5 Remarkable Innovations in Solar Energy Technology
In late 2016, global information and technology company Bloomberg reported that solar power will become the cheapest form of new energy. Solar is now able to compete with coal and natural gas, and new solar projects are less expensive to build than wind projects.
The new generation of solar products aims for more efficient and affordable clean energy.
Here are five of the latest innovations in solar energy technology:
Solar Power at Home
The concept of putting solar panels on your roof is not new but there are a few innovations that create more attractive alternatives to regular bulky silicon panels.
Tesla plans to increase the market for solar energy with their new solar shingles. By 2018, these will be available in four different designs, making them look exactly like traditional roofing materials from street level. Tesla founder Elon Musk proudly announced in 2016 that these new shingles will be infinitely durable and “cheaper than a regular roof”.
SolTech Energy doesn’t just want to use roofs to collect sunlight, but walls as well. The Swedish solar energy company has created SolTech ST, which uses transparent thin film solar cells to combine solar energy with shade. These solar cells can replace windows or glass walls and can generate electricity from the light that comes into your house. They can also provide shade, which will lower the expenses for air conditioning.
In 2016, Idaho-based startup Solar Roadways tested a solar-powered pavement technology on sidewalks along Route 66. They currently provide power for the Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway but the hexagonal and LED-embedded solar panels are able to generate clean energy that will be used to light roads at night or to melt snow in the winter.
Solaroad is a Dutch concept of solar panels, which were already installed on bike paths in 2014. The goal is to create renewable energy through sunlight that can then be used for traffic lights, in households, and for electric vehicles. The concept is currently commercially available and there are plans to implement it on roads in the US later this year.
Wearable Solar Technology
Solar watches have been on the market for years now but Marianne Fairbanks and Trisha Andrew, two assistant professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have created a new way to wear solar technology. They produced small and flexible solar panels that can be stitched into the fabric of your clothing. The solar panels generate power through motion, so an ideal application would be in sports clothing and shoes. This concept could also be used in your home by integrating solar panels into window curtains. This way, you could generate energy from the sunlight you don’t want to come through your window.
Sundrop Farms has managed to build a successful farm in the middle of the Australian desert, despite the lack of fresh water. They water their crops with sea water after it has been pumped through a thermal desalination system, which is entirely powered by solar energy. Thus, they have achieved to use only completely renewable energy sources without relying on weather or soil conditions. Now the company is looking to expand globally, starting in Portugal and the US.
A Molecular Leaf
A group of international scientists at Indiana University have managed to generate and store solar energy without using solar panels. In a study published earlier this year, it is reported that they created a molecule, the so-called molecular ‘leaf’, that absorbs sunlight due to its dark color. The sunlight is then used to power the ‘leaf’, which can reduce carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere by recycling Carbon dioxide and turning it into Carbon monoxide. According to scientists, this invention is the most efficient method of carbon reduction so far.
A Bright Future for Solar Power
There is no doubt that harnessing solar power is becoming increasingly important in our struggle against environmental pollution and global warming.
Reducing the use of finite fossil fuels and taking advantage of the abundant green energy sources instead has significant benefits for us and our planet. The scientific and industrial community are cooperating to develop innovative methods and will need to continue to do so in order for solar to become the dominant form of power.