Stanford Ovshinsky
January 1, 2007 3:23 PM   Subscribe

The Edison of our age? Stanford Ovshinsky may not be a household name, but his inventions have the power to change the world.
posted by kliuless (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Something I've wondered about solar panels: if you can make them out of flexible material, double-sided, can you make a "scrunched" solar panel, like a rose or carnation petals, which might allow more surface area to be packed into the same physical space?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:38 PM on January 1, 2007


The Economist also has an interesting article on Ovshinsky, though it may require a subscription.
posted by sindark at 4:13 PM on January 1, 2007


If the price was right, I would gladly panel the top of the house. I'm just a little low on the startup capital...
posted by Samizdata at 4:14 PM on January 1, 2007


Great that they are making money now, but they need to get the price of the electricity down soon, before governments stop subsidizing the buyers.

But if the subsidies can help kick start the industry, and get sufficient economies of scale, it's all thanks to the Germans. :-)
posted by JoddEHaa at 4:18 PM on January 1, 2007


After meeting privately with the inventor, the president spoke glowingly about how a consumer with a PV system on his roof could produce his own power and even sell it to the local utility in times of peak demand.

I thought I was reading The Onion for a bit there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:22 PM on January 1, 2007


I thought I was reading The Onion for a bit there.

Selling power back to the grid has been talked about for at least 30 years, and has been done, lots. I'm sure I saw that opportunity for my local power company as well, B.C. Hydro.
posted by Listener at 4:29 PM on January 1, 2007


...if you can make them out of flexible material, double-sided, can you make a "scrunched" solar panel...

I think the main idea would be to get the maximum surface area exposed to sunlight. A "scrunched" solar panel might always have some parts of it in the shade, which isn't a good idea. I'm not sure, but just the idea of having a huge black solar carnation on my roof sounds pretty appealing.
posted by eparchos at 4:31 PM on January 1, 2007


Selling power back to the grid has been talked about for at least 30 years, and has been done, lots

In Pennsylvania, with the local electric monopoly PECO, any energy you put back into the grid belongs to PECO.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:35 PM on January 1, 2007


The ranger station/gift shop at Gran Quivira sells their excess power to the grid. I found this interesing pdf while trying to look that up on the web, it looks to be a study of renewable energy being used/proposed in the Park Service.
posted by eparchos at 4:36 PM on January 1, 2007


in Tucson AZ the extra electricity our panels generate goes into the grid and earns us a credit so the high use months (summer) are cheaper.
posted by sineater at 4:45 PM on January 1, 2007


Dubai's latest mind-boggling project will be yet another global first - a fully rotating tower powered by the sun.
posted by nickyskye at 4:47 PM on January 1, 2007


Selling power back to the grid has been talked about for at least 30 years, and has been done, lots. I'm sure I saw that opportunity for my local power company as well, B.C. Hydro.


Sorry, I should have been more clear. The president the article was referring to is Bush, thus making me think i was reading The Onion.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:50 PM on January 1, 2007


Clearly written by someone with little understanding of who Edison was or what he did.
posted by Artw at 4:52 PM on January 1, 2007


Dubai's latest mind-boggling project will be yet another global first - a fully rotating tower powered by the sun.

Lovely idea, but what's the point of generating renewable energy to waste it on turning a tower into a skyscraper shaped carosel?
posted by MrMerlot at 5:11 PM on January 1, 2007


Hi nickyskye, I couldn't get to your link, but this link may be about the same subject.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:12 PM on January 1, 2007


I wouldn't be averse to having these on my roof. Problem is it's so expensive and will have to wait until we're able to afford major remodeling.
posted by matty at 5:47 PM on January 1, 2007


That's really neat nickyskye, I hadn't heard about that project.

From Blazecock Pileon's link on the subject: it’s just too bad that sustainable power will be wasted on such a superfluous feature.

I disagree. It is a huge, public demonstration that solar power does work. In some ways, it could make the general public more receptive to the idea of having solar panels visible on their roofs.

"It's powerful enough to spin an entire building around, it should be more than enough to cut down on what I have to pay to the electric company"

Or something like that. Solar power is a great idea, but thirty or so years of waiting for it to become really useful and usable has cooled many people's enthusiasm to the idea. A big showy project could be just the thing to change that opinion.
posted by quin at 6:09 PM on January 1, 2007


it’s just too bad that sustainable power will be wasted on such a superfluous feature

Um, if sustainable power isn't being used for something, it's being wasted.

Anyway, I remember when I was a kid, guy around here bought a local dam and spent about a year making it operational again, and then about a decade convincing the legislature to allow him to generate power and sell it to the grid.

But yeah, still, a solar roof is a major capital investment that can take years and years to pay for itself.
posted by dhartung at 6:26 PM on January 1, 2007


Cool link as usual nickyskye. At first I thought it was just a rotating top floor, but the whole damn tower rotates. Only in Dubai.
posted by vronsky at 6:35 PM on January 1, 2007


re: edison :P but still, maybe tesla!?
posted by kliuless at 6:54 PM on January 1, 2007


"But yeah, still, a solar roof is a major capital investment that can take years and years to pay for itself."

Are there any tax incentives at all in the U.S.?
posted by vronsky at 7:00 PM on January 1, 2007


“The ages of mankind have been classified by the materials they use—the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Age of Silicon. We are at the dawn of the Hydrogen Age.” So proclaims Stanford Ovshinsky, co-founder of Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), a company based near Detroit, Michigan. “What is more,” he says, “the hydrogen economy is happening already.”

