168: Are Perovskites for Solar Worth It?

Matt and Sean talk about solar energy advances, perovskites, and when we’ll see them on the market (hint: sooner than you think). 

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, Top 5 Solar Energy Advances Using Perovskites https://youtu.be/OYzCq8YWAHw?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi6ObB8Ao0IpRhOgYO27wbSd

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On today’s episode of Still To Be Determined, we’re gonna be revisiting old friends. That’s right. The perovskites are in town. We’ll be saying hello to them and we’ll be talking about Matt’s most recent episode on his channel, which just coincidentally happens to be about, you guessed it, perovskites.

Yeah, that’s right. Hi everybody, as usual. I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m the host of our podcast here at Still To Be Determined, and I’m a writer or write some sci-fi, write some stuff for kids. I’m just generally curious about technology and luckily for me, my brother, is that Matt of undecided with Matt Ferrell?

Yes. I mentioned just moments ago we will be talking about his most recent episode. What does that mean? Well, he drops episodes about technology and its impact on our lives. Matt, how you doing

today? I’m doing good. It’s a good weekend. How about you?

I’m doing all right. A little rainy here in the city, but I think I’ll survive as long as I stay indoors.

Don’t ever plan on going outside ever again and just pretend I’m totally self-sufficient. Before we get into today’s discussion, I wanted to share some comments from our most recent episode. This is from episode 1 67, which focused on salt water batteries, and. Matt, I’m amazed that we’ve added 167 episodes.

I know. I’m also surprised at how salty the comments got about, oh, saltwater batteries. There were some suggestions here. I thought they were good ideas for future episodes for you. Mm-hmm. So, fortitude, the dog walker. Dropped in to say he has an idea for a video. Fifth generation district heating examples include Drake landing solar community in Calgary, Canada, which utilizes solar and geothermal whisper Valley master planned community in Travis County, Texas, which is heat pumps in geothermal, and there are several in Europe.

So, Sounds like really good suggestions. Yeah. Fortitude has done a little bit of the, the originating legwork for you to head off. Yeah. And do some research. There’s also this from Sparky Watts who dropped in to say, perhaps I’ve missed it, but I would love to hear Matt talk about ai. The good, the bad. We can always count on Matt for clear-eyed view.

So Matt, you’ve heard it from not only me in just casual conversation as we’ve talked in general about how AI appears to be rearing an ugly head ahead. A question Mark Head, like nobody’s quite sure of how to interpret it. So it might be a, a subject worth visiting. And I would also say worth visiting and then revisiting on an annual basis because things are moving very quickly on the AI front.

Frighteningly fast. Yes. This is a topic I’ve been wanting to do, but I’m not sure what the interest level is cuz it’s like, it feels like YouTube is just chock full of all these people talking about ai and this video was written in, put together by an ai. It’s like, I don’t know, people are kind of like AIed out or if they wanna know more, yeah,

jump into the comments and let us know.

Would you be interested in seeing an analysis of AI on. Matt’s main channel. And then with a follow up conversation here, I know for myself, it’s a conversation that I never quite know where I’m landing because it is such uncertain terrain, but I think it is worth having these conversations because big picture, I.

It’s, it’s not go, it’s the genie is out of the bottle. I don’t think we’re getting it. Oh, completely back in the bottle. And I think we need to have these conversations because we just, meaning humanity at large. We have a long history of big technological advances and then a little bit slower on the ethical and moral catch up.

So I think the sooner we start talking about these things, the moral implications, the ethical implications, what are the best case or the worst use scenarios for ai, I think the better. And so I’m, I’m all on board with having that conversation, but let us know in the comments here. Or you can jump back to Matt’s main channel and leave a comment on one of his videos.

There. He sees them, he digests them, and then very often, He goes off in a direction that you all are interested in. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about Matt’s most recent episode. As I mentioned before, this is about perovskites. This is the top five solar energy advances using perovskites.

This episode dropped on May 16th. 2023 and the perovskites. As I’ve also mentioned previously, we are revisiting this. This is another time when we are having a conversation following up on earlier conversations. Matt, I don’t recall off the top of my head. Do you remember when the last time we talked about perovskites was?

It was about a year ago. I think it was about a year ago. Uh, it was last spring or summer.

And in the time between that conversation and what we’re having right now, what do you think was the most surprising element? In perovskite development

For me, it’s that there’s several companies that are actually bringing a product to market most likely this year or early next.

Cuz it’s like perovskite have felt like the solid state battery, like it’s gonna solve all these problems, but when you look at it, it’s like, oh, it’s still years away. It’s not anywhere close to development. It’s surprising to me that there’s companies actually bringing this to market this quickly. And


is the price point for our perovskite solar panel?

Is it.

That’s, that’s the big question. That’s the

question mark.

