Climate change is worsening, and consumers are conscious of their role. As a result, solar technology is booming. Scientists around the world are developing innovations in how to create and use this renewable power. But how will these changes affect the energy market?
One company, Heliogen, recently developed a new, zero-carbon method of generating high-temperature heat. The project, which boasts Bill Gates as an investor, uses a technology based on concentrating solar power (CSP).
Experts set up numerous mirrors in a field, each placed to reflect sunlight into a tower with a steam turbine. The sun’s rays turn the water into steam, which runs the turbine and generates power.
Bill Gross, founder of the startup IdeaLab, claims computing power can replace a lot of the material and labor involved in CSP, giving it a leg up over standard solar panel technologies. As companies continue to cut costs associated with renewable power, adoption will become widespread.
Hanging Wall Generators
Located in Japan, the Hen na hotel is known for its robot staff. Now, it’s testing another innovation — a curved wall of solar cells, micrometer-thin films made from materials called perovskites. Saule Technologies, the company behind the project, also hung walls in Britain, Germany and Poland.
In the lab, perovskite panels are cheaper to make than previous technologies and more efficient at converting sunlight into energy. Beyond Saule, many other firms are venturing into the sector, including Energy Materials Corp in the U.S., Solaronix SA in Switzerland and WonderSolar in China.
While perovskites will likely increase the adoption of solar technology, they won’t replace current silicon models. Instead, firms are laying perovskite crystals on top of silicon to make devices that convert more energy than either material alone.
Optimized Energy Efficiency
The amount of power you can generate — and how much money you save — will depend on the quality of your solar panels. The top photovoltaic options on the market have a lifespan of 40 years and produce up to 20% more energy than competing products.
As the renewable energy market continues to boom, technology firms offer up compelling features at competitive prices. Consumers can find panels that absorb light at different wavelengths, allowing them to generate more energy. They can also search out technology that maintains efficiency past the break-in phase.
To entice buyers, some panels offer a grid-free design and backsheet that reflects additional light into the cell. Plus, many firms offer extended warranties to cover replacement and installation costs in the event of a defect.
In dry, remote places, fields of solar panels can generate power. However, workers need to hose them down to clear dust. As a two-in-one solution, scientists created a photovoltaic cell that uses the sun’s rays to generate electricity and purify water at the same time.
The distillation technology is compact, able to fold into a standard cell’s components in a way that doesn’t impact energy output. Roughly 10% of the sunlight collected goes toward generating an electrical current.
A fragment of the remaining solar radiation turns into thermal energy, which usually goes to waste. Now, however, the heat is absorbed by hydrophobic membranes to assist evaporation and condensation. By combining the two technologies, scientists offer a potential solution to the clean water crisis.
A Joint Clothing Venture
The clothing industry plays a significant role in the future of energy. Scientists recently discovered a way to incorporate 1.5-millimeter solar cells into yarn, which manufacturers later turn into clothes.
A mere five-square centimeter piece of fabric holds 200 cells, enough to generate up to 10 volts of power. A jacket equipped with 2,000 cells would be enough to charge a smartphone and fitness tracker on-the-go.
According to experts, the cells are so tiny that you can’t feel them. Plus, they’re encased in resin, making them safe to wash and wear in the rain. This clothing will remove many smart devices from the power grid and lead to increased participation in sustainable initiatives.
How the Future of Solar Technology Will Change the Energy Market
The solar sector took off in 2015 with a global worth of $86 billion — a number expected to hit $422 billion by 2022. As a result, the research and development process is continuous, allowing consumers to choose from hundreds of firms and optimized features.
Scientists are advancing sustainable practices in new, affordable ways. From perovskite crystals to cell-incorporated clothing, the rise in new solar options will likely lead to a boost in global adoption.