Solar power

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Solar panels have a lifespan of roughly 30 years, and come in variety of shades depending on the type of material used in manufacturing. Concentrated solar power CSP , uses mirrors to concentrate solar rays. These rays heat fluid, which creates steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity.

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CSP is used to generate electricity in large-scale power plants. A CSP power plant usually features a field of mirrors that redirect rays to a tall thin tower. One of the main advantages of a CSP power plant over a solar PV power plant is that it can be equipped with molten salts in which heat can be stored, allowing electricity to be generated after the sun has set. Members Login. Countries Select a Country.

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And now, opaque solar panels are also on track to becoming similarly unobtrusive not to mention aesthetic. Numerous startups have begun tackling solar tiles and solar roofing technologies, aiming to integrate them seamlessly into the construction of homes and mid-scale structures. Tesla, for instance, has its own brand of beautifully designed solar tiles called Solar Roof.

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Incorporating an embedded Powerwall battery, these highly durable solar tiles can both convert and store solar energy throughout the day, then make it available at any time. Projecting a future wherein residential structures not only fuel your household activities but can make you money, Elon Musk believes that solar roofs will cost less than traditional roofing materials already at near-zero maintenance costs in the near future.

Not only that, but current figures would suggest that solar tiling can even compete on price with rooftop installation of traditional solar panels. And Tesla is not alone in the solar roof game. And while it remains unclear if the company will be able to deliver on these promises, its current figures speak for themselves.


But even in light of environmental conditions, stable solar panel efficiency is steadily on the rise. Historically, inefficient electrical production has stood as the greatest barrier to large-scale solar adoption.

Yet the efficiency of photovoltaic cells has improved exponentially since their invention. Today, most active solar panels average 18 percent efficiency, meaning they capture 18 percent of the energy to which they are exposed. But new advances have dramatically increased that number. Several companies such as Solar City, Panasonic, and SunPower have achieved solar panels with between percent efficiency, a staggering percent efficiency increase from standard panels.

Yet others, such as Tesla and Panasonic jointly engaged in producing solar cells have broken the 20 percent efficiency threshold in their commercial products today. But even these improvement rates are beginning to be challenged by new innovations borne from research and development. The National Renewable Energy laboratory and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology announced in that they had built a solar cell capable of 30 percent efficiency.

And just one year later, a group of scientists from George Washington University and the Naval Research laboratory announced that they had built a cell that was capable of Adopting a distinct geometric approach, SolSunTech is one of the few players using 3D panels as opposed to flat ones. Currently, these high-efficiency cells and panel solutions are prohibitively expensive because of the materials used to build them.

Can solar power shake up the energy market?

As materials science breakthroughs drive down cost, commercial solar products will become increasingly demonetized and democratized, just as solar efficiency continues to skyrocket. One material for consideration is none other than perovskite: a light-sensitive crystal and one of our newer new materials. The theoretical upper limit of its conversion efficiency is about 66 percent—compared to 32 percent for silicon—and its ingredients are widely available and inexpensive to combine.

Also, while silicon is heavy and rigid, perovskite is thin, flexible, and lightweight, allowing these panels to be placed on any surface imaginable. To date, scientists have also used a chemical compound called guanidinium thiocyanate to dramatically improve the structural and optoelectronic properties of the lead-tin mixed perovskite films.

Moreover, scientists continue to discover materials deficits and efficiency-optimizing modifications at an extraordinary rate. Recently, for instance, researchers found a material defect in silicon responsible for the two percent efficiency drop experienced by solar panels in their first few hours of use. This, in turn, reduces the level of electrical power that can be produced.

Solar simulators: Application to developing cities

While seemingly negligible, the potential to recapture this two percent efficiency loss from light-induced degradation LID represents a massive opportunity. This breakthrough discovery of the root causes of LID brings scientists leagues closer to recapturing that energy. And on a macro scale, this and similar discoveries tremendously accelerate the commercial viability and energy-generating potential of solar power.

Skyrocketing advancements in materials science, battery technology, and solar-capturing surfaces are driving our future of solar energy abundance.

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