Solar power is no small thing. It is big, so big that it is no doubt among the top items that are guaranteed to shape the direction of the world in the near future. Indeed when you understand the underlying potential of solar power, you will never struggle to comprehend why the US government, for instance, is consistently funding all sorts of emerging solar innovations and technologies.
As the acceptance of solar power transforms gradually into an irresistible stage, so does the increase in the need to achieve improved efficiency to match expectations from the end user.
To this end, innovators have done exemplary work and are still on the progressive path to deliver innovations that will consistently drive solar efficiency to a near 100 percent mark. For instance, some innovators have figured a way to use mirrors to direct sunlight to panels even at times when the sun is moving at an angle that would ordinarily prevent it from hitting the panels directly.
Such are the innovations that are vigorously defining the journey towards improved solar efficiency. Here now is a look at some of the latest innovations that seek to improve the effectiveness of the revolutionary solar power.
Even as solar energy continues to promise a bright future where power will be affordable and much more accessible, the current solar cells can only convert approximately 30% of the sun energy into useable energy. The primary reason behind this low conversion lies in the fact that solar cells have always presented the problem of overheating.
In normal working conditions, a solar cell can quickly overheat to temperatures as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit and even more. An increase in temperature by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit reduces the efficiency of the cell by close to 0.5% and influences faster aging of the cell.
Now, an innovation steered by a research team from Stanford has created a way to solve the issue of lifespan and improve the efficiency of solar cells’ conversion. They merely embedded small structures, pyramid and conical in shape, on a thin silica glass layer. These structures redirected the unwanted heat off the solar cells, allowing the cells to convert more energy and last longer.
The concept behind solar trackers is based on the observation that an ordinary panel never adjusts itself to follow the movement of the sun as the day progresses. So as the sun moves along its normal path, the panel is automatically left with no source of light, meaning its efficiency starts to decline.
However, a solar tracker solves this challenge by following the path of the sun through the sky. The trackers direct the sun to the panels by use of mirrors, even when the sun has gone past the spot where it would hit the panel naturally.
LSC (Luminescent Solar Concentrator)
This is an innovation by MIT researchers that has made a significant improvement in the efficiency of solar concentrators. Glass sheets are used in place of plastic to house the dye cells that collect/produce the energy. These glass sheets contain aluminum molecules that help to ensure that energy is not reabsorbed by the dye molecules, thus improving the efficiency of energy transfer via the waveguides. Besides improving efficiency, the LSC innovation is affordable.
The optical element is an innovation by engineers based at the University of Utah. A thin layer made up of transparent glass or plastic with the ability to sort as well as concentrate light. It can be quickly integrated into the cover glass of the solar panel. This is turning out to be a very affordable way of improving the efficiency of the solar cell. It is important to note though that this innovation is yet to be commercialized and so the certainty is not guaranteed.
From the above few innovations that are all aimed at improving the efficiency of solar energy, it is evident that we are approaching a revolution in solar efficiency. Challenges exist though, and while efficiency might still be on the lower scale, the amount of work going into extensive research coupled with the results that we are already witnessing is a testament to a future where solar energy will affect the way we live.
The writer, Edrick Hypolite, is a blogger with a focus on green energy and environmental matters. He often trumpets the efficacy of solar power and its future potential. If you reside in Florida like he does, for your own solar energy needs he highly recommends you turn to bobheinmillersolar.com for your own solar energy needs.