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Solar Energy covalent

Published on October 11th, 2009 | by Derek Markham

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Top 10 Solar Technologies to Watch Out For

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October 11th, 2009 by
 

Solar power technology is moving forward by leaps and bounds, with some new advancements being built out into usable installations virtually every day. Design concepts once thought to be ‘pie in the sky’ ideas are being implemented, and making a simple solar panel array look like old-school technology.

While it may be some time before you see some of these solar technologies in use, chances are it will be sooner rather than later, so keep your eyes on these:

1. Water Cooled Solar Panels: The Pyron Solar Triad uses a specially designed, short focal-length, acrylic concentrating lens to reflect and refracts the light, effectively concentrating it to equal the power of 6,500 suns in a small pinpoint of light. A secondary optic captures this concentrated light and focuses it on a small PV cell. According to the company, the HE Optics System produces 800 times more electricity than a similarly-sized silicon solar cell.

2. Home Solar to Hydrogen Storage: An MIT professor, Daniel Nocera, formed a company this year to commercialize a new technology that can “split water” and store solar energy. The company’s key objective now is to achieve a solar energy breakthrough by to making solar energy cheap and widespread.

“The idea is to use solar panels to power the electrolyzer to produce hydrogen which would be stored in tanks. When people need electricity, the stored hydrogen would put through a fuel cell.”

3. Solar Roof Shingles, Printable and Paintable Solar Panels: If solar power was as easy to install as putting new shingles on your house, or painting your roof with a solar paint, it would lower the bar for home solar installation. The paintable solar technology is called silicon ink, and according to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar cells using the technology have “demonstrated a record 18 percent conversion of efficiency.” Solar shingles, by Dow Chemical, should be available in limited supply by mid 2010 and then readily available by 2011, says the company.

4. Large Thin Film Solar Panels: The SunFab™ system uses amorphous silicon based thin film technology to deliver the world’s largest and most powerful thin film panels and combines low-cost materials with one of the industry’s most advanced fabrication technologies.The company’s thin film solar panels have a frameless design, eliminating two predominant field reliability challenges for thin film panels: water penetration and weakened structure integrity over time.

5. Organic Solar Concentrators: Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a sophisticated and affordable method to turn ordinary glass into a high-tech solar concentrator, using dye-coated glass to collect and channel light which is usually lost from the surface of the panels. This technology could allow buildings to use tinted windows to collect energy. Another company, GreenSun, has developed bright-colored panels which capture different parts of sun’s spectrum, and don’t need direct sunlight to work.

6. Space Based Solar: Japan is developing a giant space based solar power generator to transmit solar energy to earth from 36,000km above the earth within the next 30 years. The Japanese government is backing the $21 billion project, which will include a solar power space station with four square kilometers of solar panels, cranking out an estimated 1 gigawatt of electricity – enough for almost 300,000 homes in Tokyo.

7. Solar Roads: The Solar Roadways concept, would pave roads with glass panels to collect and distribute solar energy to light the road at night and heat it in winter, with enough electricity leftover to power homes and businesses. The founder, Scott Brusaw, estimates that each mile of solar panels could power 500 homes, and estimates that the cost of producing a single 12′ X 12′ Solar Roadway panel could reach about $5,000.

8. Concentrated Solar: Stirling Energy System’s SunCatcher, consisting of a solar concentrator in a dish structure supporting an array of curved glass mirrors, may be deployed in Arizona soon, the first commercial-scale installation of the world’s most efficient solar technology. The SunCatcher employs a system of mirrors attached to a parabolic dish to concentrate the sun’s energy onto a high‐efficiency Stirling Engine, with each dish generating up to 25,000 watts of power.

