Solar Panel Roads in Australia / Efficiency

Solar panel roads – today we’ll take a look at how research and trials for solar panel roads are going, and what the future looks like for solar highways. Will we ever see solar highways in Australia (or anywhere else, for that matter)? 

Solar Panel Roads

We’ve already written extensively about solar roads and the various trials they’re currently in the middle of:

However there are three main problems with solar roads at the moment – price, performance, and safety. It’s still exorbitantly expensive to come up (the price per kW of all the current solar roads is up to $~2000 per kilowatt) with these road solar cells which perform significantly worse than their roofed brethren. Since the panels don’t have a tilt and need to be housed underneath something strong and load-bearing, this cuts efficiency significantly. And if 5% of a panel is shaded, this can reduce power generation by up to 50%. It’s assumed that dirt, dust, and traffic will exacerbate this – so we need a way to make the initial panels cheaper and/or more effective if solar roads are ever going to be a real possibility. 

Solar Panel Roads in Australia

Solar Panel Roads in Australia
Solar Panel Roads in Australia? (source: solarroadways.com)

Would these solar panel roads work in Australia? News.com.au have a great article about solar road technology, where they  discuss how expensive the current trials are and what the future for this technology could be:

The article quotes Dr. Andrew Thomson, a solar researcher at Australian National University. 

“It’s a really attractive looking idea,” Dr Thomson said. But while “it’s technically feasible, it’s very expensive. I don’t really think there’s a market for it, the opportunity cost is very much against it”.

We’ll keep you updated with progress on how solar road resarch is going along – but perhaps it’s just not the best place to put solar panels as Dylan Ryan, lecturer in Mechanical & Energy Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University told news.com.au: “…solar roads on city streets are just not a great idea”

 

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Printable Solar Panels / Cells – A Primer.

Printable Solar Panels – at some point it may be possible to use a simple desktop inkjet printer to print your own solar cells. We’re a while off that yet, but with great advancements in the technology over the last couple of years, let’s take a look at what the future holds for printed solar cells!

Printable Solar Panels

Printable Solar Panels - University of Newcastle
Printed Solar Cells – University of Newcastle (source: abc.net.au via University of Newcastle)

We wrote last week about the University of Newcastle and their foray into printed solar cells – today we’re going to take a bit of a deep dive into the situation and see where we can expect this technology to go in the next few years. 

The University of Newcastle are reporting that their latest tests in Newcastle brings them “about two years” away from launching their product onto the commercial solar market. Leading the charge has been University of Newcastle physicist Professor Paul Dastoor, who created the electronic inks which are used to print the flexible solar panels.

The process is According to the ABC, semi-conducting ink is printed on a transparent plastic sheet for the first layer, and then layers are printed on top of the other, until the cells are about 200 microns thick. For reference, human hair is around 50 microns. After that, a “top contact layer” is done again, reel-to-reel, using a technique known as sputter coating, according to Professor Dastoor.

They estimate the cost of their modules at less than $10 per square metre which is extremely cheap – the main problems are the efficiency of the printed solar panels and ensuring there’s enough space for them as it’ll take quite a lot of room on a roof. They use a lot of plastic to manufacture as well so looking at ways to recycle the waste of printed solar cells is extremely important. For that reason, in six months Professor Dastoor and his team will pull the printed solar cells off the Melbourne roof they’re currently on and investigate ways to minimise environmental waste. 

 

 

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Global wind and solar statistics – 1 Terawatt reached!

Global wind and solar statistics – Bloomberg New Energy Finance are reporting that global wind and solar energy capacity reached the 1TW milestone at the end of June this year.

Global wind and solar statistics

Global wind and solar statistics - Wikipedia
Global wind and solar statistics (source: wikipedia.org) (By Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1372121)

According to Wikipedia, renewable energy contributed 19.3% to global energy consumption and 24.5% to the generation of electricity in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This has risen sharply in the past couple of years and research indicates that we will continue to speed above and beyond the trillion watts – which is 1 million MW, or a billion kW, if that makes it easier to understand!

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) release a report this week which is based on their comprehensive and up-to-date database of renewable energy projects. The report notes that 54% of the renewable energy generated was from wind, and 46% represents solar power. This is interesting as it shows how quickly solar is reaching wind power – in 2007 we had 8GW of capacity (around 8% of the world’s renewable energy) – in comparison to wind power which had 89GW.  According to Renew Economy this represents a gigantic increase of 57x of solar’s 2007 statistics. 

