Solar energy is projected to rise from 11% of total renewable power generation in the U.S. in 2017 to 48% by 2050 — a fact that indicates its dominance of the electricity generation sector. As far back as 2017, solar and wind energy were already the most popular forms of electricity generation on a global scale. This is chiefly because solar solutions are very much in line with consumer demands for more sustainable means of living. The good news, moreover, is that new technologies are making solar energy more accessible and efficient, meaning that large-scale industries and individual homes alike will be increasingly able to lower their carbon footprints while carrying out all their usual tasks.
Floating Solar Farms
‘Floatovoltaics’ is the word being used to describe the placement of photovoltaic panels over large bodies of water such as seas or oceans. Doing so enables farms to generate massive amounts of energy without taking up vital land space. Experts report, moreover, that floating panels produce 10% more energy thanks to the natural cooling ability of water. Floatovoltaics also cost less to install than land-based panels, because there is no need to clear land or prepare the soil.
Solar Skin Panels
The U.S. surpassed two million solar installations last year, with over 12 million American homes receiving all their electricity from solar installations. Some homeowners lease solar panels instead of buying them. This enables those on a smaller budget to harness green energy without having to pay for the installation. Solar panels are increasingly becoming more attractive additions to homes, with some companies even producing so-called Solar Skins that are able to color match roofs. This is achieved through the use of a patent-pending, customizable graphics layer that can represent any image – therefore adding a beautiful aesthetic to the energy-saving benefits of solar panels.
Imagine being able to harness the power of the sun at night time! This is exactly what researchers at UC Davis are proposing to do with their ‘anti-solar panels’. The latter work by drawing heat radiating off the Earth’s surface. Traditional solar panels work by absorbing photons from the sun’s radiation; they are able to do this because their temperature is cooler than the sun’s. Anti-solar panels work in the opposite way. In the night time, the earth emanates heat in response to the colder temperatures outside. This heat is released in the form of infrared light which can be captured to generate electricity. The UC Davis researchers have found that thus far, the devices used to capture this energy can generate around 25% of what traditional solar panels can during the day. It is expected that this percentage will grow as the sophistication of the devices being developed increases.
Perovskites Crystal Structures
One of the fastest-growing solar technologies is that of perovskites, which contain a crystal structure that enables them to absorb solar energy in an ultra-efficient manner. Super-fine films measuring around 300 nanometers can be made with these structures, allowing them to be used as coatings for cars, benches, clothing, and the like. They can easily be printed on an inkjet printer and their potential use is vast. For instance, a perovskites layer can be placed on street furniture to enable phones to be charged for free.
Solar energy is already providing green electricity solutions to so many industries and homes. However, technological advances are not stopping in this area, with so many new developments promising to make energy cheaper and more efficient. From floating solar farms right through to flexible perovskites, there are so many ways to harness the power of the sun, at day and night time.