Posts about solar energy

15 Photovoltaics Solar Power Innovations

15 Photovoltaics Solar Power Innovations You Must See

Researchers at McMaster University (coolest name ever) have succeeded in ‘growing’ light-absorbing nanowires made of high-performance photovoltaic materials on carbon-nanotube fabric. In other words, hairy solar panels.

The aim is to produce flexible, affordable solar cells that, within five years, will achieve a conversion efficiency of 20%. Longer term, it’s theoretically possible to achieve 40% efficiency!

while looking for a solution, researchers noticed that moths have very non-reflective eyes (“most likely an evolutionary defense against nocturnal predators”). The moth-eye process creates panels that reflect less than 2% of light. That’s a vast improvement over the 35 to 40% reflection rate seen without the anti-reflection coating layers.

Some experts are speculating that First Solar might beat over 80 competitors to achieve manufacturing costs low enough to market solar panels at less than $1 per Watt, the target considered necessary for solar to compete with coal-burning electricity on the grid.

Related: Solar Power: Economics, Government and TechnologyCost Efficient Solar Dish by Studentsposts on solar energyLarge-Scale, Cheap Solar Electricity

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Challenge Again

photo of UMichigan's Solar Car

U-M wins North American Solar Challenge for the fifth time

The University of Michigan’s Solar Car Team won the North American Solar Challenge, crossing the finish line in Alberta, Canada on Tuesday after more than 50 hours of racing over nine days.

The car averaged around 45 mph and led from the first day, besting 15 university teams that raced the 2,400-mile course from Plano, Texas to Calgary. Continuum finished about 10 hours before the second place team.

The North American Solar Challenge normally takes place every other year in the same year as the world race, but in 2007 its previous sponsor backed out. The race’s future was in question until Toyota took over the sponsorship.

Related: Eco-Vehicle Student CompetitionTeam blogHonda EngineeringMiddle School Students in Solar Car CompetitionUW- Madison Wins 4th Concrete Canoe Competition

Cost Efficient Solar Dish by Students

Solar Energy Dish

Low-cost system could revolutionize global energy production

A team led by MIT students this week successfully tested a prototype of what may be the most cost-efficient solar power system in the world – one team members believe has the potential to revolutionize global energy production.

The system consists of a 12-foot-wide mirrored dish that team members have spent the last several weeks assembling. The dish, made from a lightweight frame of thin, inexpensive aluminum tubing and strips of mirror, concentrates sunlight by a factor of 1,000 – creating heat so intense it could melt a bar of steel.

To demonstrate the system’s power, Spencer Ahrens, who just received his master’s in mechanical engineering from MIT, stood in a grassy field on the edge of the campus this week holding a long plank. Slowly, he eased it into position in front of the dish. Almost instantly there was a big puff of smoke, and flames erupted from the wood. Success!

Burning sticks is not what this dish is really for, of course. Attached to the end of a 12-foot-long aluminum tube rising from the center of the dish is a black-painted coil of tubing that has water running through it. When the dish is pointing directly at the sun, the water in the coil flashes immediately into steam.

Someday soon, Ahrens hopes, the company he and his teammates have founded, called RawSolar, will produce such dishes by the thousands. They could be set up in huge arrays to provide steam for industrial processing, or for heating or cooling buildings, as well as to hook up to steam turbines and generate electricity. Once in mass production, such arrays should pay for themselves within a couple of years with the energy they produce.

“This is actually the most efficient solar collector in existence, and it was just completed,” says Doug Wood, an inventor based in Washington state who patented key parts of the dish’s design–the rights to which he has signed over to the student team.

Great job students. Good luck with RawSolar. Photo (by David Chandler): Matt Ritter shows steam coming from the return hose after passing through the coil above the solar dish.

Related: Cheap, Superefficient SolarSolar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020Solar Tower Power GenerationEngineering Students Design Innovative Hand Dryerposts on solar energy

Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020

Google, Chevron Build Mirrors in Desert to Beat Coal With Solar

Along a dusty two-lane highway in California’s Mojave Desert, 550,000 mirrors point skyward to make steam for electricity. Google Inc., Chevron Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are betting this energy will become cheaper than coal.