I don't know, we're just a couple decades into the silicon age.

Also we won't need Hydrogen in the future, cars will be powered by pure Hyperbole.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 PM on January 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Something I've wondered about solar panels: if you can make them out of flexible material, double-sided, can you make a "scrunched" solar panel, like a rose or carnation petals, which might allow more surface area to be packed into the same physical space?

They would get just as much sunlight as a flat surface facing the sun.
posted by delmoi at 7:13 PM on January 1, 2007


Are there any tax incentives at all in the U.S.?

In Cali, SB 1 takes effect today.

An intelligent solar deployment could in fact really open up the sunbelt (including California's Central Valley and inland desert areas), provided we also work on the water angle.

As for "scrunching" cells, the limiting factor is sqm of insolation (incoming sunlight), not the size of the PV cell itself. PV, provided it's adequately cooled, works better when lenses are used to concentrate the incoming light.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:59 PM on January 1, 2007


It's great when the "crazy people" hang in there long enough so that people start to realize they need that crazy stuff.

"Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They're not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things."

All the hundreds of billions invested in nuclear, and these guys had to stumble along on piddly-ass, grumbling crumbs. What a world.
posted by Twang at 8:02 PM on January 1, 2007


re: the water angle
posted by kliuless at 8:16 PM on January 1, 2007


I've thought about getting solar panels, a gas stove and so on, but as far as I can tell it would just be a sop to my conscience. Power is so cheap here. my monthly bill is around sixty bucks. It would take forever to pay for itself.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:46 PM on January 1, 2007


It would take forever to pay for itself

by design. The PV manufacturers calculate how much you'll save and can charge that much less $0.01 cuz that's what the market will bear, given the supply/demand situation.

The whole point of the fpp is to bring production efficiencies to where INTC & AMD are as they pump out CPUs by the bushel.

For the sunbelt, which runs its AC exactly at the peak demand times, solar is a total no-brainer.

Going with the $5/watt retail cost, the sunk cost of making Saddam "room temperature" (in the patois of wingnuts) could have bought enough PV capacity to cover California's peak grid usage by a factor of 2X.

Thanks, Ralph.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:31 PM on January 1, 2007


In some places, possibly all of the US, the power company is required to let you sell power back to them for a credit. But some companies put enough obstacles in you way to make it effectively impossible. OTOH, my local (monopoly, government-owned) power utility is pretty cooperative and helpful in this regard; there are some hoops to jump through, but they're mostly reasonable ones.
posted by hattifattener at 10:53 PM on January 1, 2007


aeschenkarnos: A PV panel's output is limited by insolation and by "quantum efficiency" (the fact that a given semiconductor junction is only converting a single energy/wavelength of photon, corresponding to the bandgap of the material; less-energetic photons don't contribute, and more-energetic photons have the excess converted to heat). Scrunching it up wouldn't help either of these. It would also put the panel into partial shade, and partial shade is about the worst thing you can do for a PV panel: it ends up taking the energy captured by the illuminated portions and then re-emitting it from the shaded portions as infrared, with only a small amount of energy coming out as electric power.

The quantum-efficiency and partial-shading problems are big reasons why solar-thermal power is still better than PV in large installations: take a bunch of mirrors, heat some steam, and run a turbine.
posted by hattifattener at 11:03 PM on January 1, 2007


He and his wife Iris were so cute/inspiring in Who Killed the Electric Car? Coolest part of the movie, I think.
posted by Boydrop at 12:14 AM on January 2, 2007


Deeply fascinating, thanks kliuless for the link !

People like the two of them are likely to win a Nobel for Peace , with expression such as “with the oppressed, against the oppressor”

Indeed if you think about it, we don't stricly _need to consume_ all the energy we are using as the most needed powered tools are, probably

a) refrigerator
b) light for illumination
c) heating elements

TV isn't a strict necessity..but this *heresy* I just dared to speak is supported by the insignificant power demands of radio, dear ol' FM and AM. Have you noticed how long batteries can last on a radio if you don't pump up the volume to max ?

Thanks to LCD technology we can already save significantly by switching from a 17" CRT monitor (+- 62W for modern models) to a 17" LCD (+- 30W)

Compact flourescent and Sulfur lamps are incredibly efficients when compared to old incandescent bulbs.

Yet the keyword is taking _control_ of production and satisfy at least _part_ of one personal energy demands. Once _dependency_ is significantly reduced (even if not completely eliminated) the balance of power (in all senses) will change.
posted by elpapacito at 2:45 AM on January 2, 2007


Another point that isn't well maide in Who Killed the Electric Car (avaiable on mininova torrents et al) is that

1. Joe can't drill 2km under hard rock to get his oil , refine it and get gasoline
2. Joe can easily put solar panels on his roof

And it is a LOT easier to generate electricity on a spot than generation hydrogen or gasoline
posted by elpapacito at 8:45 AM on January 2, 2007


If Joe has the square footage Jow would be a lot better off putting up a wind turbine and raking in some real power.
posted by Artw at 10:04 AM on January 2, 2007


Thanks Blazecock Pileon for offering an additional link to the rotating solar powered skyscraper in Dubai project.

Solar powered GPS, garage, bus, underwater robot, aircraft.
posted by nickyskye at 10:35 PM on January 2, 2007


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