- “solar Power Breakthroughs: A Game-changer For Electricity Generation”
- Solar Thermophotovoltaic Devices: A Game Changer In The Tech Industry
- A Breakthrough That Makes Solar Panels Better Than Ever Longi
“solar Power Breakthroughs: A Game-changer For Electricity Generation” – The dream of a solar society has fascinated us for decades. But the costs involved in piping solar energy into the electricity grid remain too high. Now, solar power could get the efficiency boost it needs – thanks to a corporate takeover.
Last week, Tesla, which makes batteries big enough to power your home — and also happens to make the best-selling electric car — announced it was buying SolarCity, one of the leading solar panel installers in the US. Backed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who founded both companies, the combined expertise could provide a step forward for the needs of the emerging solar industry.
“solar Power Breakthroughs: A Game-changer For Electricity Generation”
The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly in the last decade, but providing stable power from solar power is more complex than just hooking up more panels. Grid operators need a way to store solar energy to even out the supply at night and when it’s cloudy.
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Several experimental sites are investigating how best to do this for renewable sources such as solar and wind. The Solana Solar Plant in Gila Bend, Arizona, pumps excess heat into giant vats of salt, which is good for absorbing heat. When power is needed, piped water through salt causes it to boil and produces steam that drives a turbine. In Texas, a giant array of batteries supports the Notris Wind Farm, keeping the power flowing when the wind dies.
Both projects turn unreliable renewables into reliable power plants – but at a cost. “While storage deployment is increasing, it is not widespread,” says Matt Cromer, who leads the SunDial project at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Boston.
Simply plugging solar panels into a battery isn’t enough, says Aminul Huq of the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. Batteries are stressed every charge cycle and die quickly if not managed carefully.
To get around this, firms are turning to software. Cromer says SunDial uses data on electricity demand, weather forecasts and electricity prices, as well as data from the solar panels and the storage system itself. The software uses all this information to make better decisions about when to charge and discharge the batteries, extending their life. It can also help energy providers balance supply and demand, smoothing out peaks.
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Tesla and SolarCity could do the same. With batteries in cars and homes that can store solar energy when needed, Tesla can ease the supply of solar energy into the grid.
A similar approach is already being tested in pilot schemes across the US. Arizona Public Service — the utility that serves the Phoenix area and connects to the Solana plant — is in the midst of deploying solar panels and batteries to 1,500 homes.
Although the panels and storage are spread across many rooftops, they are effectively roped into a single 10-megawatt power plant that APS can control. Project SunDial plans a pilot in Massachusetts in which 2 megawatts of solar power and storage are controlled by the local utility.
This kind of integration is exactly what the relationship between Tesla and SolarCity promises — but on a much larger scale. Soon there could be a power plant on every roof.
A Dutch Chinese Breakthrough That Makes Solar Panels Better Than Ever
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British rooftops could host a breakthrough in new solar energy technology by next summer, using a crystal first discovered more than 200 years ago to help harness more of the sun’s power.
An Oxford-based solar technology company hopes to start manufacturing the world’s most efficient solar panels by the end of the year and become the first to sell them to the public next year.
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Oxford PV claims that next-generation solar panels will be able to generate almost a third more electricity than traditional silicon-based solar panels by coating the panels with a thin layer of a crystalline material called perovskite.
The breakthrough would offer the first major change in solar power generation since the technology emerged in the 1950s, and could play a major role in tackling the climate crisis by boosting clean energy.
By coating a traditional solar cell with perovskite, the solar panel can increase its energy output and reduce the overall cost of clean electricity, because the crystal is able to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum than traditional silicon.
Typically, a silicon solar cell can convert up to about 22% of available solar energy into electricity. But in June 2018, Oxford PV’s silicon perovskite solar cell outperformed the best-performing silicon-only solar cell by reaching a new world record of 27.3%.
Solar Thermophotovoltaic Devices: A Game Changer In The Tech Industry
Perovskite coated panels will look different. Instead of the blue tint usually associated with traditional silicon panels, Oxford PV panels will appear black and blend in better with the roof tiles.
The mineral perovskite, also known as crystalline calcium titanate, was first discovered by a Russian mineralogist in the Ural Mountains in 1839. crystalline structure, but which can generate more renewable electricity at a lower cost.
Dr Chris Case, chief technology officer at Oxford PV, said using perovskite represented a “real game changer” for solar technology, which has remained relatively unchanged since the silicon-based panels developed in the 1950s.
“Silicon has reached its peak of capability,” he said. “There are still improvements to be made and opportunities for manufacturing costs, but from a performance standpoint it’s at the edge of its efficiency.” “The perovskite material is something completely innovative for solar energy.”
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The company won £100,000 in UK government funding in 2010, before attracting equity investment from Norwegian oil giant Equinor, Legal & General Capital and Chinese renewable energy giant Goldwind.
Frank Averdung, chief executive of Oxford PV, said the company would be able to steal a march on the first commercially available solar panels using perovskite to improve solar output against the company’s rivals.
“There are other companies working on perovskite, of course, and these other companies will eventually have a commercial focus, but none of these companies have the same focus on the combination of silicon and perovskite that we do,” he said. Solar power is currently leading the charge for renewable energy, and it’s easy to see why. Solar panels are easy to install, dirt cheap and last for decades. But they are not without their drawbacks. It takes a huge amount of energy to make a single panel, and in the process, it releases heaps of carbon emissions and deadly toxic byproducts. But a recent discovery could change that by making untapped solar technology much more powerful. But is this enough to make solar the ultimate clean energy?
Our current solar panel technology is based on silicon. These panels are largely unchanged since their first inception in the 80s, with some efficiency upgrades along the way, allowing them to be around 15% efficient today. But the real evolution over the decades has been the price. Nowadays, solar panels, and therefore energy, would cost orders of magnitude more than fossil fuels. But now, the cost of the panel has come down drastically to the point where it is the cheapest form of energy available. This is why solar energy is the fastest growing low carbon energy source.
A Breakthrough That Makes Solar Panels Better Than Ever Longi
But silicone is a complex material to work with. It takes a lot of energy, catalysts and waste to make each one. In fact, it takes 250 kWh of energy to make one panel. That’s enough energy to drive a Tesla Model S over 800 miles. It is possible to power this electricity with renewable energy, but many manufacturers do not because it is impractical and opt to use fossil fuel energy instead. This is why solar panels are not carbon neutral despite producing no emissions while producing electricity. Instead, the total carbon emissions from manufacturing are averaged over the lifetime of the panel.
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