Solar Power – Some Striking Changes in The Technology

The world of solar power has been on the cusp of the mainstream for as long as many of us can recall. Harnessing sunlight to create power in a low cost way is something we can dream of. Imagine an unlimited supply of electricity and all of it clean and cheap to produce.

Currently solar has its uses and is certainly a notable power producer, with numerous multi-billion pound projects taking place world.

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Fortunately, these projects mean investment in research; meaning that the developments in the efficiency of solar power are arriving fast and you may soon be looking for your green deal installer, if you haven’t already. So, let’s look at the recent changes and how they are pushing solar power forward.

Pokeberries

Solar Power - pokeberries against green

Solar Power – pokeberries against green—Muffet (Flickr.com)

These berries are used on fibre based solar power cells and allow the cell to capture more of the sun’s rays and so increase the efficiency of solar power. Even more interesting is the fact that these berries grow in third world climates, meaning their growth provides developing countries income.

Solar Concentrator and Nanotechnology

New designs in solar design have managed to concentrate the sun’s power and in some cases this concentration is 10,000 times more efficient. These cells use nanotechnology and are currently in testing; undoubtedly these will obviously increase efficiency significantly if and when they go into mass production.

Cow Brain Protein

The abundance of a protein known as clathrin found in cow brains has excited those in the alternative energy sector. This protein can be used as a bond for inorganic compounds which are used in solar cells. This can be utilised with materials with photovoltaic properties to absorb the sunlight and converting it into energy. Potentially, this material could be fundamental in the next generation of highly efficient solar panels.

Ink based solar cells

Solar Power - Ink Based Solar Cells

These silicon ink based cells are made by Innovalight and offer around 19% conversion efficiency – current cells provide around 15%. This material also uses fewer resources and is thinner than current materials. Altogether, these factors mean it is more economical in producing power and also may be cheaper to produce than the traditional PV panels.

Gravel Batteries

Solar Power - Gravel Batteries

Cambridge researchers have come up with the gravel battery. This mechanism is able to store power when the wind turbine stops moving or the sun stops shining. The system uses two areas of gravel and argon gas. The power produced would be used to heat the gas which in turn heats the rock. The gravel reaches temperatures of 500 plus degrees Celsius. The argon is then fed into the second silo where it expands and cools to around -160 degrees. The electricity that was created is the difference between the first gravel pits temperature and the now cooled argon gas. When the cycle is reversed the electricity is made again. The added benefit of this battery is how inexpensive it is – thanks to the low cost of gravel – and is also thought to be very energy efficient, maintaining 80% of created power in a round trip.

Solar power has a very admirable future and with these developments as well as others, we can only see it becoming more prominent in the green energy area.

Cormac Reynolds has experience in solar power and writes for UK green installer – Green Deal Upgrade – who provides solar power and geothermal power.

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