Yeah, that’s still a question mark. Cuz a lot of these companies that are bringing ’em to market have not released pricing information. All they say is it’ll be price competitive. Hmm. Take

that for you think that means a lot? Yes.

Yeah. Yeah.

The, the other thing is like these, just like any technology, these will be more expensive upfront and then hopefully over time they get cheaper. Cuz that’s the big selling point of perovskites is that they will be dramatically cheaper than a silicon solar cell. But the first ones that come to market, I highly doubt that’s gonna be the case.

I bet they’re gonna be kind of expensive.

So this is kind of analogous to just to go into the way back machine. The first time our family bought a vcr, we were

not. You’re dating us

Sean. You are dating. Dating us. Yeah, absolutely. First time our family bought a a vcr. We were not early adopters. I wanna make that clear.

We were not early adopters, but our first VCR probably cost around $400. And that’s $400, four 50 or something like that. Yeah, that’s $400 in 1980s money. So comparable to what? Probably a $900 price point now, maybe even more. Yeah. And then by the time VCRs were going out of fashion, you could literally get them for.

20 bucks. You could go into any $2,000. You could go into any discount department store, go into a K-Mart, a Walmart target. You could pick one up for. Easily 25 bucks.

Get them free with a new TV purchase.

I remember getting one with a couple of box tops. I just sent in some Cheerios box tops, and they were like, here’s a vcr.

And I said, I didn’t want this. And they were like, take it. So my question to you, there’s, there’s this sliding scale, right? Mm-hmm. Early adopters paying that much, and then something is leaving, it’s out of vogue and it’s, it’s been replaced and the price point is, In the cellar. Hmm. I know what answer I think you’re gonna give, but as far as what we’ll call traditional solar panels, where on that line do you think they’re falling right now?

They’re clearly not, we’re not at the early adopter

stage anymore. Can you talk about like for the price point? Yes. Like for the price point, we are well beyond the early adopter stage of solar panels. They are like crazy cheap. Just even over the past decade, the amount they’ve dropped is just kind of staggering.

So yeah, we are not in the early adapter phase anymore.

So in the, if the life cycle is in three stages, the early adopter to, still very expensive to the midpoint where, okay. It’s very generally used, but the price is still somewhere in the mid-range. Mm-hmm. And then the final stage being this is a technology that is leaving and now the price point is through the, is through the floor.

Where do you think it falls in those three categories? Midpoint? We’re not,

we’re not quite to that basement seller price yet. We’re kind of in that still middle range, but that’s the whole promise of perovskites is that the perovskites are gonna be so cheap to produce that’s gonna help accelerate it even further down.

So that’s kinda why people keep talking about perovskites. It’s gonna be cheap. It’s gonna be so cheap.

So if the first perovskite come out, And are. Mm-hmm. That top dollar, your early adopter, if you’re buying this, do you think it’s worth that as a price point for, oh man, just your average consumer, or do you think you’re getting something that is, is going to out of the gate already be better than what we currently have, or do you think there’s the potential for there being lots of kinks and waiting?

Two, five years to say perovskite is the, is the new norm. I’m

gonna do the little political tap dance around that question because it’s like, it really ultimately depends on when they actually are released at the end of this year, really next year, and we know exactly how much they’re actually charging for them.

I think that’s gonna be. It’s gonna really inform what the answer to that question would be cuz r the biggest question on Perovskites is lifespan, cuz they do not last as long as a silicon solar cell. They, they did degrade much faster, which is some of the technologies I talked about in this video are they’re working ways around that.

Lengthening the lifespan out. Right. But they’re still shorter than silicon, so it’s like, okay. Even if it was the same cost as a silicon solar cell, what’s the warranty? What’s the lifespan? What’s the degradation on that solar cell? Is it really gonna be worth buying it for the same cost when you could just get a silicon one that will last you twice as long?

Yes. So you talked about the second use market for silicon panels, solar cells. Yeah. It doesn’t seem like there would be a second use market for perovskite if the lifespan of them is half as long. Right.

I mean, just like with any new technology, it typically is the high end of the market, like the. People who can take that high price.

And if you’d be looking at this, I’m, my hunch is that perovskites will be more appealing to industrial scale solar panel farms because they typically change out their solar panels pretty quickly. Mm-hmm. So they might have panels in an array for five years and then change them out. Why don’t they do that?

I, you’d have to, you’d have to ask them. I’d have, I need to dive into that cause I’ve been wondering that question myself. It, there’s capital expenses of setting those kind of systems up. There might be an incentive for like write offs and being able to. Take them outta commission, resell them before they lose most of their value, that you can then can put right back into buying new panels.

