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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