Solar energy has emerged as one of the most viable forms of renewable energy. But to make it even more prevalent and a standard part of power grids, solar-energy harvesting technologies need to perform at a higher level, achieving more efficiency, or a higher ratio of electrical output to the incident energy in the form of sunlight. Manufacturing the cells also must become more cost-effective and less labor-intensive to further promote their widespread use.
Click on the image below to check out some of the latest ways researchers are working to improve the performance and manufacturing of solar cells.
A group of German and French scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti, and the Helmholtz Center Berlin recently set a new world record in efficiency of 44.7 percent in a solar cell. They achieved this percentage with a four-junction solar cell that took them three years to develop. The solar cell is comprised of four solar subcells based on III-V compound semiconductors for use in concentrator photovoltaics. (Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE)
I wasn't aware of that, Mydesign, that's really interesting. So perhaps it's not so far off that they can use solar panels in space to beam electricity to earth. The Navy wants to convert the solar energy to radio waves and then beam it via antennas on satellite modules. I think it could work!
"actually today I am writing a blog post about how the U.S. Navy wants to build a space satellite with solar panels to beam solar energy from space, solving the availability/dependability problem. So stay tuned for that! Clever stuff."
Elizabeth, most of the satellites are equipped with solar panels & energy storing device for powering transponders. During day light they convert sun light to solar energy and stores in batteries for night usage.
Good points, Mydesign, and actually today I am writing a blog post about how the U.S. Navy wants to build a space satellite with solar panels to beam solar energy from space, solving the availability/dependability problem. So stay tuned for that! Clever stuff.
"Thanks for your comment, Al Klu. Actually the government is doing research and investing in solar and other alternative energies, and I agree that you're right they should be taking the initiative here."
Elizabeth, in most of the countries there are energy crisis and governments are always looking for alternate source of energy. Solar and wind are not always dependable because they are seasonal in most of the countries. In some countries they had developed hybrid systems, a combination of wind, solar, rain etc; so that energy can be produced throughout the year depends up on the available energy sources.
Al Klu, first am a non US citizen, I mean am residing in one of the Asian countries. For 3 KVA systems, all together the total cost is approximately $6000 and in that I got a subsidy of 60% (30% from State and another 30% from Federal government). As of now my total electricity bill comes to ¼ of the previous bills and I have the option to sell my extra power to grid. I hadn't connected AC and Pump motor to this system and hence paying these charges to the power supplying company.
Thanks for your comment, Al Klu. Actually the government is doing research and investing in solar and other alternative energies, and I agree that you're right they should be taking the initiative here.
Here's a story you might be interested in reading about how the Army is investing in solar: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=271748
I appreciate your input. Can you give me some specifics?
What state are you in? How big a system did you put on? How much did it cost? How much of your subsidy was federal and how much was from the state?
How effective is your system? What was your electric bill before and after installation? If you don't want to share that, what is your average usage in Kwh before and after installation? (i.e. how much electricity have you produced?).
This will tell us your payback.
How about maintenance? Do you have to go up on the roof and wash off the panels? Do you have snow? Have you thought about what's going to happen when you have to reshingle your roof?
Al Klu, two year back I had installed PV and solar energy generating system over my roof and I got 60 % subsidy from local government. Moreover, they have the buyback policy for the excess generated energy to grid.
I would love to put solar panels on my roof here in Connecticut. We have a perfect, unobstructed, south facing roof. However, even with all the government subsidies, our payback is targeted for about 15 years (optomistic sales pitch, the reality is that it would be much longer). After this time, I would expect the equipment to start needing repairs, or even replacement, which basically says that we are not saving anything. A big hidden expense will show up when we need to re-shingle our roof (about 5 to 10 years from now). They would have to come out, take off the panels and supports, then put them back on after the roof is shingled. This quoted cost is about $2000 dollars - wiping out any savings from the panels.
There are a few companies that are popping up that will put the panels on for "free", but basically, we would be paying near normal rates (no savings), for them to make money on our roof. And we would still need to pay the $2000 for the re-shingling of our roof.
I would take the plunge if the payback was 5 years or less. That would need a few more incremental steps in cost reductions. I don't know why you think individuals in Middle Class America have more money for this huge investment than our government. I certainly can't "opt" to purchase PV outright at the present time.
And you are asking the Government to just "give away" money (that's what subsidies, grants, and tax rebates are really doing) with no return on investment. My way, at least the government power bill will be reduced - hopefully by the amount of the investment.
"You and I are saying the exact same thing, except I am proposing that the government help make the technology popular. You are waiting for "someone else" to make it popular first. "
Al Klu, would you think government will invest for it, I won't think because it requires huge investment. I feel the best way is government or local states can offer subsidies for citizens, who are opting for outright purchase of solar PV cells and other components.
Festo's BionicKangaroo combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology, plus very precise controls and condition monitoring. Like a real kangaroo, the BionicKangaroo robot harvests the kinetic energy of each takeoff and immediately uses it to power the next jump.
Design News and Digi-Key presents: Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX, a crash course that will look at defining a project, selecting a target processor, blocking code, defining tasks, completing code, and debugging.
These are the toys that inspired budding engineers to try out sublime designs, create miniature structures, and experiment with bizarre contraptions using sets that could be torn down and reconstructed over and over.
PowerStream is deploying the microgrid at its headquarters to demonstrate how people can generate and distribute their own energy and make their homes and businesses more sustainable through renewables.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.