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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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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Hyundai Solar Panels coming to Australia

Hyundai solar panels will be available in Australia this year after inking a massive deal with a local solar company. The Korean company will look to sell to the commercial and residential sector and will also look to install large-scale solar projects here.

Hyundai Solar Panels in Australia

Hyundai Solar Panels - Green Energy
Hyundai Solar Panels – Green Energy (source: Hyundai)

Hyundai Heavy Industries Green Energy have signed an exclusive deal with Queensland solar distribution company Supply Partners. The deal has been valued at $70 million and will see Hyundai HI return to the Australian market since it exited in 2011. 

Larry Kim, the head of global sales for Hyundai Heavy Industries Green Energy, said the company’s sales targets are ambitious – planning to sell 20-30MW of panels this year, and 40-50MW in 2019. According to RenewEconomy, they were only up to 10MW of panels when they exited the market. It’s important to note that the solar landscape has changed considerably in the last 7 years and that 10MW worth of panels certainly doesn’t represent the ostensible failure the numbers provide in 2018 terms.

Kim said the focus of Hyundai will be squarely on the residential and commercial markets. 

“Nowadays, the Australian market is growing very fast in all markets, but residential and commercial are more stable,” Kim told RE in an interview.

He also discussed their plans with regards to energy storage and how they’re going to roll it out to Australia – given that we already have such a high solar panel installation rate it would seem logical to enter this market as well. 

“This is part of (our) long-term strategy,” he said.

“We are focusing on the Korean market for energy storage systems first,” he said. “After that, (we will look at) the Australia residential market.

“But not in the near future.”

We’ll be super interested to see how Hyundai’s re-entry into the Australian market goes and will be sure to update you as soon as we hear anything more about the move.

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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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Global investment in solar power in 2017

The United Nations are reporting that global investment in solar power in 2017 was substantially higher than any other energy source, with a massive 45% of the investment coming from China. Let’s investigate this a little deeper and see what some industry professionals have to say.  

Investment in Solar Power

In a record-breaking year, the 98GW of new solar capacity is higher than any other tech, including other renewables like wind or water turbines, nuclear or fossil fuels. There’s 6GW of this going to Australia – Iain MacGill from UNSW discussed the massive increase in Australian domestic solar via the ABC:

“We have the highest [per capita] rooftop residential solar market in the world, and by quite a big margin,” Dr MacGill said.

“A large proportion of Australia’s investment has gone into South Australia [and that means] we’re at the leading edge of working out how to integrate that renewable power into the electricity market.”

Professor Ulf Moslener from the Frankfurt School UNAP Centre discussed China’s huge $126 billion investment in solar power, where air pollution currently kills around a million people per year:

“The costs are still falling which makes the dominance in investment terms in China even more thrilling,” he said.

The director of ANU’s Energy Change Institute, Ken Baldwin, said there’s still plenty of room to grow and that the next ‘decade or two’ will see the closing of all Australian coal-fired plants: 

“What will be interesting to see is whether this can be maintained,” Professor Baldwin said.

“There was 6 gigawatts of solar, both residential and commercial installed in [Australia] in 2017.

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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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Flex PowerPlay Smart Solar Power System

A company named Flex (also known as Flextronics) have rolled out the Flex PowerPlay ‘smart solar power system’ which consists of various combinations of Flex branded solar panels, an inverter, an energy hub, and an energy monitor.  It’s compatible with many existing solar battery brands and is being offered through Energy Matters in Australia. Flex are a well established company who have made the move into residential solar, offering ‘smart solar’ which will help you ‘outsmart the system’ – it’s like a vertically integrated, polished version of the Paladin Solar Controller

About the Flex PowerPlay

Flex PowerPlay
Flex PowerPlay App (source: flexpowerplay.com)

According to their website more than 20,000 Australian homes and businesses are currently using Flex – and they have delivered over 8 million solar panel modules to customers worldwide. The PowerPlay solar power system uses their own 60cell, PID-free Flex PowerPlay panels which are available in 290w and 295w, with a 12 year product warranty and a 25 year performance warranty. According to Solar Quotes their efficiencies are 17.8% and 18.1%, respectively. 

The Flex inverter will divert power depending on time of day, current tariff, current energy storage, and much more – in order to save you as much money as possible on your power bill. You’re able to use the app to see exactly what’s happening with your system at any time. 

Flex (NASDAQ: FLEX) are a massive engineering company who are also leaders in battery tech – they’re responsible for 1 in 4 smart meters in the US, 10 million micro inverters, and have worked with Google, Nike, and Fitbit to deliver tech solutions. The company represents more than 200,000 professionals in over 100 locations around the world. Their quarterly rev for Q3 2018 was USD $6.75 billion – increased 10% YOY. 