9. Nanotechnology Solar: Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario have grown light-absorbing nanowires made of high-performance photovoltaic materials on thin but highly durable carbon-nanotube fabric. They’ve also embedded the tiny particles in flexible polyester film which could lead to solar cells that are both flexible and cheaper than today’s photovoltaics. In other nano-news, a team from the University of Southanpton’s School of Physics and Astronomy has developed a new range of photovoltaic devices using a process found in vegetative methods of light harvesting (photosynthesis), to deliver unprecedented amounts of electrical current from light.

10. Integrated Grid Ready Solar: Andalay AC solar panels, built with Akeena Solar‘s proprietary technology, integrates the racking, wiring and electrical grounding components into the panels themselves. According to the company, this safeguards against breakdowns and boosts system reliability, delivering thousands of dollars in savings throughout its 30 year lifetime. The Andalay AC solar panels produce safe household AC power, and will enable a safer and easier installation process for solar installers and do-it-yourselfers by reducing the number of parts by 80% and eliminating complicated and potentially dangerous DC wiring. The Andalay AC solar panels were named as a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Product for 2009.

As a bonus solar technology to watch out for, CoolEarth’s solar balloons are made with metallic plastic films, with half of the balloon being transparent, which lets the sunlight in to be concentrated on a small high-efficiency solar panel. The balloons are 8 feet across and suspended with a patented support system,  based on the architectural principles of tensegrity. (stabilized by continuous tension or “tensional integrity” rather than by compression.) The resulting suspension system of posts and steel cables uses a minimum amount of material, has a small footprint, and causes the least disruption to the natural environment of any solar power plant.

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!



  • Neveratrest

    I am so tired of hearing about Solyandra. This was a great technology and people shouldn’t try to turn this and similar blogs into a political forum. Solyandra was a victim of economics and too high asperations, but it was a good risk. We will never be able to compete with China as long as we are on such uneven footing. We need such dreamers as well as those listed. I thank you for taking the time to make this blog so informative, and i know you will bring in new ideas and technologies as they are created. Thank you!

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      I know, believe me, we had to write far too many posts debunking total bs because of that whole political bs. unfortunately, the mainstream media didn’t care to figure out the full story, and now millions are ill-informed.

  • Jim Van Damme

    Do people just write new press releases based on old ones? Because as I look at the dates on these, I have to say it….there’s nothing new under the sun!

  • A G

    Good summary. Glad to see all these in one article. Thx

  • helen holmes

    The Solyandra debacle has set back solar by drawing attention to the notion that many of these approaches while valid, are not on stable financial feet. I wanted to use solar 12 years ago and felt then as now that a product manufactured and installed needed a track record. I wanted and still do want to know that whomever supplies the solar is going to be around for a long time. Right now it seems as if anything you buy today could easily become obsolete by next year and so if someone buys now, to maintain your investment may become impossible or extremely costly. This is an industry that has to settle out and right now it’s too much of a risky gamble to invest that sort of money in any particular supplier.

    • Anonymous

      This is really not a very well-informed comment, I’m sorry to say.

      Solar has grown exponentially in the past several years and is the safest investment you can make in most regions. for some key points along these lines, check out: http://cleantechnica.com/2011/08/23/solar-power-intro-3-key-solar-power-points-top-solar-power-news/
      aside from buying solar, you can also lease it for a great ROI.

      solyndra’s failure, largely a result of fast-dropping costs of another technology, is an abnormality. saying solyndra’s failure is a reason not to go solar is like saying Jaguar’s failure is a reason not to buy a car. sorry, but it just doesn’t make sense.

      yes, there are innovative, cutting edge technologies that will fail. there are in EVERY industry.

      but there are millions of people going solar every year now who are quickly getting their money back and making great money on the investments (just with the basic options out there today). it’s only our own loss if we fail to take advantage of the opportunities before us today.

  • DOMINIK ZELICHOWSKI

    ya baby..dis da generation dats gana rock da nation!~

    • Asdf

      Wow with spelling like that. . . . .

