Solar skin design
Sistine Solar, a Boston-based design firm, is making major strides with the concept of aesthetic enhancement that allow solar panels to have a customized look. The MIT startup has created a “solar skin” product that makes it possible for solar panels to match the appearance of a roof without interfering with panel efficiency or production.
Solar powered roads
These roadways are heralded for their ability to generate clean energy, but they also include LED bulbs that can light roads at night and have the thermal heating capacity to melt snow during winter weather.
Past few years saw an innovation in solar textiles: tiny solar panels can now be stitched into the fabric of clothing. The wearable solar products of the past, like solar-powered watches, have typically been made with hard plastic material. This new textile concept makes it possible for solar to expand into home products like window curtains and dynamic consumer clean tech like heated car seats. This emerging solar technology is credited to textile designer Marianne Fairbanks and chemist Trisha Andrew.
Solar batteries: innovation in solar storage
The industry-famous Tesla Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion ion battery product launched in 2015, continues to lead the pack with regard to market share and brand recognition for solar batteries. Tesla offers two storage products, the Powerwall 2.0 for residential use and the Powerpack for commercial use.
Solar Tracking Mounts
Trackers allow solar panels to maximize electricity production by following the sun as it moves across the sky. PV tracking systems tilt and shift the angle of a solar array as the day goes by to best match the location of the sun. GTM Research recently unveiled a recent report that shows a major upward trend in the popularity of tracking systems. The report stated that by 2021, almost half of all ground mount arrays will include solar.
Advances in solar panel efficiency
A number of achievements by various panel manufacturers have brought us to today’s current record for solar panel efficiency: 23.5 percent, held by premium panel manufacturer SunPower.
The solar cell types used in mainstream markets could also see major improvements in cost per watt – a metric that compares relative affordability of solar panels. Thanks to Swiss and American researchers, Perovskite solar cells (as compared to the silicon cells that are used predominantly today) have seen some major breakthroughs in the past two years. The result will be a solar panel that can generate 20+ percent efficiency while still being one of the lowest cost options on the market.
Of course, the work doesn’t stop there, as MIT researchers reminded us in May when they announced new technology that could double the efficiency of solar cells overall. The MIT lab team revealed a new tech concept that captures and utilizes the waste heat that is usually emitted by solar panels.
Solar thermal fuel (STF)
Luckily, MIT Professor Jeffrey Grossman and his team of researchers have spent much of the past few years developing alternative storage solutions for solar, the best one appears to be solar thermal fuels (STFs).
The technology and process behind STFs is comparable to a typical battery. The STF can harness sunlight energy, store it as a charge and then release it when prompted. Recent years saw the invention of a solid state STF application that could be implemented in windows, windshields, car tops, and other surfaces exposed to sunlight.
Solar water purifiers
Stanford University researchers collaborated with the Department of Energy this year to develop a new solar device that can purify water when exposed to sunlight. The minuscule tablet (roughly half the size of a postage stamp) is not the first solar device to filter water, but it has made major strides in efficiency compared to past inventions.
Credits: Excerpts From EnergySage