With one terawatt out of the way, Business Green have been crunching the numbers with regards to the second one, which will undoubtedly be far faster and far cheaper than the first:

“The BNEF analysts predict that the pace of renewables rollout will accelerate even more in the coming years, with the second terawatt expected to arrive by mid-2023.”

It looks like wind and solar will produce more power than coal in America within the next 10 years. How will the figures be for the rest of the world? How will Australia go given the future of our National Energy Guarantee is shaky at best (not to mention it’s receiving plenty of criticism in either case). How will solar battery storage affect these figures? Will the huge influx of commercial solar system installations help us reach the next terawatt much faster? Watch this space. It’s going to be an exciting few years for renewable energy! 

 

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Solar Tarp – foldable, portable solar power.

California based Lipomi Research Group are working on creating a solar tarp – which would have myriad uses for society. Let’s learn more about how these upgraded solar panels could help parts of the world where they don’t have access to regular electricity – and some of the technological challenges they’re facing trying to complete the project.

About the Solar Tarp technology

Prototype Solar Tarp Sample - University of California
Prototype Solar Tarp Sample – University of California (source: theconversation.com)

The Lipomi Research Group are focused on “identifying ways to create materials with both good semiconducting properties and the durability plastics are known for – whether flexible or not”.  They’ve been tinkering with perovskite solar cells, which are 1/1000 the thickness of a silicon layer in a solar panel. 

Darren Lipomi of the Lipomi Group, who is also a Professor of Nanoengineering at the University of California, said that their goal is to create flexible solar panels which are as efficient as conventional silicon but don’t have some of the drawbacks of it.

The goal is to develop flexible solar panels which are thin, lightweight, and bendable. Lipomi is calling their idea a ‘solar tarp’ – which refers to a solar panel which can be expanded to the ‘size of a room’, but balled up to the size of a grapefruit when not in use. The issues here are finding a molecular structure to make the solar panels stretchable and tough – this involves replacing the silicon semiconductors with materials such as perovskite. 

They’re also taking a look at polymer semiconductors / organic semiconductors (based on carbon, and used in place of perovskites or silicon in a solar cell). These aren’t as efficient, but are far more flexible and extremely durable.

According to The Conversation, the sunlight that hits the earth in a single hour contains more energy than the whole planet uses in an entire year – so there’s plenty more work to do on improving how we utilise the sun! We’ll keep an eye on the solar tarp project and let you know when it reaches the next stage.

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Commercial Solar Windows – ClearVue Technologies

Australian building material developer ClearVue Technologies have had some good news this week – with their commercial solar windows passing the Australian Standard AS 2047, thus preparing them to market the products across Australia.  

Commercial Solar Windows

We’ve written about the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel before – they’ve had a successful IPO, have updated their technology a couple times, and seem to be ready to really get started selling commercial solar windows to Australia and the overseas market.

Commercial Solar Windows - ClearVue Technologies
Commercial Solar Windows – ClearVue Technologies (source: ClearVuePV.com)

Clearvue’s BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) offering the implementation of solar technology into frame-independent Insulated Glass Units which will house the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel. Using industry standard frames means their tech will be easy to offer to commercial buildings Australia-wide.

SmallCaps are reporting that ClearVue is separately undertaking AS 4284 certification-testing on its glass curtain wall product with results expected in August. In Europe, ClearVue has also started the process to receive CE Mark certification and allow its products to be sold in the EU. The results are expected to be received in August as well. Lastly, in America, ClearVue intends to commence US certification in the “next quarter” (Q4 2018).

Executive chairman Victor Rosenberg spoke about the accreditation and ClearVue’s plans for the future:

“The accreditation by the AWA of the ClearVue window product to AS 2047 represents a giant leap forward for the company. With this step, we have now moved from being a research company into a commercial operation and are now able to commercialise our product in the Australian market. We are on track with the business plan outlined in our Prospectus and look forward to being able to announce to the market similar certifications and accreditations shortly,” said Mr Rosenberg.

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Portable solar panels camping – fridges, reviews

Portable solar panels camping – if you’re thinking about a portable solar panel purchase for your campsite – to power laptops, charge phones, or even run a small fridge – you’re on the right article! Let’s take a look at the three main styles of portable solar panel and which you should choose.

Portable Solar Panels Camping

You have three main choices with regards to portable solar panels – and your choice depends on your unique circumstances.

Portable Folding Panels – the best option if you only camp a few times a year or you’re on a budget. These panels are quite heavy and inflexible, but they’re very simple to move to find a spot in the sun. Unless you’re a pro, we generally recommend starting here. 