    • Windpowered

      Really??? You can’t even put a sentence together. How are you going to communicate any thing with giberish like that last comment of Dominik Zelichowski? Only 4 words of 10 even exist. That person really needs to take english and grammer lessons. If he is any kind of a representative of his generation, he really should keep his ignorant mouth shut. Comments like that cause anyone who can read to be embarassed on his behalf.

      • Anonymous

        Well, it’s a style of speaking, which is probably not common in your generation but is widely popular in some others.

      • Hybrid

        You’re an idiot! This guy obviously is from another country and I
        think it’s great he states his thoughts. How many languages can you speak?

  • Ron

    I wish the price of solar panels would actually come down, I read awhile ago that a breakthrough was made that made panels that would cost one third as much but I dont see the price dropping anywhere near that figure.

    • Anonymous

      good that you should post this today — take a look at this new post showing how solar costs have dropped tremendously in recent years (and growth has resulted). not sure where you are or why you haven’t noticed it, but it has been happening.

      http://cleantechnica.com/2011/06/10/solar-power-graphs-to-make-you-smile/

      this year alone, costs have dropped 20%.

    • Anonymous

      Ron, as of December 2011, I can buy US made solar polycrystalline modules for $1.20 per watt shipped to my place in upstate New York. Ten years ago, modules I bought cost me about $5.50 per watt delivered. I’d say that is quite a price drop, considering that the value of the US dollar is also way diminished during that time.

    • Rob

      Ron current factory gate wholesale prices are a few cents above $1, in 1980 they were $20, in 2000 they were $5. So I agree they haven’t come down anywhere near one third they have come down substantially more.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Excellent. They are innovative.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  • John B

    #2 is silly. Hydrogen production has too many loses and existing fuel cells are poor. Better working on better kinds of batteries or fuel cells for portable power; for stationary power, there are good things already. (anybody messing with low pressure steam? wish i had a grant..)

    Solar Balloons. friend and I have been on it years before they were. making a large one right now in fact! they are on the wrong track with theirs. (we should have gone public with it, for now we’ll continue to sit on it)

  • John B

    #2 is silly. Hydrogen production has too many loses and existing fuel cells are poor. Better working on better kinds of batteries or fuel cells for portable power; for stationary power, there are good things already. (anybody messing with low pressure steam? wish i had a grant..)

    Solar Balloons. friend and I have been on it years before they were. making a large one right now in fact! they are on the wrong track with theirs. (we should have gone public with it, for now we’ll continue to sit on it)

  • http://envirogy.wordpress.com hummers

    wow really cool stuff i think the He optics system looks great!!!

  • http://envirogy.wordpress.com hummers

    wow really cool stuff i think the He optics system looks great!!!

  • http://www.Sol-Solution.net Don Wagner

    I would bet on a technology that concentrates and separates the sunlight like

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea//news/article/2007/07/from-40-7-to-42-8-solar-cell-efficiency-49483

    or

    http://www.sol-solution.net/Animation.html

    Physics dictates that with the current non-concentrating silicon cells the maximum efficiency is only about 28%. A concentrating cell that breaks up the spectrum is probably the best bet since the theoretical efficiency is about 72%

  • http://www.Sol-Solution.net Don Wagner

    I would bet on a technology that concentrates and separates the sunlight like

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea//news/article/2007/07/from-40-7-to-42-8-solar-cell-efficiency-49483

    or

    http://www.sol-solution.net/Animation.html

    Physics dictates that with the current non-concentrating silicon cells the maximum efficiency is only about 28%. A concentrating cell that breaks up the spectrum is probably the best bet since the theoretical efficiency is about 72%

  • http://www.non-scalable.com Derek

    All for electricity. It’s amazing, take for instance the stirling engine, how much energy is lost in converting the mechanical movement of the piston into electricity; 30-40%.

    I know for many applications electricity is superior (phones, computers, lighting), actually indispensable, but we have to realize it is an exotic and difficult medium to work with.

    We have to start thinking about what tech. need to be retained (as economically feasible) and which need to be abandoned.

