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Solar Innovations – Third-Generation Solar Leaps Ahead

We like to track innovations in solar technology, and keep our readers up to date on the latest creations and progress with turning solar into the mainstream alternative to the grid. The latest improvements in solar technology will make a serious impact for those who want to get off the grid for good.

SolarWindow

In a previous article, we mentioned a photovoltaic coating called SolarWindow, which can be applied to existing windows to provide a solar power boost. An American company, New Energy Technologies (NET), has received federal assistance with moving to real-world applications of this technology. Government researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are helping NET to upgrade their existing photovoltaic design.

In the lab, NET’s PV coating has been used on window prototypes up to one foot square. They’re working to increase the number of cells that come into contact with the window surface, and to find lower-cost materials to use for the PV coatings. NET’s SolarWindow films are intended for future use in both commercial and residential buildings.

The U.S. government is promoting alternative energy start-ups like NET not only increase alternative energy options for consumers, but to jump-start production in the small business and energy sectors.

Pythagoras Solar Transparent Photovoltaic Windows

The Sears Tower, now known as the Willis Tower, is a testing ground for a new type of transparent solar window. Pythagoras Solar is testing a prototype two-foot-square solar window in the southern face of the building. If successful, the tower’s owners plan to replace all windows in the tower’s southern side with the PV windows.

The prototype contains mini solar cells layered inside a double-paned window, and it was installed as a regular window section on the tower’s southern side. The miniature PV cells maintain a 14.1% efficiency even though the window is vertical and fixed, and not angled toward the sun. The company estimates that if all of the south-facing windows are replaced with their PV windows, the tower may be able to produce as much as 2 megawatts of power per day.

Pythagoras also developed a new cell technology to improve their window’s efficiency – the cells operate independently of each other, which allows the individual cells to continue functioning when adjoining cells fail. Traditional PV cells are interlinked, and the failure of one cell can cause a cascade that takes out an entire series of cells.

These transparent windows permit light to pass through while capturing solar energy to produce power. The window’s efficient conversion rate and low profile would allow it to replace windows in any building where natural lighting is a requirement and the occupants expect to still have a view of the outside world.

Dyesol Solar Panels

This Australian company has created a solar product that could pass as magic. Dyesol’s innovative solar cells can provide energy, even when located in a dark room. An article on their products recounts a meeting in Dyesol’s boardroom where two fans were hooked up to one of Dyesol’s solar panels. The blinds were drawn, the lights were off, and the panel was shadowed – and the fans kept spinning.

This is the greatest technological leap yet for solar power – the ability to function and provide power in low light conditions.

Dyesol originally came to notice as an innovative energy company after developing a solar paint that could be applied to steel roofing and building components to provide extra power, and their production process differs radically from that of traditional solar panels and films. We’ve commented on their solar paint in previous articles as well, noting that this type of solar cell provides for something akin to photosynthesis.

Their process, which creates solar cells and panels that are less expensive to produce than silicon-based PV panels, involves an electrolyte, a layer of titania, and ruthenium dye. These layers are sandwiched inside glass, or are sprayed on metal sheets as layers of paint. Light stimulates electrons in the dye and the electrons are absorbed by the layer of titania, creating an electric current.

This process not only helps reduce production costs, it provides energy under less than optimal conditions and is not sensitive to temperature changes. Dyesol’s solar paint does not contain diodes, and is less prone to breakdown or degradation. The solar paint can be applied to nearly any material.

A surface with the solar paint on both sides can absorb light on both sides, in direct contrast to PV panels that can only absorb light from one direction. The company refers to their panels as “light sponges” capable of higher than 11% peak efficiency when turning sunlight into electricity. We look forward to seeing their test production facility up and running within the next year, and toward the future of low-light solar energy production.

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9 comments

  1. This will be very interesting to follow up on. If it is as stated we could paint the outsides of the houses we live in to power them. But I’m sure the Hydro companies will put a stop to that one soon enough. Does it come in designer colours yet (-: ?????

  2. If we take a step back to basic DC circuits and power sources everyone will recall that we need a positive and a negative to have power flow in a circuit. These “spray on” circuits have not mentioned how they connect to the world.

    • I’m not professional, but I imagine it would use an inverter to convert the DC voltage to AC. The PV panels hook to batteries, which holds the charge for night time use. From the batteries goes the inverter, which comes in varieties of sizes & produces the AC volts powering lights, motors, etc.

      Wish I had a set-up. I’m in the shade 24/7. Love my trees but would be willing to part with one for some free electricity. Can’t afford the equipment or a qualified electrician to hook it all up, dammit.

      Where’s Kapone?

  3. Bubba Ledbetter

    It’s not the PV cell that’s the problem, it’s affordable storage that’s always been the problem.

  4. I am fed up with businesses taking my tax dollars in order to promote their product. I started my business on my own with no help from the government or my fellow tax payers. That is how our country out shined and outperformed every other nation on earth and created the highest standard of living.
    Stop using my tax dollars for your own purpose.

  5. Wow! Great to see people trying to make a difference in the world! NOT great to see them using “Obama’s Stash” to make a difference in MY life. Just as with CFL’s and incandescents, I prefer incandescents, because I can use software to control the amount and expense of lighting loads, etc. in my home. Can’t do that with Gov’t. mandates, which have NO PLACE in my life. When you take Gov’t. handouts you’re obligated to do it their way. I would rather buy from a company who has developed a great product on their own, showing ingenuity and competition, than one who has developed a product at the behest and financial control of the Gov ‘t. Grants etc. are just MY money being used by the entity that wants to control where I spend it. Thanks for the good tries, and I think the development is good, but do it yourself. We’re not in THAT big a hurry.

  6. whats up the use our tax money to come up with these things and then we are over charged for the products that we paid for to begin with im thinking that if they make something with our tax money than we should be getting it for next to nothing if they want to get rich makeing this stuff then invest there own monet or get some investment people to back them up but dont use my tax money then try to sell it back to me at a profit cause the way i see it is i already paid for it and you owe this to the taxpayers

  7. The problem with this technology is the use of carcinogenic heavy metals. Check out Dr Dastoors nontoxic water based solar ink/paint.

  8. In reply to the misunderstood Mayan message as to what 2012 means; it meant the end of the old paradigm and the rebirth of the new paradigm. All over the world the mystics, geologists, scientists have been talking of how the earth is shaking her tail. The earth is going through her ascension process; she can no longer put up with the level of consciousness which moves from fear, judgement, control rather than love, community, devotion to life. Our health and the health of the planet has to do with consciousness. Fear promotes a feeling of lack. Compassion and acceptance a feeling of community and abundance.
    To place bombs in the womb of the earth – the Mother that feeds us, gives us water, sunlight, food, shelter – how sane is that? It seems to me that there are only a few “truly sane” cultures on the planet.
    Being out of balance we have asked for what is coming. But in truth? The word is that after some shifting there will be a new frequency on the earth – one more in keeping with living together, close to the earth, close to the reality that we did not create ourselves and that the gratitude for this mystery of life is in order now.
    The old ways of having gardens, being in gratitude for the earth’s blessings, taking care of the vineyard rather than coming from need for power, control, blame-well, it al speaks for itself. In truth? We are a;; responsible for what we choose in each moment. Thanks for your offering of help during “interesting times.”

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