Up and away: high altitude solar balloons ready for take off

solar ballons

A solar ballon concept. Picture: E. Jullien/pixscience

High altitude solar balloons deployed where clouds won’t interfere with their output may be the stuff of science fiction. But are they? At least one reputable research house thinks this is where solar panels should be, saving space used for solar farms for much needed agricultural land. All while more than doubling solar conversion efficiency. [Read more…]

How solar energy is revolutionising microfarming

a solar powered micro farm

A solar powered 2 hectare farm that arrives in a shipping container. Pic: Farm-out-of-a-box

The advantages of solar energy in rural communities is well documented. Particularly those who are located in more remote parts of the land and countries where access to the grid is difficult, if not impossible.

For isolated communities in developing countries face enormous problems, both financial and logistical, to access centralised energy. To remedy this, aid organisations now supply people with solar panels for energy, lighting and heating. However this week saw news of a partnership between solar inverter leader SMA and practical aid group Farm from a Box that promises to take solar energy and micro-farming to a new level. [Read more…]

Pane relief on its way with transparent solar cell technology

stacked uPVC windows

Is this what solar panel warehouses will look like in the future?

Completely transparent windows that generate solar power have been a goal for researchers for many decades. Previous attempts at transparent solar cell technology have achieved only partial success with the windows left with a decided tinted effect and the resulting office/room space.

This is not the ideal working conditions for offices, unless of course you work in a discotheque!

However now a team of researchers at Michigan State University have resolved that problem by unveiling their unique transparent solar cell technology, which creates energy from the sun when placed over a window or glass surface. [Read more…]

Harry Potter-style invisibility cloaks to improve solar cell efficiency?

Image credit: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Cloak_of_Invisibility

Image credit: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Cloak_of_Invisibility

In a development that will bring a smile to the faces of Harry Potter fans, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) announced this week the success of using invisibility cloaks to improve solar cell efficiency.

While the technology sounds very J. K. Rowling, the benefits of invisibility cloaks for solar cell efficiency — or at least technology that acts very much like invisibility cloaks — are very real. [Read more…]

Stanford team develops coating to boost solar cell efficiency

 mono and poly crystalline solar cells

When solar cells get hot they lose efficiency. Researchers have developed a coating that keeps cells cooler.

Contrary to popular thought, heat reduces solar cell efficiency. As the cells heat up from the direct glare of the sun, their efficiency in converting light into electricity drops markedly. Depending on the system used and the location, losses can reduce output up to 10 to 25 percent.

This conundrum has vexed the industry for many years. After all, solar cells need the sun to work and this generates heat. So how to solve this problem and increase the light-to-electricity efficiency of solar cells?

Enter a team of researchers from Stanford University who have developed a transparent coating for the cells. The film keeps the cells cool as they heat up under the sun. Made of patterned silicon, the secret to this remarkable film is that, while it allows visible light to pass, it also absorbs and even emits the infrared rays, the source of thermal radiation. [Read more…]

Facebook, solar energy and drones join to connect billions to the Internet

facebook drone

Solar Power – delivering the internet to millions. Image: Facebook

What do Facebook, solar energy and drones have in common? Not a great deal you may think; after all drones have a sinister reputation in our day and age. For they are usually thought of as accessories to destroy, maim or kill, the latest in warrior technology designed to conquer and “take out” perceived or real enemies.

Indeed it’s difficult to think of a drone being used for a positive purpose such as to help people connect, interact and research. However Facebook is out to prove us wrong on this point with its Aquila drone and it is solar energy that will power this drone connectivity revolution. [Read more…]

How much will eliminating silver in solar cells drive costs down?

silver bars and solar panels

Solar panel manufacturing uses about 2.8 million ounces of silver for every GW of solar panels manufactured. New technology hopes to reduce this to zero.

Ever considered how much the amount of silver in solar cells adds to their cost? What if silver were eliminated completely from the production of solar panels?

The price of solar cells has already reduced considerably in recent years due to improved production efficiencies, making solar cells affordable for many. However the elimination of the high cost silver from the production would realise a long term dream of producers and make solar energy even more cheaper than it has already become. [Read more…]

RayGen combines solar technologies for bush solar revolution

raygen system

The RayGen System focuses solar onto a novel concentrator. Image (c) Raygen

You get the best renewable energy stories tucked away in the rural press. Proof that solar power innovation in the bush is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. This despite the often backwards policy of our elected representatives.

So it was this week when a bit of digging unearthed the unveiling of a $3.6 million solar power facility in Newbridge in Central Victoria. The plant, developed by renewable research and development company RayGen Resources, combines PV cells with concentrating solar technology. [Read more…]

Researchers use photosynthesis to directly create liquid fuel from solar

leaf and solar panel

Harvard scientists are mimicking photosynthesis by converting solar electricity directly into a liquid fuel.

Solar power using photosynthesis is the most ancient — and successful — form of energy production. Plants have used this method for over a billion years, harvesting sunlight, combining it with water and turning this abundant solar energy into food. Now researchers at Harvard University are looking to use the process in a really novel way. [Read more…]

Thin film technology promises solar powered cars for the masses.

a solar car in adelaide

Solar cars are quickly maturing from wacky racers like this to mass market models. Bring it on!

Ever considered the seemingly endless possibilities of solar thin film technology for mobile energy generation? Mr Li Hejun, CEO of China-based thin film solar company Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd certainly does and outlined his vision (or dream depending on your point of view), of a future where this technology dominated mobile energy needs.

Mr Li presented his strategy for mobile energy future as “…a revolution in the way energy is generated and used” in a keynote speech delivered at a ceremony in China last week to launch its global thin film solar product innovation competition. [Read more…]

GET THE SOLARQUOTES WEEKLY NEWSLETTER