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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Perovskite Solar Panels Rolled Out (Saule/Skanska)

Poland based Saule Technologies have signed a distribution agreement with the Skanska group to roll out perovskite solar panels in 2018. This is the first company to bring the technology to market and it’s an exciting step forward for alternatives to the efficiency limited (read about the Shockley-Queisser limit) conventional silicon based solar panels.

Saule Technologies and Perovskite Solar Panels

Perovskite Solar Panels - Saule Technologies and Skanska Group in Poland
Perovskite Solar Panels – Saule Technologies and Skanska Group in Poland (source: skanska.pl)

We’ve previously written about research into perovskite solar cells and Greatcell’s $6m grant towards Perovskite Solar Cell research. But this is the first time they’ve been offered to the public – so it’s a huge step forward for the technology.

Saule Technologies are a Warsaw based start-up who will partner with multinational project development and construction firm Skanska AB to bring the semi-transparent perovskite solar modules to commercial office buildings. According to PV Tech, the first panels will be installed on office buildings in Poland later this year. 

On a press release on their website, Skanska said they have over €20 million in grants for their research and are currently building large-scale, prototype production line. They have been “working on the application of ink-jet printing for fabricating free-form perovskite solar modules since 2014”, so it’s exciting to see their research enter the next phase. 

“It is not a science-fiction vision anymore. Working with talented scientists from Saule, we are now turning fiction into reality and creating buildings which are more energy efficient and carbon neutral. Up to now this has not been possible on a large scale. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges the modern world is facing and it contributes to extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency and severity around the world. As such there is increasing legislative pressure to run businesses in a sustainable and attentive manner,” said Katarzyna Zawodna, CEO of Skanska’s commercial development business in CEE.

View the video below to learn more about manufacturing perovskite solar panels and the ink-jet printing/crystallization process:

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Inkjet Printed Solar Cells using Cyanobacteria

Inkjet printed solar cells could become a reality after researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge and Central Saint Martins used an inkjet printer to create tiny bio solar panels using cyanobacteria.

Inkjet Printed Solar Cells

As solar panel technology gets better and better, scientists have figured out a way to create a living ink which they then print on paper and use as bio-solar panels. Cyanobacteria, tiny creatures which use photosynthesis to turn solar light into energy (nature’s solar panels!) managed to survive a process where they’re printed onto electrically conductive carbon nanotubes, according to Futurism.com

Inkjet Printed Solar Cells
Inkjet Printed Solar Cells using Cyanobacteria (source: imperial.ac.uk)

Dr Marin Sawa from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Imperial College of London noted that although the inkjet printed solar cells may not be able to generate enough power to run an air conditioner, for example, there are myriad ways their low power production could improve quality of life:

“Imagine a paper-based, disposable environmental sensor disguised as wallpaper, which could monitor air quality in the home. When it has done its job it could be removed and left to biodegrade in the garden without any impact on the environment” Dr. Sawa told the Imperial College website

This new type of renewable energy technology is called microbial biophotoltaics (BPV) and is being worked on by scientists across the globe.

Other things able to be powered by a panel approximately the size of an iPad could power a small LED light bulb or a digital clock. The low power output means they’re suitable for things that require small amounts of energy, such as biosensors or environmental sensors. Dr Andrea Fantuzzi noted that the BPV solution is very cost effective and could have some great implementations for healthcare:

“Paper-based BPVs integrated with printed electronics and biosensor technology could usher in an age of disposable paper-based sensors that monitor health indicators such as blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes. Once a measurement is taken, the device could be easily disposed of with low environmental impact”

One of the best things about this is that these panels are completely biodegradable – which solves a long running problem of what to do with solar panels / storage after they’re past their ‘use-by date’. Very exciting tech (similar in a way to smart solar windows research) to ring in the new year which we’ll be sure to follow closely! 

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Australian solar cell research gets $29.2m grant.

Australian solar cell research has received a $29.2m grant from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) – with 11 of the 22 projects currently sponsored associated with UNSW, who has been leading the way in Australia’s solar research for over 40 years. 

