Solar power is a constantly evolving industry. The innovations that are being made are game-changing, and new advancements are constantly being announced. Last year alone, there were major milestones in the efficiency of a solar panel, solar energy storage, wearable solar panels, and solar energy technology advancements.
There are two main types of technologies for solar panels: solar panels with photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power. Solar panels with photovoltaic cells capture the sunlight and generate electricity. Concentrated solar power harnesses the sun’s heat and uses it to generate thermal solar energy that powers heaters or turbines. The two forms of solar energy come with a variety of different opportunities for technical innovations. Below are some of the latest advancements that are emerging and furthering the developing technologies for solar panels.
Skin Design for Solar Panels
One of the biggest barriers for the solar power industry is the fact that a high percentage of homeowners consider solar panels to be an unsightly home addition. Luckily, one new venture has a solution. Sistine Solar, which is A Boston-based design firm, is making major strides with the concept of aesthetic enhancement, which allows solar panels to have a customized look. The MIT startup designed and created “solar skin”. The product makes it possible for solar panels to match the appearance of a roof without interfering with the efficiency of a solar panel or production.
Last summer paved the way for the tests of exciting new solar panels with photovoltaic cell technology - solar power roads. The sidewalks along with the infamous Route 66, America’s historic interstate highway, were selected as the testing location for the new solar-powered systems pavement technology. These solar power roadways are praised for their ability to generate clean solar energy. They will also include LED bulbs that can provide lights for the roads at night as well as having the thermal heating capacity to melt the snow during the winter weather. After the sidewalk tests, the next step is to install the solar-powered system technology on the designated segments of Route 66. Once this solar energy technology is mastered, these solar power roadways are expected to change the solar power industry.
Wearable Solar Panels
Solar energy is radiating from all over the planet, so why don’t you generate your solar energy, wherever and whenever? Imagine that instead of producing solar power at a fixed location, you could also do it wherever you go, through your clothing.
Researchers are developing fabrics that can create solar power with a vision that includes solar power in every fiber of the fabric. The solar power filaments can be embedded into your t-shirts, winter coats, or any other clothing that will help keep you warm, power your phone, and provide solar energy for other needs while you are on the go.
There are a few areas where researchers have attempted to combine solar power fabric and solar panels, which include;
- Building facades that provide both shade and power.
- Awnings that lighten up streetlights.
- Curtains that eliminate power consumption from the gird.
Solar power fabric can also help you save on the costs of solar panel installations.
Companies that manufacture photovoltaic cells are also going to be working specifically on the US Army project, with a vision to create solar power robotic tents. With the costs of solar panels continuously falling, it’s easy to imagine a future where almost everything is going to be powered by solar energy.
Solar Power Batteries
The concept of off-grid solar-powered systems and solar + storage have become increasingly more popular in the United States markets, and solar companies have taken notice. The industry-famous Tesla Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery launched in 2015, continues to lead the pack concerning market share and brand recognition for solar energy batteries. Tesla offers two storage products, the Powerwall 2.0 for residential use, and the Powerpack which is for commercial use. Solar energy storage is still fairly expensive in 2019, but a surge in demand from shoppers for solar-powered systems is expected to increase the efficiency of a solar panel and make batteries more affordable.
Building-Integrated Photovoltaic Cells
Building-integrated photovoltaic cells are as the name suggests. The building-integrated photovoltaic cells seamlessly blend into the architecture of a building in the form of roofs, canopies, curtain walls, facades, and skylight solar-powered systems. Different than traditional solar panels with photovoltaic cells, building-integrated photovoltaic cells can be more aesthetically appealing rather than a compromise to a building’s design.
But as most people already know, aesthetics alone aren’t enough for solar energy buyers; economics matters as well. The good news is, building-integrated photovoltaic cells enable homeowners to save on both building materials and electrical costs. By substituting building-integrated photovoltaic cells for standard building materials, you can cut down on all of the additional costs of solar panels.
Building-integrated photovoltaic cells provide multiple benefits that are listed below;
- Increased efficiency of solar energy.
- High thermal and sound insulation.
- Clean and free power output from the sun.
- Decreased O&M costs.
- Zero carbon footprint.
The glass photovoltaic cells that are being installed as building materials act as an energy-generating device, allowing the natural light inside homes and offices, just as conventional architectural glasses.
With all of these new technologies emerging in the solar power industry, we can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring for the solar energy industry.
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