Low-cost 'solar absorber' promising for future power plants

Emil Venere for Phys.org: Researchers have shown how to modify commercially available silicon wafers into a structure that efficiently absorbs solar energy and withstands the high temperatures needed for "concentrated solar power" plants that might run up to 24 hours a day.

A Low-Tech Approach To Energy Storage: Molten Metals

Bruce Gellerman for WBUR: The ability to store energy promises to revolutionize the way we generate, transmit and use electricity - making renewable sources such as wind and solar cheaper and more dependable. Massachusetts is one of just three states requiring electric utilities to build battery facilities in the future. A company in Marlborough believes it literally has the next hot technology in energy storage: molten metals.

Record-breaking solar panel converts more than a quarter of sunlight into electricity

Ian Johnson for Independent: A record-breaking solar panel that can convert more than a quarter of the sunlight it receives into electricity has been developed by researchers in Japan.

Trump Should Make Space-Based Solar Power A National Priority

Space-based solar power (SBSP) --- in which satellites in Earth orbit capture the Sun's radiation, convert it to electricity and then transmit it back to Earth in the form of either microwaves or lasers --- would arguably do more to positively impact the lives of everyday Americans and fellow citizens of the world than almost anything the new President could champion.

Scientists harness solar power to produce hydrogen from biomass

University of Cambridge via Biomass Magazine: Â Dr Moritz Kuehnel, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, joint lead author on a new research paper published in Nature Energy, says: "Lignocellulose is nature's equivalent to armoured concrete. It consists of strong, highly crystalline cellulose fibres, that are interwoven with lignin and hemicellulose which act as a glue. This rigid structure has evolved to give plants and trees mechanical stability and protect them from degradation, and makes chemical utilisation of lignocellulose so challenging." The new technology relies on a simple photocatalytic conversion process. Catalytic nanoparticles are added to alkaline water in which the biomass is suspended. This is then placed in front of a light in the lab which mimics solar light. The solution is ideal for absorbing this light and converting the biomass into gaseous hydrogen which can then be collected from the headspace. The hydrogen is free of fuel-cell inhibitors, such as carbon monoxide, which allows it to be used for power. Â Full Article:

Stabilizing battery storage

Morgan Sherburne for U of Michigan News:  An issue that has long plagued renewable energy facilities is how to efficiently store energy collected from sun or wind. Now, University of Michigan and University of Utah chemists have developed an energy-storing molecule that is 1,000 times more stable than current compounds, potentially leading to a longer-lived, more efficient battery. The researchers are working to develop industrial-scale batteries that can store large amounts of energy for deployment when the sun sets or the wind stops blowing. Deep-cycle lead batteries or lithium ion batteries are already on the market, but each type presents challenges, including the significant environmental hazards of disposal. Also, these kinds of batteries wear out relatively quickly.   Cont'd...

Follow the Patents: For Solar Power, the Devil Is in the Details

Alec Schibanoff for Electric Light & Power:  There actually is a crystal ball that permits you to see into the future. All you have to do is follow the patents. The latest patents in any technology will show you where that technology—and the businesses that use that technology—are going. This month, we take a look at the future of solar panel installation. The first solar power generator was displayed at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1878. The first U.S. Patent for a solar power device was awarded the next year to Edward Weston. He actually received two patents: U.S. Patent No. 389,124 for an “Apparatus for Generating Solar Radiant Energy” and U.S. Patent No. 389,125 for the “Art of Utilizing Solar Radiant Energy.” It was not until 1954 that Bell Labs developed the first silicone-based solar panel.   Cont'd...

High-tech canopy helps generate solar power while providing shade

Barbara Eldredge for Curbed:  Imaginative architect and designer Carlo Ratti has had some bonkers ideas over the past year, including an exercise-powered gym barge and a mile-high skyscraper park. But his latest project is on the sunnier side of feasibility. Literally. The Sun&Shade is a light-reflecting canopy made of mirrors that automatically rotate to catch the sun’s rays and fling them at a photovoltaic panel, “located a safe distance away.” This generates clean electricity up top while cooling the shaded area beneath. A working prototype of the mirrored structure just debuted at Dubai’s Museum of the Future as part of its “Reimagining Climate Change.”   Cont'd...