Their offices in Australia are located in Sydney and Melbourne – so they’re far from a fly-by-night company and buying from Flex is a safe bet. As discussed before, you’re also able to use existing solutions from brands such as sonnen, whose solar battery storage solutions (e.g. sonnenBatterie Eco 8) are also well established and have fantastic reviews. 

Interested in Flex’s offering? If you’re in Australia you can check your eligibility and request an obligation-free quote by clicking here

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Solar Roads in China almost ready for testing

Solar Roads in China are being trialled, according to Electrek. The roadways have solar panels underneath them that may have myriad benefits such as wireless charging, digitally assisting driverless cars, powering streetlights, signs, charging stations, and so on. Once a laughable idea due to the cost, massive improvements in technology mean that we are edging closer towards having true ‘solar highways’ at some point in the near future. 

Solar Roads In China

Solar Roads in China
Solar Roads in China (source: en.people.cn)

The Jinan City Expressway, the stretch of solar roadway currently being constructed, is a 1.2 mile (a little under 2km) stretch of road which has transparent concrete being laid over a layer of solar panels. The construction is already complete and it’s currently waiting to be connected to the grid – they expect this to be completed by the end of the year. It’s actually the second solar roadway in China – with the first being completed in Jinan by the Quilu Transporation Development Group, which has 790 square yards of solar panels and is currently performing well. 

Technical Details

The solar highway has been designed with three discrete layers – on top a transparent concrete which is, for all intents and purposes, the same as regular bitumen/asphalt. In the middle are the specially-designed ‘weight bearing’ solar panels, and below them another layer to separate the panels from the damp earth below. According to Elektrek even medium sized trucks will be able to drive on the solar highway. 

Although the project’s technology is markedly different, it is in some ways similar to the Dutch SONOB highway installation earlier this year – where they use Infrastructure Integrated Photovoltaics (IIPV) (Also known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)) in order to help power sound barriers, lights and more.

Given that Jinan is one of the most polluted cities in China, it’s great to see them working on a second solar road and hopefully this is just the beginning. 

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LG MONO X plus and NeON 2 Warranty Increased.

LG’s flagship NeON 2 and LG Mono X Plus solar panels are receiving an extended warranty (15 years) for those who install them from January 1, 2018.  This is five years longer than the Australian industry standard, but not as long as the 25-year product warranty and 87% output warranty LG’s NeON R panels currently offer.

“From design and production to delivery, we follow stringent protocols to ensure the integrity of our solar panels,” said Russ Prendergast, Senior Marketing Manager Solar at LG. “This increase in warranty reflects our confidence that our products can go the distance.”

“We’re proud of our achievements in solar, and our consistent presence in the Intersolar Awards winners list confirms the industry feels the same. But we wanted to give our customers something that benefits them directly,” said Prendergast in a press release quoted by RenewEconomy, “With close to 70 per cent sales growth in the past year, our customers appear to recognise the quality our solar panels deliver.”

More good news for those looking to invest in solar but are concerned about the long term results! 

LG Mono X Plus

LG Mono X Plus Warranty Australia
LG Mono X Plus Warranty Australia (source: lgenergy.com.au)

The fifth generation LG Mono X Plus have long warranties, high efficiency, and as of next year boasts an impressive 25-year warranty.

They come in three different models:

  • Residential 60 Cell 300W – LG300S1C – ‘Entry Model’ – for those that want a great product without the ‘bells and whistles’ of the LG NeON range. (Brochure Here)
  • Residential 60 Cell 295W – LG295S1C-A5 – Fifth generation LG Mono X ® Plus – 25 Year performance warranty. (Brochure Here)
  • Commercial 72 Cell 360W – LG360S2W – Commercial grade, cost-effective module with great performance. (Brochure Here)

Read more about the LG Mono X Plus solar panel in Australia on the LG website.

LG NeON 2

We’ve written an article about the NeON 2 Solar Panel (LG330N1C) which was released earlier this year. The 330W panel is LG’s flagship solar panel and comes highly recommended by all who have tried it!

LG currently have 34 different solar panels for sale so there’s something for everyone – click here to have a look at what they offer and be sure to comment below or email us if you have any questions about a specific panel – we’d be happy to help! 

If you’re interested in the production process i.e. how solar panels are made, LG have produced a video called ‘LG Solar Panel Production Line Tour’ you can view below:

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