Solar panel technology is on the up and up. Move aside, Jetsons! There are a few technological advancements hotter than flying cars and talking robots on our horizons. Every year, scientists are figuring out better ways to harness one of the most abundant resources on earth — solar energy. Subsequently, the latest solar panel technology will do a few things for the environment, for the way we consume energy, and for the next generation. While these advancements are still in the works, their development could transform the world as we know it. Let’s take a glimpse into the present and the future of solar technology.
Absorption is an important factor for solar panel technology advancement. It controls how much solar energy can be harnessed to supercharge the world around us. It’s true that all solar panel manufacturers aren’t one in the same. Some manufacturers, like LG, use an anti-reflective coating on the solar panel glass and the solar cell surface. Ideally, this addition increases the panels’ ability to absorb photons from sun rays. In short, more absorption means a greater possibility for generating electricity. Here are a few other advances that help with absorption:
Space Based Solar Power
Did you know that only about 48% of the sun’s energy is absorbed at the Earth’s surface? This is more than enough energy to handle the Earth’s energy consumption for a whole year. However, 52% of sunlight (potential solar energy) is wasted. Space based solar power is the solution that could maximize the absorption of solar energy…right from the source.
Believe it or not, this technology arose right from a science fiction short story. Space based solar offers a unique way to harvest solar energy. Here’s a brief overview of how it works:
- Firstly, solar panels are affixed onto orbiting satellites.
- Secondly, those solar panels absorb the energy from the sun.
- Lastly, the satellites transmit the energy from space to Earth.
Through extensive research, the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) hopes to have a space solar power system up and transmitting by the year 2030.
Spherical Solar Power Generators
One of the most effective ways to increase electricity production is by enhancing the way solar energy is harnessed. André Broessel, a German architect, has created a structural feat with the spherical solar power generator, beta.ray. Produced through his company, Rawlemon, Broessel hopes his prototype will “squeeze more juice out of the sun.” And it certainly stands a good chance.
The beta.ray is an orb that collects solar as well as thermal energy. It rotates according to the sun’s direction, adjusting to find the optimal angle for collection. While this solar generator is in the prototype stages, researchers are optimistic about the many applications for what this electricity generating globe can power.
Similar to the solar orbs, solar panel technology also centers around generating more power through unique architecture. This isn’t just a shout out to the razzle dazzle of roof aesthetics, but the best solar panels around provide awesome functionality as well. Subsequently, cell design plays a huge role in the advancements of solar panel technology. Let’s check out the different ways architects are improving the look of solar panels.
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs)
Gallium Arsenide has been discovered to increase the efficiency of solar cell production by over 47%. The issue is these triple junction cells are very expensive, originally intended for large-scale projects, like satellites. However, continued research conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has shown that thin-film gallium arsenide cells might be a less expensive alternative while still increasing efficiency.
Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) Solar Technology
BIPV is a subtle architectural feat. It combines the capabilities of solar technology with the design of exterior building materials. They were a key component in creating a net zero building model called the ThinQ Home. This new solar panel technology offers 16% module efficiency and a clear design to hide the solar cells. BIPV can take the possible forms of roofs, canopies, curtain walls, facades, and even skylight systems so as to not compromise the design of a building.
SolarSkins is solar panel technology developed by Sistine Solar. This completely customizable “skin” can cover solar panels to transform its physical appearance. Moreover, it preserves up to 99% of the energy generation through its light filtration technology. Users can select any color, image, or logo to display over their solar arrays. This is a great solution for those concerned about the aesthetics of solar panels. SolarSkins blend in with your roof with minimum effect to your energy production.
Obviously, we’re giving out brownie points for creativity. And the possibilities are truly endless when you’re using solar energy due to its abundance. The latest solar energy technology increases energy absorption and discovers innovative approaches to how energy is consumed. Here are a few innovations:
These cells mimic the photosynthesis process of plants, as well as the respiratory functions of bacteria. Biosolar cells use protein and water to convert sunlight into electricity. Ideally, this research aims to produce a more efficient means to cultivate solar energy and a cleaner biological process. Researchers at Michigan State University are studying ways to improve existing biological solar panels and create practical integrations for biosolar cells.
Solar Energy Harvesting Trees
Solar Energy Harvesting Trees are artificial trees that collect, store, and convert solar energy and kinetic energy from the wind. The leaves of the tree are created by 3D printing technology. These leaves are malleable, patterned solar panels that absorb energy. Currently, the trees are still in the prototype stage of development and can power smaller devices. However, with more leaves, more energy could power larger electronics.
Floating solar, also called floatovoltaics, is making waves! This type of innovation is perfect for places with little land mass to install rooftop or ground solar panels. However, there’s potential for worldwide application. Bodies of water make up 71% of the Earth. So, why not use it for solar? Floating solar panels offer high power electrical generation without compromising valuable land mass. Currently, Japan has one of the largest floating solar plants on the planet with the capacity to power nearly 5,000 homes.
The Future of Your Rooftop: Solar Panel Technology
Our work with solar energy has come a long way. Currently, solar only makes up about 2.3% of US electricity generation. It could be doing so much more. Therefore, scientists are looking for new ways to improve the accessibility of solar to use on a wide scale, but you can help too.
Solar power could do wonders for your home. More importantly, you could help make solar energy even more abundant by installing your personal solar system. Contact a Solar Energy Specialist today to find out all the benefits of powering your home with solar energy.