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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The rotating, energy-efficient solar home Girasole

In Crace, Canberra, Anna and Phillip Burroughs reside in a multi-award-winning solar home named ‘Girasole’. It’s the widest rotating home in the world – using solar power to rotate on its axis to gather maximum amounts of solar panel and allow for a novel and exciting living area for the Burroughs’. 

Girasole the rotating solar home.

Girasole Rotating Solar Home
Girasole Rotating Solar Home (source: Liveability.com.au)

Girasole was designed by DNA Architects and Industrious Design in 2012-2013 – with the house being offered a six star energy rating. Construction was completed by MAG Constructions in 2013 and in the middle of the year the Burroughs happily moved in to their amazing new home which boasts a 120,000 litre underground water tank, 10.5kW solar panels, north-facing living room windows, the highest insulation rating possible (using polystyrene external cladding) and LED lighting throughout. 

A touchscreen panel in the house is pressed to commence the rotation of the 56 tonne home – which also has an automatic option to ‘follow the sun’. It takes about 10 minutes for the house to do a full 360′ rotation and, amazingly, takes about the same energy as a lightglobe to turn around due to extremely clever and energy efficient construction and design. 

According to the Internet, ‘Girasole’ is Italian for sunflower – an apt choice for the amazing solar house. Gira(re) also means ‘to turn’ and sole is the sun, so it’s a bit of a play on words. 

Some words from the original designer, John Andriolo from MAG Constructions:

“The idea for this house came about over 50 years ago when I was just a 10-year-old boy studying history in Italy. I found Galileo Galilee’s idea of ‘eppure si mouve’ (‘the earth is moving’) completely fascinating, and since then I have always dreamt that one day I would build a house that follows the sun. Seeing this idea now become a reality is a little surreal but I hope it will demonstrate how our natural resources, like the sun and rain, can be put to good use in future home designs.”

In a world where we’re starting to see solar panels mandatory on new homes (well, in California at least) there’s no doubt we’ll start to see a lot more novel ideas. 

If you want to follow Girasole on Facebook please click here.

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MS Tûranor PlanetSolar – Solar Boat

The world’s biggest solar powered boat, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, has been donated to the Swiss-based Race for Water Foundation. The €15 million boat was financed by a German entrepreneur, built by Knierim Yachtbau and holds two records: the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by solar boat and the longest distance ever covered by a solar electric vehicle.

MS Tûranor PlanetSolar

MS Turanor Planetsolar
MS Turanor Planetsolar (source: gearpatrol.com)

Tthe name Tûranor is an Elvish term created by J.R.R. Tolkien meaning “power from the sun.” Developed in 2010, the Swiss company PlanetSolar created the ship, which can travel around 5 knots. In May 2012, it became the first solar electric vehicle ever to circumnavigate the globe. Expedition leader and founder of the PlanetSolar project was Swiss eco-adventurer Raphaël Domjan.

The photovoltaic cells have a yield of 22.6 percent and almost cover the whole deck. Unlike the majority of solar panels, they can support the weight of a human: up to 80kg per square meter.

According to Autoblog, the PlanetSolar measures 115 feet long, 75 feet wide. It has a max speed of 16 mph and its 2 electric motors provide 60 kW of energy each. The boat has over 5,500 square feet of solar panels which supply power to 8.5 tons of lithium-ion batteries. All this and the boat is environmentally friendly and doesn’t produce any emissions (which means it’s perfect for performing experiments out at sea!)

As discussed, BusinessInsider is reporting that the boat has been donated to the Race for Water Foundation, who will use it as a mobile laboratory for scientific missions to raise awareness about renewable energy.

If you want to read more, the story of Tûranor PlanetSolar can be found in Kevin Desmond’s 280-page Electric Boats and Ships: a History published by McFarland Books.

If this was built in 2018, you wonder how much more effective it could be. We’ll no doubt see its successor at some point – it’ll be amazing to see how much more powerful our solar panel technology is!

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ClearVue solar glass IPO – $5m

The ClearVue solar glass IPO has been a success, with the Perth based company debuting on the ASX after raising $5m AUD via an IPO. They now plan to float on the national stock market in March, if everything goes to plan with regards to their solar windows

We’ve previously written about the ClearVue IPO – back in March they lodged with ASIC to offer 25 million shares at $0.20 to raise the $5m AUD (although RenewEconomy are reporting they were hoping to raise $6m). It’a fantastic to see them reach this amount and take the business to the next step.

ClearVue solar glass

ClearVue Solar Glass and Windows
ClearVue Solar Glass and Windows (source: clearvuepv.com)

The patented ClearVue nano-technology was developed together with the Electron Science Research Institute (ESRI) at Edith Cowan University. Their BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaic) product generates a minimum of 30W per square metre of clear glass, whilst simultaneously insulating from heat and cold. They’re hoping to boost this 30W per square metre to 50W on the back of the upgraded funding.

ClearVue’s executive chairman Victor Rosenberg hasn’t been quoted since the success of the IPO but here he is a couple of months ago discussing their product:

“Our technology presents a paradigm shift in the way glass will be used in building construction, automobiles, agriculture and speciality products,” Rosenberg said.