    The bicycle is the most efficient means of transportation. What does electricity do efficiently? Data management, communication, lighting; maybe those should be the areas where its use is concentrated, and all other applications scrapped for more efficient use of the energy.

  • http://www.non-scalable.com Derek

    All for electricity. It’s amazing, take for instance the stirling engine, how much energy is lost in converting the mechanical movement of the piston into electricity; 30-40%.

    I know for many applications electricity is superior (phones, computers, lighting), actually indispensable, but we have to realize it is an exotic and difficult medium to work with.

    We have to start thinking about what tech. need to be retained (as economically feasible) and which need to be abandoned.

    The bicycle is the most efficient means of transportation. What does electricity do efficiently? Data management, communication, lighting; maybe those should be the areas where its use is concentrated, and all other applications scrapped for more efficient use of the energy.

  • Paul

    No need for Sterling Motors, simply putting a PV cell at the focal point returns a 500x increase in power.

    http://electric-vehicles-cars-bikes.blogspot.com/2009/07/concentrated-solar-thermal-versus.html

  • Paul

    No need for Sterling Motors, simply putting a PV cell at the focal point returns a 500x increase in power.

    http://electric-vehicles-cars-bikes.blogspot.com/2009/07/concentrated-solar-thermal-versus.html

    • ENZg. Onsight.

      I would love too see you put a PV at the focal point, of the
      Sterling Engine Sun Catcher,,
      If you read the Spec’s on that, you would understand, that the PV
      would be a Carbon Crispy Critter,
      What i am saying is that the PV, would have too be Hydrogen Frozen,
      too even come close too keeping it from burning up.
      I have done this test, and have the photo’s too prove that
      the PV, can not handle the HEAT!

  • Joey Fitzpatrick

    I’ll nominate the solar panels that float on water and not only produce electricity, they save water by cutting down on evaporation… a big deal out here in the desert.

    here’s a link to a story about the winery where it happened, the SPG Solar Floatovoltaic system..

    http://www.sonomanews.com/articles/2008/12/12/news/doc4941cd7a21464412117480.txt

  • Joey Fitzpatrick

    I’ll nominate the solar panels that float on water and not only produce electricity, they save water by cutting down on evaporation… a big deal out here in the desert.

    here’s a link to a story about the winery where it happened, the SPG Solar Floatovoltaic system..

    http://www.sonomanews.com/articles/2008/12/12/news/doc4941cd7a21464412117480.txt

  • Black Baron

    If this is the future for solar energy, then it’s a waste of money. The only hopegiving technology is the stirling engine. But I’m really convinced that more engineering must be done in thermodynamic gas cycles.

    These offer more efficient systems, cheap to build and maintain. And they do not require water like those parabolic mirrors used to produce steam.

  • Black Baron

    If this is the future for solar energy, then it’s a waste of money. The only hopegiving technology is the stirling engine. But I’m really convinced that more engineering must be done in thermodynamic gas cycles.

    These offer more efficient systems, cheap to build and maintain. And they do not require water like those parabolic mirrors used to produce steam.

  • brent

    Regarding #8, the term “concentrated solar” should be more accurately labeled “concentrated solar thermal”. All of the other examples above are “solar photovoltaic”. Some are “concentrated” (CPV), other are not.

  • brent

    Regarding #8, the term “concentrated solar” should be more accurately labeled “concentrated solar thermal”. All of the other examples above are “solar photovoltaic”. Some are “concentrated” (CPV), other are not.

  • russ

    At least Stirling make make it. We see soon.

    Others? Still far more pie in the sky – if even that!

  • russ

    At least Stirling make make it. We see soon.

    Others? Still far more pie in the sky – if even that!

    • Aaalisher

      hi dear,,undoubtedly this is a great invention,,,,help me from where can i buy a solar stirling dish….????00923134659693
      aaalisher@gmail.com

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