Solar Blankets – the mid-range choice. More expensive than portable folding panels but worth the extra investment if you’re a frequent traveller – especially if you’re concerned about space and weight. It’s extremely simple to hang a solar blanket over the hood of your car, over your tent, on a nice sunny rock…

If you are going to have a look at the solar blanket option make sure you pay a little extra for a quality brand as these solar blankets aren’t the cheapest to begin with. If you’re going to invest in them it’s worth your while to get something that will last!

We can recommend the 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS from Redarc. 

Solar panels camping - 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS Redarc
Solar panels camping – 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS (source: REDARC.com.au)

Fixed Panels – for the grey nomad or the frequent traveller, fixed panels have very low setup and are very easy to get working. You do need to park your trailer (or however/wherever you have fixed them) in the right spot to get as much sun as possible – which can be a little annoying. But in terms of performance vs. ease of use, these are the Cadillac of portable solar.

Alternatives for Portable Solar Panels

Although Portable folding panels, solar blankets and fixed panels comprise the bulk of what we’ll recommend for solar camping, there are a couple of caveats we should mention befor eyou go and buy anything.

If you’re not sure how much power you’ll require we can recommend the REDARC Solar calculator selection tool which is a fantastic tool for those planning a getaway!

If you want something simple just to charge a phone or a power bank we recommend giving Solar Paper by YOLK a look.

Any questions or feedback on any of these products? Do you have an issue with your solar powered camp? Please let us know in the comments and we’d be happy to help!

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Solar Highways in China

There’s been a lot of information in the news lately about solar highways and we’re please to report on how one of the trials is going over in China. Solar roads are growing in popularity and we are seeing more trials pop up as the technology improves and becomes cheaper to implement. The myriad uses of solar roads (electric heating strips could melt snow, LEDs could warn drivers of any impending issues up ahead, or the roads could even charge electric vehicles down the track) mean there is a lot of research going on to try and make the tech tenable. Let’s look into it some more! 

Solar Highways in China and worldwide.

Solar Highways in China (source: YouTube)
Solar Highways in China (source: YouTube)

We wrote about solar roads in China last year and are pleased to report that we have an update on how the solar panel trial on a major highway in the city of Jinan has gone. The trial was lead by Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation with Pavenergy making the solar panels for Qilu, which is a state-owned company who operates the highway the solar road section is installed on.

The panels are made up of a complex polymer not unlike plastic – which means they have slightly more friction than normal roads – but this can be adjusted during the manufacturing profess to ensure it’s the right surface for cars. According to Today Online, normal asphalt (aka bitumen) roads cost around USD $120 per square metre each 10 years to resurface and repair. The solar road companies Pavenergy and Colas are hoping to reach USD $310 – $460 per square metre to install the solar roads – with around USD $15 of electricity being produced by each square meter of solar road each year. This means they could pay for themselves in comparison with conventional roads over a 15 year period. The problem now is the longevity of the panels – can they withstand big trucks driving over them every hour for 10 years? 

“If it can pass this test, it can fit all conditions,” said Mr Li Wu, the chairman of Shandong Pavenergy. 

Professor Zhang Hongchao, an engineering expert at Tongji University in Shanghai is helping Pavenergy with their research, which they expect to have further information on within the next 6-12 months. 

If you’re interested in reading more about solar roads then try our article about solar roads in Tokyo which are currently being installed for the upcoming Olympics in 2020. Another company rivalling Pavenergy and Qilu is a French company named Colas which has already developed 25 solar roads and solar parking lots in France, Canada and the USA. 

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Solar roads in Tokyo for 2020 Olympics

The Tokyo metropolitan government have announced that they’ll build solar roads in Tokyo which will help Japan promote itself as an eco-friendly nation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Let’s take a closer look at solar road technology and see how it’s working in other countries as well.

Solar roads in Tokyo

The country has already made some inroads with regards to trialling the solar road technology – in May a car park at a 7-11 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. It consists of solar panels installed on the road, with a covering of a special resin which enhances durability and allows cars/bikes to drive over the panels without damaging them. 

A manager at the 7-11 store was quoted in the Independent as saying: “The solar road system can generate 16,145 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, covering about nine per cent of the entire electricity that the store consumes.”

Tokyo’s government has set a goal for 2030 – that renewable energy should represent at least 30% of power consumption in the city (up from 12% in 2016).  We’re not sure where the solar roads in Tokyo will go, but we’ll let you know as soon as we have any information.

Business Times reports that it cost around 5 million euro per KM of solar road for the roads already installed in France – so it’s still very expensive and we have a ways to go before solar roads are everywhere.

