Big Step in Solar Efficiency?

February 28, 2023

Above – perovskite.


Scientists have made a discovery that could finally realise the practical potential of the so-called miracle material perovskite for solar cells.

A team from North Carolina State University said the findings pave the way for a new generation of ultra-efficient solar panels that are also lighter and more flexible than current technologies.

Perovskite has been hailed for its promise to transform everything from high-speed communications to renewable energy technologies. Its unusual properties could vastly improve the efficiency of solar energy harvesting compared to traditional silicon-based cells, however until now researchers have been unable to realise this outside of a lab.

“The opens the door to a host of new technologies, such as flexible, lightweight solar cells, or layered solar cells – known as tandems – that can be far more efficient than the solar harvesting technology used today in so-called solar farms,” said Aram Amassian, a professor of materials science and engineering at North Carolina State University, who was involved in the discovery.

“There’s interest in integrating perovskite materials into silicon solar cell technologies, which would improve their efficiency from 25 per cent to 40 per cent while also making use of existing infrastructure.”

Despite being better at absorbing light than silicon, perovskite has proved too unstable to use within commercial solar cells.

The breakthrough centres on the way ions are channelled into defined pathways in perovskite materials in order to improve their stability and operational performance.

“We have not found a way to prevent ions from moving through perovskite materials, but we have found that it is possible to steer these ions into a safe conduit that does not impair the material’s structural integrity or performance,” said Professor Amassian. “It’s a big step forward.”

A paper detailing the research, titled ‘A multiscale ion diffusion framework sheds light on the diffusion-stability-hysteresis nexus in metal halide perovskites’, was published in the scientific journal Nature Materials on Monday.


Good snowpack in California can help – but Colorado Basin not getting as big a bang.

Lake Mead and Lake Powell still at record low levels.

Note: Make sure you watch Part 1 of this series if you have not yet.

15 years ago when I started talking to climate scientist on a regular basis, it was clear they were under coordinated attack.

Onerous FOIA requests, legal intimidation, bogus “investigations” to get them in the media in an unflattering way, along with a steady stream of abuse, slander, and bald threats. One scientist had a dead animal placed on his doorstep. See the ABC News item below for more details.

Behind the scenes, manipulating and coordinating the attacks were a number of shadowy, dark money funded “think tanks”, but prominent among them was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which later became the American Traditions Institute, (ATI) which and eventually rebranded as E&E Legal, which remains today.

In 2012, leaked documents described a event in Washington DC, organized by ATI, which invited a number of right wing activists to be trained as opponents of clean energy, which at the time was, for the most part, a rapidly growing wind industry.
The “wind warriors” were indoctrinated in climate denial by a real estate speculator and self styled “Physicist” John Droz.


“These documents show for the first time that local Nimby anti-wind groups are co-ordinating and working with national fossil-fuel funded advocacy groups to wreck the wind industry,” said Gabe Elsner, a co-director of the Checks and Balances, the accountability group which unearthed the proposal and other documents.

Among its main recommendations, the proposal calls for a national PR campaign aimed at causing “subversion in message of industry so that it effectively because so bad that no one wants to admit in public they are for it.”

It suggests setting up “dummy businesses” to buy anti-wind billboards, and creating a “counter-intelligence branch” to track the wind energy industry. It also calls for spending $750,000 to create an organisation with paid staff and tax-exempt status dedicated to building public opposition to state and federal government policies encouraging the wind energy industry.

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More cutting edge reporting from CNBC’s Diana Olick.

Food waste is a massive contributor to heat trapping gases. Composting is being re-imagined to deal with it.

Is this real? or Cold Fusion 2.0?

Peter Coy in the New York Times:

Sure, we’ve known about the hydrogen that’s locked up with oxygen in water molecules and with carbon in fossil fuels like propane. But we — and by “we” I mean everybody except for a handful of scientists and some people in Mali (I’ll get to that) — never really saw, and never expected to see, hydrogen floating around on its own in gaseous form.

“Hydrogen does not exist freely in nature,” the National Renewable Energy Laboratory confidently states on its website. “Hydrogen occurs naturally on Earth only in compound form with other elements in liquids, gases or solids,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration avers.

In fact, though, hydrogen gas does exist in large quantities in Earth’s crust, a fantastic bit of news that has gotten altogether too little attention. Right now, hydrogen is mostly produced from methane, releasing carbon dioxide. That’s dirty, although there are ways to capture the carbon dioxide. Hydrogen can also be produced from water, but that takes a lot of electricity.

Just think how much cheaper and easier would it be if we could drill for hydrogen the same way we drill for oil and natural gas, and thus put to good use society’s enormous investment in equipment built for the exploration, production and transportation of fossil fuels.

I found out about what scientists call natural hydrogen from reading an excellent article published on Feb. 16 in the journal Science, titled “Hidden Hydrogen,” which asks, “does Earth hold vast stores of a renewable, carbon-free fuel?” I interviewed several of the scientists who are at the forefront of studying natural hydrogen, and I read their academic papers.


IN THE SHADE of a mango tree, Mamadou Ngulo Konaré recounted the legendary event of his childhood. In 1987, well diggers had come to his village of Bourakébougou, Mali, to drill for water, but had given up on one dry borehole at a depth of 108 meters. “Meanwhile, wind was coming out of the hole,” Konaré told Denis Brière, a petrophysicist and vice president at Chapman Petroleum Engineering, in 2012. When one driller peered into the hole while smoking a cigarette, the wind exploded in his face.

“He didn’t die, but he was burned,” Konaré continued. “And now we had a huge fire. The color of the fire in daytime was like blue sparkling water and did not have black smoke pollution. The color of the fire at night was like shining gold, and all over the fields we could see each other in the light. … We were very afraid that our village would be destroyed.”

