These are our natural resources: Sun and Sea. But although we have an abundance of both, we are not focusing on ways to harness them. Now, of course, we do exploit the Sun and Sea in the tourist industry. And that is fine. But there is so much more potential, if we would but focus. The sun can be turned into electricity and the sea can be used for fish-farming. These uses are still a rarity in the Caribbean, despite the sun’s literally burning desire to be exploited.
Talking about focus. A new American company – Solfocus – has innovated photovoltaic cells by focusing the sunlight on solar material. Their ‘Concentrating Photovoltaics’ (CPV) technology promises to drive solar energy generation to cost-parity with energy generated using fossil fuels.
This is what the company says: ‘The technology is streamlined and focused on being highly reliable, highly manufacturable, and low cost. SolFocus’ CPV technology uses 1/1000 the active, or expensive, material of traditional PV systems. Since the area required is so small, SolFocus can afford to use the absolute best cell technology in the world. These solar cells offer efficiencies approaching 40% - nearly twice that of the best silicon. In combination with the company’s optical and mechanical design, this technology promises to deliver solar energy which is cost-competitive with energy from conventional sources’.
Yet another promising approach
A company called ‘Nanosolar’ has developed technology that makes it possible to simply roll-print photovoltaic material that requires only 1/100th as thick an absorber as a silicon-wafer cell (yet deliver similar performance and durability). The photovoltaic material has been turned into a kind of ink, which can be sprayed on to metal foil. The end-product is flexible photovoltaic foil which can be glued on to other materials such a roof-plates etc.
Countless other initiatives are being taken, but all of them in Asia, Europe or North-America. What a great pity that one of the areas in the world with the most sun – the Caribbean – is not focusing on these technologies. We remain – as always – on the receiving end. We would urge our governments to pass legislation to make it extremely attractive for solar technology companies to establish production and research facilities in our region. Instead of being eternal followers, we should try and become leaders for a change. Sun and the Sea technology is where we could naturally become leaders, if we focus.