“Glass will no longer be just a component of construction but also a renewable energy resource.”  

You can see the ClearVue panels used in places like bus shelters where they power LED lights and a digital bus display. No doubt we’ll see commercial scale production of the solar glass next. This will be offered to the agricultural and greenhouse sectors, as well as in building and construction.

In a world where it’s mandatory to have new solar panels on houses built in California, it’s certainly far from out of the picture to see solar glass installed in new buildings.

If you’ve like to learn more, click here to watch a video on ClearVue from their website.

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Beryl Solar Farm reaches financial close.

First Solar have reached a financial close at the 87MW Beryl solar farm in New South Wales. The farm will be one of the world’s first to use First Solar’s Series 6 modules (with 420+ watts per module) and will be constructed by Downer EDI. 

Beryl Solar Farm – Construction and Financial Close

Beryl Solar Farm
Beryl Solar Farm (site: firstsolar.com.au)

Beryl is around five km from Gulgong in central west NSW. This is one of NSW’s biggest completed solar farms but there are some upcoming projects which will dwarf it (such as the 200MW Sunraysia solar farm in Balranald or the $380m Gunning Solar Farm – with solar there are always bigger plans in place!).

According to a press release on Reuters, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract is worth about $150m and construction will commence soon.

TransGrid’s head of business growth Richard Lowe discussed how they will be able to integrate into the project: “The project is located approximately 250 metres south of TransGrid’s Beryl Substation, so we have been able to offer a very competitive and attractive asset connection plan to First Solar,” Lowe said in a statement on the TransGrid website.

“The Beryl Solar Farm will connect directly into TransGrid’s high-voltage electricity transmission network via a 66kV connection to a new bay at Beryl Substation.

“This connection will allow the export of 87 megawatts of power into the National Electricity Market – enough to serve the needs of approximately 25,000 average NSW homes, while the associated carbon emission displacement is equivalent to taking about 45,000 cars off the road.” the statement from TransGrid continued.

TransGrid will oversee the construction and operation of a new substation at the Beryl solar farm so they’re able to then connect that to the existing Beryl substation. This will happen in the second half of the year. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Series 6 module please click here to watch a video on the manufacturing process. 

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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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Ikea Solar Panels in Australia – Cost, Pricing, Brands.

According to new IKEA Australia boss Jan Gardberg, the Swedish furniture company will sell solar panels ‘at cost’ in Australia as part of a strategy to increase their market share across the country. We reported on IKEA solar panels in the UK last August and reached out about a timeline for Australia, but didn’t get a response back. But now we know!

Ikea Solar Panels in Australia

“We have already introduced (solar panels) into the UK market and in Poland and something similar in Japan, and I and the team would like to find a way to introduce that to the Australian market,” Jan Gardberg, the new boss of IKEA Australia, told Channel 9. 

“It would actually be cost-neutral because we believe this to be another positive way that we, as a big company, can contribute for the sustainable life at home for the many people in Australia”he continued – which sounds like fantastic news for consumers given solar panel technology is increasing so rapidly and energy storage becoming so commonplace the price is becoming a lot more reasonable.

But what are the ramifications for the smaller solar companies when they’re already in a race to the bottom in terms of discounting? If a company with almost bottomless pockets is selling solar as a loss-leading strategy there’s going to be some interesting days ahead. Keeping in mind the customers will still need to pay for inverters and installation there’s still money to be made for those shrewd enough to piggyback on IKEA’s plan – but along with shrinking STCs it’s definitely tough times for those in the retail solar game, where profit margins are already razor thin. 

Natalie Collard from the Clean Energy Council was positive about the Ikea solar panels:

“We expect IKEA will respond quickly to any concerns about installation quality or performance from the systems that are being sold in-store. IKEA is continuing the trend of large mainstream businesses adopting renewable energy, and this will only strengthen in the years ahead.”

“The Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailers have all committed to excellence in customer service, a minimum five-year whole-of-system warranty and ethical marketing practices. A list of these businesses can be found at www.approvedsolarretailer.com.au.”

Ikea Solar Panel Price

Ikea Solar Panels
Ikea Solar Panels (source: noco2.com.au)

RenewEconomy have reported that the UK IKEA solar panel offerings are from Solarcentury, and they currently have three separate offerings for solar panels:

  1. 3kW solar system for ~$7,800 AUD
  2. Customisable solar system (from 3kW) starting at around ~$8,700 AUD
  3. Customisable solar system with ‘seamless roof integration’ (from 3kW), starting at around $10,900 AUD

Since August 2017 IKEA also sell battery storage to the UK market – with their batteries coming from SonnenBatterie and LG Chem, both well respected and very highly performing brands. 

They also offer a 3,5, or 15 year loan to ‘spread the cost of solar’ if you’re so inclined. 

No news on how much these panels will cost in Australia or if they’ll be the same as in the UK, but as soon as we have any information we’ll update this article! 

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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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