It took the crew weeks to snuff out the fire and cap the well. And there it sat, shunned by the villagers, until 2007. That was when Aliou Diallo, a wealthy Malian businessman, politician, and chair of Petroma, an oil and gas company, acquired the rights to prospect in the region surrounding Bourakébougou. “We have a saying that human beings are made of dirt, but the devil is made of fire,” Diallo says. “It was a cursed place. I said, ‘Well, cursed places, I like to turn them into places of blessing.’”

In 2012, he recruited Chapman Petroleum to determine what was coming out of the borehole. Sheltered from the 50°C heat in a mobile lab, Brière and his technicians discovered that the gas was 98% hydrogen. That was extraordinary: Hydrogen almost never turns up in oil operations, and it wasn’t thought to exist within the Earth much at all. “We had celebrations with large mangos that day,” Brière says.

Within a few months, Brière’s team had installed a Ford engine tuned to burn hydrogen. Its exhaust was water. The engine was hooked up to a 30-kilowatt generator that gave Bourakébougou its first electrical benefits: freezers to make ice, lights for evening prayers at the mosque, and a flat-screen TV so the village chief could watch soccer games. Children’s test scores also improved. “They had the lighting to learn their lessons before going to class in the morning,” Diallo says. He soon gave up on oil, changed the name of his company to Hydroma, and began drilling new wells to ascertain the size of the underground supply.

The Malian discovery was vivid evidence for what a small group of scientists, studying hints from seeps, mines, and abandoned wells, had been saying for years: Contrary to conventional wisdom, large stores of natural hydrogen may exist all over the world, like oil and gas—but not in the same places. These researchers say water-rock reactions deep within the Earth continuously generate hydrogen, which percolates up through the crust and sometimes accumulates in underground traps. There might be enough natural hydrogen to meet burgeoning global demand for thousands of years, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) model that was presented in October 2022 at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.

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Looking at relative electric prices vs renewable penetration among various state is instructive. EIA has a great page for this.

Karin Kirk at Yale Climate Connections:

Electricity is changing. As states like Minnesota commit to 100% carbon-free electric power, Montana is opting to double down on coal. Some of these developments make headlines, while others go unnoticed – though they’re no less important. Case in point: Can you guess which state generates the largest fraction of its electricity from renewable sources?

The answer: South Dakota. That state produced 83% of its in-state electricity from renewable sources in 2021, the result of its impressive implementation of wind energy. Between 2019 and 2021, South Dakota more than tripled wind energy production.

Bonus data points

  • The other leading states on this measure — Vermont, Washington, and Idaho — all derive the majority of their renewable energy from hydropower.
  • Texas produces the most renewable energy of any state, but it also generates an outsized amount of electricity from fossil fuels. So renewables only account for 26% of the state’s total electricity production. In 2021, 44% of Texas’s electricity came from fossil gas, also known as natural gas.

Looking at the EIA’s rankings of states by residential electricity rates, Hawaii is tops, – understandable because of the predominance of oil (for diesel generators I presume) as a source.
EIA says:

Hawaii has the highest electricity retail price of any state and it is nearly triple the U.S. average rate, in part because the state relies on imported petroleum for 60% of its electricity generation.

Right after that, it gets interesting. Number 2 is New Hampshire.

Next comes Rhode Island, below;

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May I first say that I wish Senator Inhofe a speedy recovery.
That said, biology, like physics, has rules that we violate at our peril.

Huffington Post:

Former Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) attributed his decision to retire due to the long-term effects of COVID-19, telling local newspaper Tulsa World that certain symptoms were still affecting him day-to-day. 

Inhofe voted against multiple coronavirus aid packages meant to help Americans at the height of the pandemic, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act approved overwhelmingly by 90 senators in March 2020, and the American Rescue Plan in March 2021.

The 88-year-old did not say which symptoms he was dealing with. But he suggested he was in good company, alleging that other elected representatives in Congress are also struggling with long COVID behind the scenes.

“Five or six others have (long COVID), but I’m the only one who admits it,” Inhofe told Tulsa World. 

At least one Democratic senator, Tim Kaine of Virginia, has spoken openlyabout his experience with lingering symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Part 1 here.
I am trying to elevate the voices of farmers I spoke to in Montcalm County, Michigan – their experience is shared by others across the country. Keeping our farms and farm communities intact against encroaching sprawl means giving farmer the means to diversify their income.

City folks who (rightly) are asking for more clean, climate safe energy, need to know that none of their righteous “100 percent renewable” pledges can play out unless farmers, and the small town officials who represent them, get some support.

Inside Climate News:

Two years ago, Illinois had adopted a landmark clean energy law that called for building vast amounts of renewable power. At the same time, 15 counties with some of the most land available for wind and solar had passed, or were about to pass, restrictions on new development that made the state’s goals more difficult to reach.

Something had to give.

That something came last month, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that took away the ability of local governments to limit or ban wind and solar power, a measure that follows similar actions in California and New York.

Sarah King, a Northern Illinois University law professor, said there is a growing awareness that local control of development can be harmful if the result is a shutdown in new construction due to pressure from local residents.

“It has become so clear that if we are serious about decarbonization, then the scale on which we need to be adopting renewable energy is vast,” she said.

Her legal work includes representing property owners in Piatt County, located in central Illinois, who have leased their property for Goose Creek Wind Farm, a 300-megawatt proposal. County officials in January approved a moratorium on wind farm applications, but that doesn’t include the application for Goose Creek, which is still pending.

King said the existential threat of climate change means that the regulatory system needs to err on the side of allowing renewable energy development, even if that means reducing local control.

Below – farmers weigh in on need for state level regulation on clean energy.

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More from my series of interviews in Montcalm County, MI.
Stay tuned for a 2 part Yale piece that drills deeper.