So there might be some kind of economical reason for why they’re doing it that way. That’s my hunch. But like if they’re changing ’em out that quickly, if a perovskite solar cell has a 10-year lifespan instead of a 25, 30 year lifespan, It may not impact them as much if the costs are make sense. So I could see this making more sense for large solar arrays versus somebody on their home who’s looking for, right, I want this solar panel last 30 years.

It’s like that. I think we’re still a little ways away from, but if the costs, again, are half as much as a regular solar panel, then it becomes more appealing, even though it’s a shorter lifespan.

Right. So right, right out of the gate, we may be talking about two separate markets. The consumer market, which is looking still at silicone because, well, I can put ’em on my roof and then 15 years when I sell the house, they’ll still have value.

And a new homeowner would still be appreciative of having them up there as opposed to somebody who’s gonna say, I’m ready to switch these out every five years. Which, like you mentioned, if the commercial market is doing that for whatever reasons, if they’re doing that, then this would fit into that frame, I think potentially, yes.

Some of the commentary on this subject included this from Frugal Family Living who wrote, in my case, the size of the panels isn’t the issue though. Making solar panels smaller is huge. I’m not sure if that was a pun, but it’s well-played. That’s a good one. Lifespan is super important. If I build off grid, I want it to last for decades or more, so that’s a good example of this kind of two market scenario we’re talking about where somebody is saying perovskites don’t even going to size or efficiency aren’t as key as longevity.

If somebody is putting these, especially not only if you’re putting them on your home, In this kind of off-grid scenario, you don’t know where this person potentially is. Putting these things and putting things in a position where you’re having to swap things out every five years and the location might be difficult to get to or ship to, that adds to a concern.

Also, it’s the use case. It’s like even in silicon, there’s thin film solar cells versus like what I have on my roof, which is a rigid sheet, thin film. Solar cells don’t last as long as what I have on my roof, but it’s like, it’s all about use case. Are you trying to put solar panels across the deck of a boat?

You’re gonna be going thin film where you can literally, like, it goes over the, the surface that stays tucked into the surface where on my house, I’m not gonna put that on my roof. It’s like, it doesn’t make sense. Longevity, performance. So it’s all based on what you need. I think that’s what’s gonna drive the market at

least to start.

There’s also this comment from Nolan Cook who wrote as someone who works in the solar industry, perovskites are very interesting, as are graphene conductors. Anything that may increase. The efficiency of solar panels and their electricity generation is going to be good for the renewable future. I wonder if you’ve ever looked into inverter efficiency, because converting DC to usable AC power and in a safe way is also a hurdle, solar electricity.

Thanks for the video. So, yeah, a couple of things are mentioned to that, that I wanted to ask you to touch on. There’s the issue of inversion, the power inverter issue of converting DC to ac. I believe you’ve talked about that before in another video, but do you wanna talk briefly about that? Yeah,

no, it’s, it’s something I’ve brought up.

I’ve never done a dedicated video talking about just that. In fact, I was talking to some patrons just earlier today and that issue came up. People seem to want to have a bigger video on just that issue. I did a video on the hotel Marcel in Connecticut, which is a just massive. Microgrid passive house, uh, certified hotel, and they have a massive solar array and have a deal with the neighboring IKEA to buy supplemental potentially energy from them so they could satisfy a hundred percent of their energy needs from solar.

And they themselves are kind of in that situation where at the scale they’re at, they wanted to keep the energy DC as long as they could. So they have an entire battery array inverters that keep the energy dc And because of the efficiency gains, like let’s say a typical inverter, only 90% of the electricity comes through in that conversion process.

But you’re getting 99 to a hundred percent of the energy. If you keep it DC It’s like they take that energy straight from the solar panel and s shunt it straight into a battery system, and then their lighting systems and a bunch of the electrical network through the whole hotel is still dc. So it’s like the L e D lights and all the rooms and everything like that.

So then coming out of the battery, it’s staying DC to power the light bulbs. There’s no inversion happening, which means you’re getting. Every wa out of the system that you possibly can. There’s diminishing returns though. Like if you’re starting to talk about getting to somebody’s home where that makes sense.

It it does. In a theoretical argument, it does make sense, but again, efficiency is, in my opinion, kind of a, a red herring. It’s all about costs and designing a system and what compromises you’re looking to do. If you toss a couple extra panels on your roof, you could kind of still design a system that has the output you need and satisfy, satisfies everything you need over the course of the year.

Even with those efficiency losses versus spending potentially a little more money to make a more efficient system. So it really, it’s not a, don’t make the argument on efficiency. For the sake of efficiency. You have to make arguments around. What is the use case? What are you trying to get out of the system and then figuring out what dials and stuff you have to move around to make the final call.

Is the element there scale? The hotel has enough of an energy? Yeah, energy being brought in that that efficiency can be seen and play it out as opposed to your home where you’re not gonna have the enough energy coming in to actually see the direct current being. More efficient in the same way. It, it does

seem to be that way from everything I’ve looked into and the people I’ve spoken to.