We reported last year on solar roads in China, which are strong enough for medium-sized trucks to drive over. No news yet on how that is going but we’ve got trials in the Netherlands on cycling roads and also on French motorways so there should be more information on solar road performance soon.

More Solar Roads

Solar roads in Tokyo
Solar roads in Tokyo (artist’s impression) (source: news.com.au)

If you’re interested in reading more about solar highways, here are some other articles which may be of interest – the tech is still very much so in its nascent stages so keep your eyes posted and we’ll keep you updated on everything solar road related!

SONOB Installation on Dutch Highways (IIPV) – solar panel sound barriers (SONOB) as part of a project replacing currently installed sound barriers. 

The ACT has a ‘solar highway’ which isn’t exactly a solar road per se, but a step in the right direction.

recent report by US firm IDTechEX advises that they think “electrically smart roads” can be a $23 billion industry in 10 years, according to an article from news.com.au. 

 

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UNSW’s Martin Green wins Global Energy Prize

Sydney professor Martin Green from UNSW has beaten out Tesla Musk to win the $820,000 Global Energy Prize for his work in the field of photovoltaics. Green will share the prize with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, who is an expert in the field of thermal power engineering.

Martin Green and the Global Energy Prize

Martin Green of UNSW
Martin Green of UNSW (source: Wikipedia)

Professor Green is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW. According to the ABC he’s a leading specialist in both mono and polycrystalline ilicone sole cells, having invented the PERC solar cell (PERC cells represent just under a quarter of the world’s silicon cell manufacturing capacity (as of end of 2017)).

We’ve written plenty of articles about UNSW solar – they’re involved in general solar power research, have launched the SunSPoT solar potential tool, and they have also recently signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

In 1989, Professor Green and his team were responsible for the solar cells in the first photovoltaic system. In 2014 he was able to double 1989’s energy conversion efficiency of 20% to 40%. 

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs told the ABC that Professor Green had “delivered truly transformational outcomes in renewable energy for more than three decades”.

“Martin is a highly deserving recipient of this global prize and we warmly congratulate him,” he said.

“His fundamental and applied research has transformed the global energy sector and will continue to produce major economic and social benefits, both in Australia and worldwide.” Professor Jacobs continued. 

Professor Green said receiving the award was “a great honour”.

“The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news,” he said.

“We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity.”

This is a fantastic reward for one of Australia’s solar stalwarts and we salute Professor Green for his ongoing work with solar power technology.

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ClearVue Technologies Solar Glass/Windows IPO

Western Australian solar glass company ClearVue Technologies are preparing to float on the ASX – in order to raise capital to sell their solar power generating glass windows globally. They’ve developed the tech in conjunction with the Electron Science Research Institute (ESRI) at Edith Cowan University. 

ClearVue Technologies

According to an interview with Finance News Network, ClearVue’s executive chairman Victor Rosenberg said the company is currently in the pre-development stage and are hoping to commence manufacturing the windows within the next 8 weeks.  They have a manufacturing partner in China called ROCKY Glass who will be making the windows to start, then they will licence the product worldwide, gaining income from both licensing and royalties. 

The ClearVue website have discussed their plans for the future: “Our technology presents a paradigm shift in the way glass will be used in building construction, automobiles, agriculture and speciality products”. 

ClearVue, founded in 1995, have lodged with ASIC to apply for 25,000,000 Shares at an issue price of $0.20 per Share to raise $5,000,000. Click here to download their prospectus and apply for shares online if you’re interested in their IPO. 

Solar Windows and Solar Glass

ClearVue Technologies Solar Glass and Windows
ClearVue Technologies Solar Glass and Windows (source: http://www.clearvuepv.com/)

ClearVue Technologies’ current offering is a patented nano technology – using BIPV (Building-Integrated Photovoltaic). Unlike most of their competitors the window remains clear, and the solar glass also “allows the visible light to pass through up to 70 per cent and it rejects the infrared and the UV from penetrating the room”. 

“Nobody actually has got clear glass,” said Rosenberg in an interview last year.  “They’ve got either lines or they’ve got dots, or looks like a chessboard with squares of solar panels on the glass.

“We are today, I would proudly say, the only commercial-size clear glass super building material producer.”

The windows currently generate 30W per square metre whilst simultaneously insulating and providing UV control. They’re hoping to reach 50W per square metre as they improve the BIPV technology. 

We’ve written quite extensively on solar windows – with technology such as perovskite solar cells and inkjet printed solar cells using Cyanobacteria among the more interesting ideas. There’s no doubt that this will be a huge market and there are quite a lot of competitors jostling to bring the best technology to market, so it’ll be exciting to see what happens!

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