As concerns about climate change and global warming continue, and with the sudden increase in gas prices due to political instability in parts of the world, now would seem to be an excellent time to focus our efforts on renewable energies like wind, hydroelectric and solar. One engineering team at the University of Arizona had the same idea long before it became prudent, and now they have taken a significant step towards that goal, developing a solar concentrator that delivers a light output/concentration rate that is over 1,000x more focused before it hits the solar cell.
This is part of a larger goal that the team, led by Roger Angel, has: to find a way to make solar energy cost competitive against fossil fuels that currently amount to a majority of American electricity generation.
This system is significantly different from current solar power-generating systems in a number of ways. For starters, it uses absolutely no water and generates a much higher volume of electricity in terms of the amount of land needed for the equipment. The device also uses triple-unction solar cells, which are commercially available and allow for the capture of different wavelengths of light. The components are all built of lightweight materials to allow for relatively easy portability, and can be built on-site.
There are still a number of hurdles ahead. For example, as of right now the goal at the University of Arizona is to get the cost of the device down to $1/W. While that may sound expensive, if this is meant for the initial investment you could very well see this machine drive prices of electricity down to around two-cents per watt for the average consumer. Conquering this challenge would be vital towards getting Earth off of fossil fuels in the next 40 years.