It seems to make more sense when you’re talking about large buildings or large infrastructure, keeping a DC longer, that that efficiency gap just adds up so fast at a hotel level versus what it would be adding up to on my house. It’s like it’s, it may not make sense for you at a small scale, but it might make sense at a big scale.

But like, again, like I said, it all depends on what the costs are for the system that you’re looking to install. And I know there are a lot of companies that are trying to bring this to the home market, like Solar Edge, which is a major company and solar panels and inverters and all those kind of things.

They’re moving more and more into smart electric panels and systems that are DC within the house to take advantage of that. So once that kind of market starts to build out at the small scale level, Then it starts to make more sense. But right now there’s not enough of a market for there. So it’s like typically this stuff tends to be a little more cost intensive.

And so it’s like at this point, it’s kinda like on a small scale doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but fast forward five years from now, 10 years from now, and it may be a very different

equation. Nolan also mentioned Graphine conductors. Did you wanna talk about that very briefly?

Well, graphine is the, has been, has been sold as like the, the savior material whole, it’s gonna give us space, elevators and all that kind of crap.

It is an amazing material that got overhyped and it’s been promised for all these things. We’re starting to see products hitting the market now that are actually taking advantage of graphene. So it’s like we’re the adoption curve right at the beginning of graphene. So it’s like, even though it was overhyped, It’s going to make a big difference, but we’re still seeing it kind of roll out In this kind of case, that could make a big difference cuz it could be so much more efficient than another technology or another component that it could make a huge difference in solar and inversions and converters and things like that.

So yeah. Lastly, I wanted to share this comment from, I build a lot of Lego. Lego rights. I discovered this channel a few years ago while researching for my science fair project on making my own solar cells. It’s pretty cool to see the new breakthroughs on the things that I researched about using free articles online.

So Lego, thank you for using Matt as a resource for your science fair project. What this made me think about was Lego relying on the free articles available online. And I’m curious, Matt, do you think that too much of the stuff that you’re talking about, the too much of the stuff you’re interested in investigating?

I. Goes ignored or remains buried somehow beneath headlines that are distracting into technologies and uses of things that are missing the point of what’s actually happening. Because very often it feels like your videos are like, here’s this thing that’s been quietly going on in the background. Yes. And some of the things that they’re trying to do are really remarkable, and yet, yes, it feels like nobody’s talking about it.

You and I have very nice conversations, and these people seem very well informed and really taking things in very interesting directions. Do you ever get that sense of, wow, there’s really kind of a public ignorance in a lot of these things that you don’t know how to address or why

it exists? Uh, to me it feels like it’s, oh, this doesn’t go down too many rabbit holes, but it’s kinda like the, the major media.

Is focused on clicks, and if it bleeds, it leads kind of a mentality. And so if you’re talking about climate change, it’s, here’s a major hurricane, it’s showing, you know, or raging wildfires. It’s, it’s focusing on that aspect of stuff. But it, there’s not enough of focus around the more optimistic of side of things, which is what I focus on, which is look at all the amazing ingenuity that is happening in engineering and in physics and in science to try to push things forward and answer these horrifying things we’re having to deal with.

There’s great solutions that are already available or are about to come out or look at what this research team has done over here. There’s not enough of a focus on that because of the it bleeds, it leads kind of mentality of most media. And then I’m gonna wrap myself right back into that of on YouTube it’s also about clicks and click bait.

And I get accused of doing click bait, a lot of my videos and I’ll take it cuz it’s part of the game. If you want people to see your videos, you kind of have to thread that needle. But at the same time on YouTube, there’s more opportunity to kind of try to raise awareness around these things because you can find your audience, people like me who are interested in this stuff, find it.

You just have to make it and put it out there and share it. So it’s like that’s the whole point of my channel is to try to raise awareness around these cool and amazing things that people are doing that are trying to make our lives better. So yeah, it’s, it’s, I love the fact that social media has kind of unlocked that.

I just wish major media, like big media, I don’t would call ’em, we kind of catch onto the fact that they don’t have to do that. It bleeds, it leads kind of mentality. It’s, it’s, it’s a and nature of the beast. I guess

on that note, I wanted to invite our listeners and our viewers on YouTube to jump into the comments.

What are some of the solutions that you think have gone. Unnoticed, and this is an opportunity maybe to plant some seeds. Yeah. That will lead to future videos for Matt. Even if it’s nothing more than a compilation of these things that you point out that might lead to a conversation on this channel, let us know in the comments.

As always, if you’d like to support the show, please do go back to where it was you found this program. That might be YouTube, it might be Apple, Google, Spotify, wherever it was. Go back there, leave a review, subscribe and share us with your friends. And if you’d like to more directly support us, you can go to the join button on YouTube.

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