Australian Solar Cell Research

ARENA chief exec Ivor Frischknecht was quoted on the UNSW website talking about Australia’s solar research and how ARENA have been able to help with funding projects:

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” he said. “This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions.”

ARENA’s latest funding round has seen UNSW granted $16.43m for 11 projects. UNSW’s research partner in ACAP (the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics), ANU, received  $7.89m for six projects, the CSIRO received $3.31m and Monash University got $1.59m.

UNSW and SIRF

Australian Solar Cell Research - UNSW's Solar Industrial Research Facility
Australian Solar Cell Research – UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (source: unsw.edu.au)

UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) was created in 2011 as a $16m ‘turnkey pilot line manufacturing facility’ which allows UNSW to create silicon solar cells from lab processes to factory ready industrial processes. According to the UNSW website, architects Woods-Bagot modelled the outside of the building to mimic the pattern of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.

Today, it’s a $30m facility aimed at advancing solar power technology – bringing UNSW’s solar tech to industry partners across the world. SIRF has brought over $8 billion in benefits to Australia over the past ten years – with gains of energy efficiency forecast to save Australians $750m over the next decade. It’s been the recipient of myriad ARENA grants and is a great example of Australia’s commitment to solar power research. 

Dean of UNSW Science Emma Johnston, discussing the grants, said: “At UNSW we are proud to have a long history of world-leading solar innovations dating back to the 1970s. But research is only one part of the puzzle. Equally as important is translating these world-leading ideas into commercially viable products.

“The SIRF facility we stand in today is evidence of this commitment – a place where we work hand in hand with industry to deliver solar solutions for Australia and the world,” Dr. Johnston added. 

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JA Solar Cells – 60-cell modules exceed 325MW

China-based JA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd., announced that their 60-cell PV modules (assembled by moni-Si PERC cells) have exceeded 325W (326.67W, certified by TÜV SÜD), which is a new world record for that type of solar panel. 

“Setting a new world record of over 325W output power from a 60-cell mono-Si PV module is remarkable achievement enabled by PERC technology,” said Dr. Wei Shan, Chief Technology Officer of JA Solar.

PERC Solar Cells

JA Solar Cells - 60 Cell PERC 325MW
JA Solar Cells – 60 Cell PERC 325MW (source: au.jasolar.com)

The average power output of JA’s 60 cell PV modules using moni-Si PERC is currently 300W, so it’s great to see them advance the technology further – they’ve been working with PERC cells for a long time and are one of the market leaders in research and manufacture of these solar modules. 

JA Solar filed an invention application in 2010 for its industrial PERC cell structure and method of production, according to RenewEconomy. In 2013 they were the first company to break 20% sunlight-energy conversion efficiency by using a screen-printing metallization process – starting commercial production of the modules in 2014

PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell or Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact) technology is able to increase efficiency by allowing electrons to flow more freely.It also makes the back of solar cells more reflective, increasing efficiency again.

This is another small but significant step forward for solar panel technology, which is starting to look for alternatives to the conventional silicon cell, such as perovskite

About JA Solar 

JA Solar panels are a popular ‘tier 1’ solar panel in Australia as they are reasonably priced and perform well over a long period. They’re certainly not the most expensive panels out there and in terms of bang for buck, we are happy to recommend them to those considering installing a solar system in Australia. 

JA Solar recently won a contract to supply 50MW(AC) of modules for Malaysia’s first utility-scale solar project in Sabah. Mr Cao Bo, JA’s Vice President, said that

 “We are excited to partner with one of our largest customers, SPIC, again in an overseas market. We believe this win demonstrates our value proposition and technical innovation with high-performance solar modules. We have invested USD163 million in our Penang, Malaysia manufacturing operation to produce poly and mono cells with the annual capacity of 1000MW. From the China-Malaysia relationship standpoint, investing in manufacturing facilities and sharing our technical expertise in Malaysia, a rapidly growing market, remains our top priority. Additionally, we look forward to serving our global partners and customers by providing the highest-quality solar products and services.”

 

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