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From the Sun to the Grid -- Solar Energy Research at the U of A, Arkansas magazine, Summer 2011 issue

Just a fraction of the sun’s light could provide our planet with all the energy we need, so why isn’t solar power more widespread?

“It’s the cost,” says Alan Mantooth, professor of electrical

engineering, explaining that the price of solar energy must come down in order to compete with nuclear, coal and natural gas. “Right now, we’re not at what we call grid parity.”

Although the price of solar panels has been dropping the past few years, and individuals can substantially reduce their electricity bills by installing panels, the cost of providing solar power as a sole energy source through a power plant is still prohibitive. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that in 2016, the cost of producing solar energy will be almost four times the cost of producing energy from coal.

In order to make solar power comparable in cost to other forms of energy – to achieve grid parity – researchers at the University of Arkansas are looking at every piece of the solar puzzle, from the materials that capture light’s energy to the current that flows into our homes.

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