SolarCity to develop roofs made of solar cells

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  Five million roofs are replaced each year in the U.S., so instead of simply swapping out old shingles with new ones, why not turn the whole roof into a solar power generator that's integrated with your home's electrical utility? That is SolarCity's plan for a new product it expects to begin producing next year, according to statements made during the company's second-quarter earnings calllast week. During the call, SolarCity Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive alluded to a new product that would be produced at the soon to open Buffalo, N.Y., solar panel manufacturing facility. Then SolarCity co-founder and Chairman Elon Musk interjected and said the product would be a solar roof, "as opposed to a [solar] module on a roof."   Cont'd...

Renewable energy storage revolutionised by flywheel device

Tereza Pultarova for Engineering & Technology Magazine:  A flywheel-based device invented by a Lancaster University student could help solve the renewable energy storage problem, offering a better alternative to battery technology. The Flywheel Energy Store, designed by 21-year-old Abigail Carson, retains energy kinetically in a levitating floating mass. The flywheel, about the size of a football, doesn’t require any additional control mechanisms, inputs or maintenance. “The global energy crisis is the biggest and most urgent problem that needs addressing,” said Carson, who is awaiting a patent for the device. “The Flywheel Energy Store can be used for a vast range of applications – most significantly in providing energy security and independence for everyone globally, but also including eliminating waste in power networks, pumping water to villages and allowing for cleaner cooking and heating in developing countries, instant charging of electric vehicles, and off-grid energy storage.” Carson’s flywheel can rotate at up to 144,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The majority of existing flywheel designs usually achieve a maximum of around 60,000rpm.   Cont'd...

New High-Temperature Device Captures a Broader Solar Wavelength Spectrum and Improves Solar Cell Efficiency

Using a heat-resistant device, made of tungsten and alumina layers, researchers from Aalborg University have found that the device can absorb the sun's broad spectrum radiation and convert it to electricity

NREL Technique Leads to Improved Perovskite Solar Cells

Scientists at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in collaboration with researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), devised a method to improve perovskite solar cells, making them more efficient and reliable with higher reproducibility.

Using Particle Accelerator Technology to Manufacture Solar Cells

This technique is projected to reduce solar panel manufacturing costs by upwards of 60% compared to industry standards, while making them 25% more efficient, and resulting in a very cost-effective source of energy.

Can We Place Solar Panels in Space?

Since clouds, atmosphere and nighttime are absent in space, satellite-based solar panels would be able to capture and transmit substantially more energy than terrestrial solar panels.

UH Researchers Discover Key Mechanism for Producing Solar Cells

Better Understanding of Perovskite Solar Cells Could Boost Widespread Use

Flipping crystals improves solar-cell performance

Perovskite research team spin-casts crystals for efficient and resilient optoelectronic devices

IKEA of energy delivers clean, green solar power-plant in a box

Richard Kemeny for New Scientist:  Here’s a bright idea for flat-packing. A German start-up has figured out how to cram an entire solar power plant into a shipping container. It has sent its first kits to off-grid villages in Africa, where they provide a new source of clean, affordable electricity after just two hours of assembly. More than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity, a situation that can keep people in poverty. And population growth means this number is rising. Those with access tend to rely on inefficient diesel generators, chugging along with crippling financial and environmental costs. Despite that, diesel is standard for off-grid energy. “If there’s no diesel, there’s no electricity”, says Rolf Kersten of the start-up, Africa GreenTec in Hainburg, Germany, which shipped its first solar generator to Mali in December last year.   Cont'd...

Missouri is about to experiment with power from an unlikely source - its roads

BRYAN CLARK for TheNextWeb:  Part of its ‘Road to Tomorrow Initiative,’ Missouri’s Department of Transportation is teaming with Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup (seriously, what’s going on in Idaho?) to cover an undetermined length of Historic Route 66 with road-ready solar panels. Blair also told The Star that the bulk of its efforts will be crowdfunded. After receiving a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype, and a pair of $750,000 research grants from the US Department of Transportation, the group has raised more than $2 million of its own to complete the project through acrowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Solar Roadways’ panels are tempered safety glass that are as strong as they are efficient. In addition to harnessing energy from the sun, they also come with LED lighting to effectively replace road lines and signage. While obviously more expensive to install upfront, the panels do have the benefit of being completely modular, which would allow for quick and cheap repairs by just swapping out the broken panels rather than re-paving entire stretches of road.   Cont'd...

