking about here. So no there right. There’s no way it’s gonna add significant amount of range to your car at all. If any, it’s like you’re talking about maybe adding a couple miles at most over the course of a day with a transparent solar


So it’s like, so is this more in the vein of, of maybe somewhere there’s a building that has some of these on. East facing windows. And they’ve got an office building that has these on the east facing windows. By the time the sun is going down and maybe security lighting is popping on that security lighting through the night could be charged by what is produced during the day.

That’s, that’s

very different because you’re talking about, let’s say of a car, which you’re talking about, what couple square meters of space, right. For windows and a skyscraper, which might have. Thousands of square meters, right. Of space. So this is where it’s like the Lu the lower efficiency doesn’t matter in a skyscraper because you can make it up with volume, right?

Where , it’s like on a car, you have a very limited amount of space for that kind of stuff. So that’s where it comes. The, the efficiency doesn’t matter. When you start to talk about, I have plenty of room. What can I get for all this space

versus a car? So you’re describing efficiencies of scale. Normally when that comes up, we’re talking about manufacturing, but in this case, we’re talking about the production of energy provided through solar panels.

It’s part of the reason why it’s like, when it comes to solar and people say, oh, it’s not efficient enough yet. And it’s like, okay, what you’re talking about here for the efficiency, like on my roof, it’s like, do I need 20 panels or do I need 25 panels? Right. It’s like check a couple extra panels up there and you can make up for that lack of efficiency.

That’s kinda what we’re talking about. So if you have the space you can make up for that inefficiency,

there was this comment from Scott Stewart. And I like this comment a lot, cuz I, I picture a guy out on his back porch whittling . You’ll understand what I mean? In a moment, Scott writes as someone who just bought a log cabin on 33 acres with a well I’m starting the process of getting off the power grid.

Nice. I have a 90 foot stream, a 900 foot stream. Excuse me. I have a 900 foot stream. I have to assume it connects to. The rest of the stream, both above and below him, you know, he doesn’t, he, but he has 900 feet of it. Yeah. But it’s probably too flat for hydro. So I’ll probably go with solar. I have a little bit of fear of missing out on the near future tech advances, but it will always be so mm-hmm,

I just like, and Scott doesn’t even really have a question. I think it’s just this nice little moment of like, Hey, here’s this thing I’m doing. And it just, it struck a chord with me of, of what he’s trying to do. And it touches on the fear of missing out aspect that you touch on in your video of, if you’re thinking about doing solar, do not wait, do not read this news of, Hey, there’s been this break.

And your chiros and your a chiros and you’re chiro all over the place and don’t take that information and say, well, therefore I should wait because there’s always going to be nine. 12 months, 16 months away, another major breakthrough. It’s like, okay, I like my phone. I need a new phone, but I better wait because there’s gonna be an even better phone and you will never not be waiting for the next.

Big phone. It’s always going to change. I was

gonna bring up that analogy for me. It was also, you could also say if you’re a gamer and you’re building your own PC, it’s like, I’m gonna wait for the next big video card it’s coming out in six months. It’s like, well, in six months, then they’re gonna be announcing, oh, there’s another one coming nine months later, it’s like, At what point do you say, what do I need to do today?

And does this satisfy that need, right? It does then buy it. It’s like, don’t, don’t worry about the next big thing over the horizon, if it’s what you need right now. And it satisfies that need. Right. Get it.

And this was part of my question based on Scott’s description of his idyllic little. cabin in the woods.

I have a 900 foot stream, but it’s probably too flat for hydro. I can’t help. But think that if you lived on that property, you’d experiment just to see what you could get. Yes. Even if it wasn’t a lot, you’d just be like a hundred percent. Let’s see. Let’s see what we get. What’s the harm, right? experiment

with it.

There’s different ways that you can do things. Hydro is still very new to me, but I’ve, I’ve had plenty of people reach out to me showing me and telling me about what they’ve done. And like, there are, it’s surprising probably how much energy you could get off of that. It’s not gonna supply all your needs most likely, but if you’re talking about like, what if you could, what if you could generate, you know, 500 Watts.

Consistently 24 hours a day, right? Yeah. That’s not gonna satisfy your needs, but uh, Hey, it’s 500 Watts for 24 hours a day consistently. Right. It’s like, I would say try it. It’s like

don’t don’t hold back. Yeah. It seems like one of those things that if you have the time and the means yes. And the curiosity, just to have fun with it and say, yeah, yeah.

To be able to have people visit you, assuming that Scott’s not moving to this 33 acre. Place because he wants to get away from every human being, assuming somebody visits, how charming would it be to take them out and show them the water wheel you’ve got running on your property and just being like cheap.


Run cheap, buy a little DIY kit from someplace and like just put something together and see what you can do. Yeah. And it could be a lot of fun. It could be a fun

home project. Yeah. There’s also this from Ian Ricky, who wrote fascinating to see an episode of decided where new technologies of 10 to 20 years ago are now taken for granted, especially tech that was trolled in media and is now taken for granted.

I suspect that there are more of these examples than we can currently understand. Matt. I brought this up simply as an opportunity for you to say, yeah, I’m doing this. I actually already did. Yeah.

I do have a video about five inventions that were basically laughed off as this is not gonna happen. And they all became such a part of our lives that it’s just ridiculous that they were even laughed at one of which is the airplane.

Right. You know, like the, the invention, the airplane was thought not. And it, it’s a look at where we are today. It’s like, there’s thousands of planes to the sky at all times. Yeah. And we used to take it for granted, for traveling everywhere. People

used to, people used to laugh at the idea of flight, and now we laugh at the idea of our flight not being canceled.

That’s how much progress we’ve made. It’s really nice callback. Yes. There you go. Yeah. So listeners, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation and. We are inviting you to jump into the comments right now, reach out through the contact information and the podcast description or on YouTube to scroll beneath this video of our smiling faces and leave a comment below.

And my question to you is where do you find yourself in the I’m part of the future bandwagon? Are you. Hopping on soon, or are you waiting for it to circle back around? Are you in a position like Scott Stewart, where you’re standing there on your third three acres and looking at a Creek and saying, do I do something here or no?

Yeah. Let us know. And to Scott, if you are listening to us right now, we would love to know what you do with your 33 33 acres, solar, hydro, what are you thinking about? What are you doing? Jump into the comments below as usual. If you’d like to support the show, please do consider reviewing us on apple.

Google Spotify, wherever it is that you found this podcast, just go back there and leave a review that helps us tremendously. And if you’d like to more directly support us, you can go to still tbd.fm and click on the, become a supporter button. And it allows you to throw some quarters at our heads. We appreciate each and every dent.

You can also click on join. Right here on YouTube. You can become a member that way. All of that really does help support the show. Thank you so much for listening or watching. And we’ll talk to you next time

for me. My brother is Matt of Matt.

Wow. There’s a blooper. And if you’d like to direct us. Hmm. And if you.

← Older
Newer →

Leave a Reply