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Really Cool Advancements in Solar Energy

Solar technology has advanced rapidly in recent years-recording several breakthroughs in areas such as efficiency, storage, design and wearable technology.

Solar technology is classified into two main types- concentrated solar power (or CSP) and photovoltaic (or PV). CSP focuses on harnessing the heat of the sun to produce thermal energy that drives turbines and powers heaters while PV utilizes sunlight to generate electricity. The two types of solar technologies allow for a wide range of innovation opportunities. Listed below are some of the latest developments in solar energy production that you need to look out for in 2017:

Solar Skin for Roofs

Many homeowners have a big problem with how solar panels affect the appearance of their homes. To remedy this, Sistine Solar, a tech startup based in Boston, has developed a product that allows solar panels to match the roof’s appearance without compromising on its generation efficiency.The product is expected to reach the US market sometime this year.

PV Technology Solar-Powered Roads

Last summer, tests were done on new solar- powered roads using PV technology. The Route 66 interstate highway was chosen as the testing site for a solar-powered roadway that produces clean energy and features LED bulbs for night lighting. It also has a thermal heating ability that allows it to melt snow when winter comes. There are plans to install the roadways on specified sections of the Route 66 Highway.

Wearable Solar Clothing

2016 saw the development of tiny solar panels that can be stitched into the clothing fabric of the user. This idea can be expanded into other home products such as heated window curtains and car seats. The technology was pioneered by Marianne Fairbanks, a textile designer, and Trisha Andrew, a chemist.

Solar Storage Innovation

Off-grid solar has increasingly become popular in the US, and solar manufacturers have started to take notice. Electric car manufacturer Tesla launched Powerwall, its famous rechargeable lithium ion battery in 2015, and it continues to be a trailblazer when it comes to solar batteries. Tesla makes the Powerwall for residential usage while the Powerpack is meant for commercial usage. It is anticipated that the automaker will unveil the Powerwall 2.0 in the coming weeks. Whereas solar storage remains fairly expensive, the cost might come down as more affordable and efficient batteries hit the market in 2017.

Latest advances in solar panel technology:

Solar-Tracking Systems

With solar technology inching towards mainstream status, solar panels fitted with solar tracking mounts have increasingly become popular-especially in homes where the roofs are not suited for solar panels. As a result, ground-mounted solar panels with tracking systems have gained widespread usage. The trackers enable the panels to follow the movement of the sun in order to optimize electricity production.

According to a study done by GTM Research, there will be a 254% increase in PV tracking products this year. The study also reported that by 2021, nearly 50% of ground-mounted solar arrays will have solar tracking ability.

Improved Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar cell efficiency has continued to improve over the years. Today, the solar efficiency record of 23.5 is held by SunPower, a manufacturer of premium solar panels.

There could also be major improvements when it comes to cost per watt (a measure that affects the relative cost of panels). Perovskite solar cells (different from the standard silicon cells), developed by American and Swiss scientists, have recorded significant breakthroughs in the last two years. It is expected that the outcome will be a low-cost solar panel with over 20% efficiency.

Naturally, the work goes on, and in May, MIT researchers revealed a new technology that had the potential to increase the general efficiency of solar cells by 100%.The concept involved capturing and using the waste heat that is normally produced by solar panels.This innovation is likely to further reduce the cost of solar.

Solar Thermal Fuels

There is a general consensus that storage is the single biggest problem when it comes to using solar power as an energy source. Even though solar batteries are widely used for storage, they are not yet economically viable for mainstream, heavy-duty usage. Fortunately, prominent researchers like Jeffrey Grossman, a professor at MIT, and his team have devoted the last few years to developing more efficient solar storage solutions. The most promising of these seems to be the solar thermal fuels (or STFs)

Like a standard battery, the STFs collect energy from the sun, store it in form of charge and release it as required. This is unlike when solar energy is stored as heat, where it dissipates with time. The initial design enabled solar power to be stored in liquid form. But in 2016, Grossman’s team invented an application that allowed solar power to be stored in solid state and it could be used in car tops, windshields, windows and other light-exposed surfaces.

Solar Water Purification

This year, researchers at Stanford University, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, have developed a solar device that is able to purify water after being exposed to light. The tiny tablet may not be the first solar-powered device to be used for water filtration, but it is much more efficient than the previous ones- only needing a few minutes to produce clean drinking water. Going forward, expect these tiny devices to become popular with campers and hikers, as the water purification technology improves.

What These Solar Technology Innovations Mean for Homeowners in 2017

All these innovations can only be good news for homeowners in 2017.Improvements in storage capabilities, efficiency enhancements, and improved equipment capacities will mean lower costs and more effective power output figures.

If you are wanting to slash your bills by at least 50 percent, give Solar 360 a call. We’ll answer all of your questions and get you started down the road to solar power freedom.