Stanford engineers create a low-cost battery for storing renewable energy

Jackie Flynn for Stanford News:  A battery made with urea, commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine, could provide a low-cost way of storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy for consumption during off hours. Developed by Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, the battery is nonflammable and contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite. Its electrolyte’s main ingredient, urea, is already industrially produced by the ton for plant fertilizers. “So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” said Dai. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?”   Cont'd...

Record-breaking solar panels could slash power costs

Reuters Jim Drury:  Swiss start-up Insolight says its solar panels double the yield achieved by other sun-powered technology. In independent tests the panels reached an efficiency of 36.4 percent. "Traditionally the market sits at around 18 percent and we can double this. Therefore we can double the return on investment for the final client....Our key innovation is that you do not need to rotate the panel in order to follow the sun. We can follow the sun in a flat manner, like any other solar panel, which makes it that our panel can be installed on standard rooftops, with standard mounting technology." Tiny square super cells capture all of the sun's rays, underneath round lenses, using a patented microtracking system.   Watch Video.

Battling corrosion to keep solar panels humming

Sue Holmes for Phys.org:  People think of corrosion as rust on cars or oxidation that blackens silver, but it also harms critical electronics and connections in solar panels, lowering the amount of electricity produced. "It's challenging to predict and even more challenging to design ways to reduce it because it's highly dependent on material and environmental conditions," said Eric Schindelholz, a Sandia National Laboratories materials reliability researcher who studies corrosion and how it affects photovoltaic (PV) system performance. Sandia researchers from different departments collaborate to accelerate corrosion under controlled conditions and use what they learn to help industry develop longer-lasting PV panels and increase reliability. For example, work by Olga Lavrova of Sandia's Photovoltaic and Distributed Systems Integration department demonstrated, for the first time, a link between corrosion and the risk of arc faults in PV systems' electrical connections. Research by Erik Spoerke of Sandia's Electronic, Optical and Nano Materials department focuses on developing new nanocomposite films that could dramatically increase reliability.   Cont'd...

Two for the Price of One: Russian Scientists Build Solar+Wind Power Generator

Sputnik News:  A team of enterprising Russian scientists managed to develop a unique power generator that uses both solar and wind energy at the same time to produce electricity. There have been numerous attempts before to produce a combo solar+wind power generator, but so far none have met success. Solar panels tend to wear out rather quickly due to the powerful air currents generated by wind turbines, which drastically limits the system’s efficiency. But now, the combined efforts of the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, the Moscow Power Engineering Institute and a Zelenograd-based solar panel manufacturer have finally borne fruit.   Cont'd...

World's first solar panel road opens in Normandy village

Kim Willsher for The Guardian:  France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal. It cost €5m (£4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents. In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh.   Cont'd...

Glow-in-the-dark dye could fuel liquid-based batteries

Charlotte Hsu for University of Buffalo:  BUFFALO, N.Y. — Could a glow-in-the-dark dye be the next advancement in energy storage technology?  Scientists at the University at Buffalo think so. They have identified a fluorescent dye called BODIPY as an ideal material for stockpiling energy in rechargeable, liquid-based batteries that could one day power cars and homes.  BODIPY — short for boron-dipyrromethene — shines brightly in the dark under a black light. But the traits that facilitate energy storage are less visible. According to new research, the dye has unusual chemical properties that enable it to excel at two key tasks: storing electrons and participating in electron transfer. Batteries must perform these functions to save and deliver energy, and BODIPY is very good at them.  In experiments, a BODIPY-based test battery operated efficiently and with longevity, running well after researchers drained and recharged it 100 times.   Cont'd...

DOE energy innovation hub backs two key future battery technologies

Nick Flaherty for EE Times:  After four years of evaluation, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (Chicago, IL) is backing two key technologies for the future of battery systems. The Center was set up four years ago with a five year remit to explore new battery technology for transportation and the electricity grid that, when scaled to commercial production, are capable of delivering five times the energy density at one-fifth the cost of commercial batteries available in 2011. The Center has investigated 1,500 compounds for electrodes and 21,000 organic molecules relevant for liquid electrolytes as well as filing 52 invention disclosures and 27 patent applications, says director George Crabtree. Five techno-economic models created by JCESR for designing virtual batteries on the computer are being used to evaluate the best pathways for beyond-lithium-ion systems to reach 400 watt hours per kilogram (400 Wh/kg) and $100 per kilowatt hour ($100/kWh).  Cont'd...

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