How Technology is Driving Solar Innovation

By July 29, 2016solar
Solar Innovation

Paving the way for solar’s swift ascent to be the world’s leading power source is recent solar innovations. With worldwide solar spending surging over 17 percent according to UNEP’s 9th annual “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015,” both emerging and established markets are poised to see technology boost solar’s impact dramatically.

Limited Resources Driving Solar Growth

As previously mentioned, investments in clean energy have taken off in emerging markets like Brazil, South Africa and India, in part to strengthen the economic standing and energy infrastructure of these countries.

The World Bank has approved $750 million in loans for rooftop solar PV projects in India, pointing to the high cost of energy and frequent outages the country experiences as reason to seek alternative energy sources.

The World Bank hopes that, by providing financial backing for projects, that consumers in nations like India will begin to consider solar technology as a real and affordable option.

“Today, the only available option for those who want to install solar PV is to pay the entire cost up-front,” World Bank Senior Energy Specialist Mohua Mukherjee, who served as team leader on the project, told PV Magazine. “The variety of financing mechanisms on offer under this program will represent a major innovation for the rooftop market.”

These investments domestically have manifested in dropping prices for the PV panels themselves, providing a boost to the residential solar market. With panels proving resilient, long-lasting and increasingly efficient, consumers and governments worldwide may soon be experiencing what many areas of the U.S. have already reached in terms of solar saturation.

One Solar Cell, More Power

One of the major recent focuses of solar technological research has been in better leveraging the power generated by solar. While this has taken form by way of new battery technology, better designed to store the power generated by solar, other researchers have turned their attention to designing a better, more efficient solar panel.

Researchers at MIT may have done just that, with the announcement of a new take on a working solar thermophotovoltaic device (STPV). Through redesigned solar cells, these panels are able to harness the heat energy that typically dissipates and ends up wasted in traditional panels. The result? A solar cell that generates significantly more power.

“We believe that this new work is an exciting advancement in the field, as we have demonstrated, for the first time, an STPV device that has a higher solar-to-electrical conversion efficiency compared to that of the underlying PV cell,” said MIT professor Evelyn Wang, one of four authors of the paper detailing the technology.

The panels work by absorbing heat energy and converting it into light, which in turn is absorbed by another layer of the panel. This focus on heat energy is another example of the solar industry evolving to embrace ways to support and supplement solar generation.  

While the technology is still new and has yet to hit the market, it shows promise as to the ways that solar innovation can develop. Combined with increased global backing, the previous limits for solar generation and usage are looking to quickly be left in the dust.