24M's Batteries Could Better Harness Wind and Solar Power

Elizabeth Woyke for MIT Technology Review:  Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smartphones to electric vehicles. They’re well suited to the job because they are smaller and lighter, charge faster, and last longer than other batteries. But they are also complex and thus costly to make, which has stymied mass adoption of electric transportation and large-scale energy storage. Yet-Ming Chiang thinks his startup 24M has the answer. The key is a semisolid electrode. In a conventional lithium--ion battery, many thin layers of electrodes are stacked or rolled together to produce a cell. “Lithium-ion batteries are the only product I know of besides baklava where you stack so many thin layers to build up volume,” says Chiang, who is a cofounder and chief scientist at 24M as well as a professor of materials science at MIT. “Our goal is to make a lithium-ion battery through the simplest process possible.”   Cont'd...  

New Solar Cell Device Surpasses Theoretically Predicted Efficiency Limit

Thomas Burton for Energy Technology Matters:  A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a paper last week in the journal Nature Energy that described how they built a working solar thermophotovoltaic device (STPV) that enables solar cells to break through a theoretically predicted ceiling on how much sunlight they can convert into electricity. With this revolutionary new technology, the researchers show the potential of how solar panels can generate even more energy than theoretically determined by harnessing some of the panels’ waste. To learn more about the STPV technology, read on! Since 1961, the Shockley-Queisser Limit established an absolute theoretical limit on traditional solar cell efficiency regarding energy conversion. A single-layer of silicon cells—the type of cells most widely used in today’s solar panels—has an upper limit of 32 percent. But currently, researchers are studying ways to increase this overall efficiency by using multiple layers of cells or converting the sunlight first to heat before generating electrical power. This latter method uses devices called STPVs, which the MIT team used in their study.   Cont'd...

Futuristic device is helping scientists break solar-efficiency record

Ariel Bogle for Yahoo News:  Looking a little like the world-saving stones from sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, a new device is expected to have a big impact on renewable energy. Built by Mark Keevers and Martin Green from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the unique prism could help make solar panels cheaper and more efficient. In fact, it's already broken a world record for the amount of solar energy it can create from unfocused sunlight. The prism has a sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency rate of 34.5 percent, Keevers told Mashable Australia. That's about a 44 percent improvement in efficiency on the previous record, he said, which sat at 24 percent efficiency but over 800 square centimetres (124 square inches). The UNSW team's record was achieved over a smaller surface area of 28 square centimetres (4.34 square inches). Importantly, it does this with normal, un-concentrated light — the type household solar panels already use.   Cont'd...

Solar cells of the future could be based on iron molecules

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have successfully explained how iron-based dyes work on a molecular level in solar cells. The new findings will accelerate the development of inexpensive and environmentally friendly solar cells. The goal is to be able to use iron-based dyes in solar cells in the future.

Solar Cell "Wonder Material"-Perovskite-Falls Short of Expectations

Hugh Cowley for Scientific American:  Perovskites have arguably transformed solar energy more in the last few years than other technologies have in decades. But British researchers have called into question optimistic predictions of undiscovered perovskites. Hybrid perovskites are a mix of organic and inorganic ions with the same crystal structure as calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3). Halide perovskites are a subset of these structures containing halide ions such as fluoride or chloride. Iodide perovskites such as methylammonium lead iodide (CH3NH3PbI3) can convert sunlight to electricity. Researchers use a decades-old geometric 'tolerance factor' to propose new combinations of ions that will form stable perovskites. Now, Robert Palgrave and his team at University College London, UK, have reassessed the validity of the tolerance factor in predicting new hybrid perovskite structures.  Cont'd...

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