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Exciting Developments in Solar Energy

March 9th, 2011 · No Comments

This article tells about some Exciting Developments in Solar Energy

These are exciting times indeed in the field of renewable energy – wind, solar, biofuels, etc. The recent developments in solar power underscores the reality of a fluid, ever-evolving technology as well as the absolute need for us to come up with a coherent and rational approach to stimulating growth and harnessing the power of renewable energy sources. Here’s a few of encouraging developments in solar power research and applications:

Solar-powered TV, anyone?

Samsung recently exhibited their 46-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution LCD TV prototype at the CeBIT electronics trade show in Hannover, Germany. It’s transparent and it’s 100 percent solar-powered.

The Samsung TV comes with a ten-finger touchscreen technology and can display videos, photos, and other data just like any regular computer or laptop monitor.

It’s also extremely power-efficient with built-in solar panels that can capture energy from the ambient lighting within the room making any external power source redundant. The prototype is thin and transparent – it’s possible to see objects behind the TV while still watching your favorite shows or doing your social media rounds. It’s practically a TV that’s made for glass shop windows, passersby can see the both the ads or shows being displayed and the items for sale inside the store, at the same time.

Marketing perspective aside, I will not be surprised if all our appliances in the near future will be solar-powered getting their juice from the room’s ambient lighting, which in turn is powered by residential solar or wind power systems.

Growing Solar in NYC

Earthtechling has noted that private small scale solar installations are increasing in number at a very rapid pace in New York City. Installations in Queens quadrupled to 64 in 2010 from a low of 16 in 2009 (adding over 1,538 kW of capacity). The NYC and Westchester County area have also seen double growth rate – from 134 PV installations in 2009 to 203 new installations last year, adding 8.5 MW power output capacity.

Utility company Con Edison explains that the upturn can be attributed to their campaign to advertise and promote the benefits of solar power at home and to the reduction of red tape in the approval process for home installations below 25kW.

It was noted that small-sized residential PV installations have outpaced large scale solar projects because of the high cost for larger installations and the bureaucratic hurdles that project owners have to go through to have large-scale projects approved.

The good thing is that we’re actually seeing some growth in this area in the midst of adverse political climate in Washington and various state capitols. I can just imagine how fast the private sector growth would be if instead of partisan bickering, Congress can come up with a practical and coherent national renewables policy – lowering costs by helping developers gain access to low interest financing and attracting new projects by shortening and standardizing the approval process.

Solar Farming in a Skyscraper

The tallest building in America, Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) will soon have a new environmentally-friendly title. When the planned makeover is completed, the tower will practically become the tallest green building in America.

Owners of the tower have announced that the south side of the building’s 56th floor will soon be retrofitted with solar electric glass windows. The new window panels called ‘high power density photovoltaic glass units’ are produced by Pythagoras Solar as part of a bigger project at Willis Tower showcasing the benefits of large-scale integrated PV systems for skyscrapers.

The high-tech glass panels can produce the same amount of electricity as traditional solar panels while still allowing diffused light to pass into the rooms behind. What they did was to encase monocrystalline silicon solar cells in two layers of glass with an internal prism focusing the sunlight to the solar cells. Tenants will get to enjoy natural lighting and a cooler working environment.

Can you imagine the impact that this technology would make if just half of all skyscrapers in the U.S. are equipped with it?

Floating Solar Power Plants

Environmentalists, property developers, and various state governments are reviewing the long-term viability of some large-scale solar projects because of their massive impact on scarce water resources. Large panels require massive amounts of water to cool and clean them in order to maximize their capacity to capture sunlight and generate electricity.

The answer may be obvious on hindsight – building the arrays on water – but so far, only one company has figured this out and implemented the initiative. Australian solar power company Sunengy has recently announced that it is now ready to start it’s pilot floating solar power plants project in India in cooperation with Tata Power.

The technology in these floating PV systems called Liquid Solar Arrays (LSA) use built-in lenses to focus and concentrate sunlight into the solar cells. The angle of the panels also shift throughout the day following the movement of the sun maximizing the intake of sunlight. Apart from the obvious efficiency when it comes to cleaning the panels, the arrays are also capable of submerging during inclement weather, protecting them from high wind damage.

Innovations and inventions like these are the strongest arguments why we should invest in science and technology research and development, recession or not. To curtail funding for science because of misguided or pretended concerns about the national deficit is virtually accepting a future for our children where this country lags behind the rest of the world in science and technology. That is simply unacceptable.

Tags: Clean Technology