The Sky’s The Limit: 13 Promising New Advancements in Solar Power
By SA Rogers, Web Urbanist, 17 May 2017.
By SA Rogers, Web Urbanist, 17 May 2017.
Even while it feels like certain things are moving backward, efforts to power the world with solar energy instead of fossil fuels continue to reach for the sky, innovating advancements that make a renewable future more achievable. Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles are about to become commercially available, flexible solar panels are cheaper and more efficient than ever, we’re several steps closer to transparent solar power-producing windows, and there’s even a product so thin and tiny it’s called ‘solar glitter.’
1. Solar Blinds by SolarGap
Designed with apartment-dwellers in mind, these smart solar blinds are inexpensive, easy to install, and work best when the blinds are open.
If you have a window that gets a little too sunny at some point in the day, these could be an ideal gadget to reduce your electricity costs by up to 70 percent. They work best on the outside of your window, producing up to 100 watts of electricity, which is enough for one window to charge your laptop. You can use a smart app to control the blinds and monitor how much power they’re producing.
2. Plug and Play Smart Flower Solar Device
The Smart Flower features solar panel ‘petals’ that unfurl at sunrise, automatically directing themselves toward the sun and continuing to move throughout the day for optimal placement to produce 40 percent more energy than a static solar panel setup.
Taking its inspiration from the shape of a sunflower, the smartflowerPOP will juice you up with 3,400 to 6,300 KWH per year.
3. World’s Largest Solar Storage Facility Works 24/7
Tesla and SolarCity opened a 13 MW solar farm in Kauai, Hawaii featuring 54,978 solar panels and a 52 MWh battery bank.
The battery is large enough to run twenty-four hours a day and provide up to 44 percent of the island’s power, compared to its 92 percent dependence on fossil fuel in 2011.
4. Wattway: The World’s First Solar Panel Road
There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of a solar panel roadway, the first and foremost being that integrating an emerging technology into infrastructure may not be the best idea for long-term success. Solar power is rapidly changing, and the tech used for France’s ‘Wattway’ and similar projects will likely soon be obsolete, not to mention the probability of the panels being damaged.
But the idea could still have weight for some applications, and Wattway is expected to generate 280MWh per year.
5. Solar Glitter Can Make Almost Anything Solar-Powered
An innovation called Dragon SCALEs by Sandia National Laboratories acts like solar glitter, shrinking solar panels down to tiny, flexible snowflake-inspired cells that could theoretically be applied to just about anything.
Making use of recent advancements in micro design and micro fabrication, the panels can be folded like paper, rapidly and cheaply installed, and turn just about any object into a solar power generator.
6. Retractable Solar Panels for Charging Devices
Pull a solar panel out of thin air (or, really, a pocket-sized case) when your phone is dying and there’s no outlet handy. HeLi-on by infinityPV is a retractable, high-efficiency solar panel connected to a battery in its case that can charge small devices like smartphones, portable game consoles, flashlights and 2-way radios via a USB cable.
While many small solar chargers can take all day to produce enough energy for a single charge, the HeLi-on claims to do so within 2-3 hours.
7. Lightweight Printed Solar Sheets
Currently in its final set of trials, these game-changing solar panels are made by printing electronic ink onto sheets of clear plastic, so it’s lightweight and easy to ship. That could make a huge difference for regions hit by disaster that need power as soon as possible. Conventional solar panels weigh far more and are far more expensive to produce; these can be made for less than US$10 a square meter.
The inventor says the cells produce more energy from less direct light, so it can be hung onto walls, windows, vehicle surfaces, tents and other structures that currently can’t hold a heavy conventional silicon solar panel.
8. Solar Roof Tiles by Tesla
Does anything look out of the ordinary about the roof tiles pictured above? Probably not, and that’s the point. Tesla modeled their Solar Roof tiles after traditional slate, shingle and Tuscan roofing, so anyone who’s ever protested that rooftop solar panels are ugly have less to complain about.
Installation will start this year in the United States, and the tiles can be paired with Tesla’s Powerwall battery to convert your home to 100% renewable energy.
9. Project Sunroof by Google
Before you invest in an expensive solar array like Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles, you might want to be absolutely sure that your location is suited for solar power production. Google’s Project Sunroof launched in Germany earlier this month, extending the ability to estimate how much solar power your roof could produce to 7 million homes.
The free tool debuted in the United States back in 2015 - all you have to do is put in your address for a Google Earth-powered look at how many solar panels your roof could support and whether they’d be in the direct sunlight.
10. Silicon NanoParticles: One Step Closer to Solar Windows
Infusing transparent glass with photovoltaic capabilities could truly revolutionize the solar industry, making it easier than ever before to integrate solar power production into conventional structures. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Milano-Bicocca have developed high-tech silicon nanoparticles embedded into luminescent solar concentrators for flexibility and efficiency. This could make solar windows far more commercially viable, leading to a future in which high-rise buildings can produce their own electricity and more.
11. Flexible SolarWindow Glass
Another step forward in solar windows is the incredibly thin, bendable ‘glass veneer’ that could be applied to skyscraper, car and plane exteriors.
Developed by SolarWindow, this flexible glass was created by applying layers of the company’s liquid Electricity Generating Coating to Corning Willow Glass and then laminating it. The result is as thin as a business card.
12. Mirrored Light-Reflecting Canopy Directs Sunlight to Solar Panels
In an example of how the design community can produce decorative items that complement the renewable energy industry, Carlo Ratti’s Sun&Shade canopy features automatically rotating mirrors that follow the movement of the sun and direct its rays to nearby solar panels.
The prototype was unveiled at Dubai’s Museum of the Future. The designer notes that the resulting focused beams of light would be carefully placed to avoid burning anything, an important factor considering how many mirrored skyscrapers accidentally set nearby objects on fire.
13. Solar-Powered Pipe Desalinates Ocean Water
Proposed for the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative by Khalili Engineers, this solar-powered pipe is covered in solar panels on its exterior, which pump seawater through an electromagnetic filtration system.
Inside is a recreational facility for tourists to enjoy mineral salt baths and views of the sunset, all while providing drinkable water to the city of Santa Monica, California.
Top gif image: Smartflower, the world's first all-in-one solar system. Credit: Image created from Smartflower/YouTube.
[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Top image added.]