Shortly after the development of the first photovoltaic cell in 1954 at Bell Laboratories, solar power has been widely regarded as an energy source with a great potential to effect change in making planet earth a much better place to live in. Unfortunately, just like other forms of renewable energy, solar power has its share of drawbacks like the costly price tags of photovoltaics, inability to continually and consistently generate energy, and the inefficiency of units based on traditional silicon.
Although the current situation is quite grim when you take into account climate change and global warming, the future certainly looks bright with research institutions developing technologies that can make solar power more affordable and make the necessary improvements in the efficiency of the panels so they can change the traditional image of photovoltaics for good. Below are some of the notable advancements in solar panel technology.
3D Solar Cells
Three dimensional solar cells have the potential to increase energy conversion efficiencies by as much as 20 percent. The traditional silicon photovoltaic panels reflect about 30% of the incident sunlight and this means a significant loss in terms of the amount of electricity generated. Solar 3D cells have been modified in such a way that more sunlight is trapped and channeled directly into the solar cell. This ingenious design gives photons prolonged contact to generate electricity. There are other design variations but they all make the power output more uniform, thereby making the integration to the power grid a lot easier as compared with the conventional systems.
Transparent Solar Panels
Majority of solar panels in the market today are dark in color. This does not bode well with style-conscious homeowners because the panels won’t look good once installed on their rooftops. This aesthetic issue was somehow resolved with the introduction of the transparent solar cell film which can effectively convert an ordinary window into a power generator. The solar film comes with translucent green strips which can be easily glued to any window to generate enough power to charge a mobile phone during peak sunlight. It does so while allowing sunlight to enter the house.
Hybrid Solar Panels
Whenever people think about solar panels, what comes to mind are dark panels that can generate electricity for their homes or supply hot water for their bathrooms. Now, both functions can be achieved by integrating power producing photovoltaic cells to a solar thermal tube that heats the home’s water supply. These hybrid panels can therefore generate renewable energy while simultaneously heating water. Due to the fact that solar panels generally don’t work as efficiently at high temperatures, the hybrid panels have been equipped with a thermosyphon technology which captures excess heat from the solar panel and uses it to heat water.
Solar Panels That Can Utilize Indoor Light
Solar panels are generally designed and engineered for use outdoors so they are able to harness enough sunlight that they can convert into usable electricity. Then came the pioneering concept of developing a technology that can utilize indoor light to produce energy through printable solar panels. This solar cell technology is capable of converting light from indoor sources into usable power. Although the panels are not highly efficient in terms of producing significant amounts of electricity, they are taking advantage of energy that is simply wasted.
Technologies that have been previously discussed are relatively new, so there is much room for improvement. We absolutely need more of the same innovations in our quest to use environment-friendly energy sources that can satisfy the needs of a modern society while sustaining the health and ensuring the survival of the only planet we call home.
Read more: The Future of Photovoltaic Energy