MIT discovers how to make cheap solar panels from old car batteries

What do we do with gazillions of old, toxic car batteries? Simple. Turn them into cheap solar panels!

What do we do with gazillions of old, toxic car batteries? Simple. Turn them into cheap solar panels of course!

Cheap solar panels made from old car batteries?

Yup! That is the latest clean energy recycling breakthrough from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). And the verdict at SQHQ is “GENIUS!”.

[Read more...]

Are They Really Tier 1 Solar Panels? Six Questions You Must Ask.

tier 1 solar panel

Some solar companies are claiming that their Tier 3 panels are really Tier 1. How can you identify real Tier 1 Solar panels?

For many years now I’ve been banging on about “Tier 1 Solar Panels”. My recommendation has always been that you should spend a few hundred dollars more for Tier 1 panels, so that you can massively reduce the risk of having crappy solar panels on your roof. [Read more...]

Are those cheap solar panels grey imports?

solar panels in a box

If you’ve been offered really cheap solar panels, please check that they are not grey imports.

Recently, a number of people have asked me about parallel or ‘grey’ imports of solar panels.

Parallel imports are defined as products (in our case, solar panels) that are imported unofficially by someone other than the manufacturer or their official Australian distributors.

Interestingly, in this day and age with so much online and internet based trade, the lines on this issue have become a little blurred. Some manufacturers will supply you directly with their product, but the majority do not. Most panel manufacturers have carefully developed formal partnerships in place with Australian companies who distribute their panels and provide technical and warranty support for those panels.

Why is parallel importing a problem? [Read more...]

Solar panel innovation (part one): quantum dots and solar windows

quantum dots

Quantum dots embedded in plastic film can capture sunlight and make windows into cheap solar panels. Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Both ends of solar panel innovation are covered in this and next week’s solar rants readers. These courtesy of heads ups provided by our very own Finn Peacock and SolarQuotes reader and follower Sad Clownfish.

By both ends I mean solar power from the impossibly small to the…well stratospheric.

Let me explain. [Read more...]

Do Hanover Solar HS250P Panels meet their own specifications?

moment of truth

The tension is killing me!

A mate of mine in the solar industry has a theory: that many  solar panels sold in Australia do not meet the specifications printed on their labels. His belief comes from the fact that he has personally tested a whole heap of imported panels and has not yet found one that meets its power tolerance spec!

My hunch is that many of the cheaper ‘Tier 3′  panels on the market may not meet their power tolerance specs, but I’ll be very surprised if the more expensive Tier 1 panels don’t.

For those who don’t know, the power tolerance gives you a tolerance for the actual power output of the panel, compared to its nameplate rating. Basically, if a panel that is rated as 250W has a power tolerance of +/- 5% then the manufacturer is guaranteeing that the actual power will be above 237.5W and under 262.5W. [Read more...]

Has Finn got it hopelessly wrong on thin film solar?

finn in dunce's hat

Should we let him out of the dunce’s corner?

The world record for thin film solar cell efficiency recently announced by First Solar (17 percent thank you very much) has got the solar movers and shakers sitting up and taking notice. Even our very own Finn Peacock was seen nodding his head sagely at the news over his solar-powered coffee last week.

Long a supporter of crystalline solar panels over thin film solar the recent advancements have got Finn thinking he may have been too harsh in the past. For an insight into where Finn’s mind was at on the subject a few years ago, read this hard-hitting 29/12/2011 article.

But has our Finn been completely won over by the world record solar cell efficiency of thin film? Or is it a case of “let’s see shall we?” Never one to miss out on a good, developing solar story with an Aussie twist, your correspondent caught up with Finn at the virtual SQHQ water cooler. With notebook and biro in hand the following interview with Finn was recorded. [Read more...]

ANU and Trina Solar Panels smash solar efficiency targets.

a solar cell

Trina and ANU are making kick-ass solar cells together!

With the start of the NRL (AFL just around the corner), the Spring cycling classics in Europe and as women’s and men’s football and others reach the pointy end of their respective seasons, its a case of too much teamwork is barely enough for your correspondent. However a more important form of teamwork was announced late last month. Chinese solar manufacturers Trina and our very own Australian National University (ANU) have combined to create a new, super conversion efficiency in solar cells. This has the potential to make Trina solar panels even more cost effective.

[Read more...]

Chinese Sopray, Risen and ET solar panels come top in German testing.

chinese panels and a trophy

China win #1 solar panel for 2013 (although US firm Sunpower was robbed!)

Hot off the German Press: industry bible Photon Magazine has announced the winners of its 2013 solar panel test. Basically, a bunch of Germans in white coats mount a gazillion solar panels in a field in Germany and measure their power output over 12 months.

At this point I must point out that 3 separate Sunpower models would have won all of the top 3 spots, but they had to remove them from the table due to a testing machine malfunction…so it is by no means a totally fair test. But it is useful to see which brands perform well despite this rare cock up from our German friends.

So here here are the top 20 for 2013: [Read more...]

Sky’s the limit for solar cell innovation as new breakthrough aims for 50 percent conversion rate

50 percent efficiency

Yes you read that right : 50%

One of our favourite subjects — solar cells and more specifically solar cell innovation and breakthroughs — is covered in this week’s SQHQ spray readers.

I think I’ve mentioned, in a previous rant in these pages, one of the enduring memories I have of seeing the famous environmentalist/author/activist Professor David Suzuki in 2007 was his rhetorical question that kicked off the night: why wasn’t every house in Australia covered in solar panels? [Read more...]

If your Chinese solar panels are not on one of these lists, be careful!

chinese solar panels

Some Chinese panels are top quality. But which ones?

A lot of people are wary of Chinese solar panels. China doesn’t exactly cover itself in glory with some of the low quality junk it manufactures. But, as I have said many times before, China also produces some fantastic quality stuff.

Need examples? I bet the device you are reading this blog on was made in the People’s Republic. The Macbook Pro I am writing it on certainly was and it is impeccably put together (the laptop – not the blog!). [Read more...]