The 1,000-acre plant uses concentrated sunlight to generate power for as many as 112,500 homes in Southern California. Rising natural gas prices and emissions limits may make solar thermal the fastest-growing energy source in the next decade, say backers including Vinod Khosla, the founder of computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. Costs for the technology will fall below coal as soon as 2020, the U.S. government estimates.

“Solar thermal can provide a substantial amount of our power, more than 50 percent,” says Khosla

Nine solar thermal plants built in the California desert from 1985 to 1991 still operate, with Juno Beach, Florida-based FPL Group Inc. running seven. They have combined capacity of 354 megawatts, enough to power 230,000 Southern California homes. Development slowed when Congress eliminated tax credits for alternative energy in the early 1990s. Laws put in place in 2005 give solar investors a 30 percent tax credit.

Great progress is being made adding wind and solar capacity. And the increasing oil prices are encouraging much faster adoption of these technologies. The promise of widespread adoption is rapidly becoming a reality.

Related: Solar Energy: Economics, Government and TechnologyWind Power Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity Supply by 2030Google Investing Huge Sums in Renewable EnergySolar Tower Power Generation

Solar Energy: Economics, Government and Technology

An American Solar Opportunity Gets Shipped Abroad

The project will pour $1 billion into utility-scale photovoltaic solar farms that will directly feed power into a country’s electrical grid. The installations will range from fewer than 2 MW to up to 50 MW, while a single farm could cover hundreds and hundreds of acres.

They’ll be installed in Europe. In Asia. And maybe even in America too, one day. Why not now? Because AES wants to sow its solar seeds in only those countries that offer the most “attractive tariffs.” That eliminates the US from the list of potentials, immediately. And it gives countries like Germany, Spain, Italy and South Korea the clear advantage. They all have can’t-beat national incentives for solar developers.

It’s one of the sad facts of Washington’s incoherent clean energy policy these days. How can a country lure in clean energy projects when there are far more appealing offers elsewhere?

Government actions impact economic decisions. It will likely take more than 10 years to have good data on what government investments pay off in the energy sector. But I would say it is a pretty good bet to invest in technology such as: solar, geothermal, wind… Countries that create global centers of excellence in these areas are likely to benefit greatly. The only question I think is that many countries are smart enough to see the benefits and so likely many countries will try.

Any time many actors pursue the same economic strategy there is the risk that the payoff is diluted with so many others having done the same thing. Still the reason so many countries have adopted the strategy of developing centers of excellence in science, engineering and technology is that it is such a good idea. The USA has a problem in that we are spending more than we produce on luxuries today so there is much less available to invest compared to other countries (and compared to 40 years ago).

Related: Global Installed Capacity of Wind PowerInvest in Science for a Strong EconomyScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyChina challenges scientific research dominance of USA, Europe and JapanGreen Energy in Canada

2007 Solar Decathlon of Homes

Solar Home on National Mall

The National Mall in Washington DC is hosting the 2007 Solar Decathlon of Homes. The link show many photos of homes and interesting information. The event opened to the public today.

The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a international competition in which 20 university-led teams compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Every college or university interested in participating wrote a proposal describing how they would organize a team, design and build a house, and raise the funds necessary to have a successful entry. The 20 best proposals were selected and awarded $100,000 dollars from the United States Department of Energy.

The photo shows the Kansas Project Solar House (Kansas State University and University of Kansas) and the Washington Monument in the background.

via: Solar Decathlon Heats Up

Related: Washington DC photo essaySolar Power Innovation: 10 Times Cheaper needs 10 Times less SunLarge-Scale, Cheap Solar Electricity

Solar Power Innovation: 10 Times Cheaper needs 10 Times less Sun

Dr Wayne CampbellTaking nature’s cue for cheaper solar power (site broke link so I removed it):

Solar cell technology developed by the University’s Nanomaterials Research Centre will enable New Zealanders to generate electricity from sunlight at a 10th of the cost of current silicon-based photo-electric solar cells.

Dr Campbell says that unlike the silicon-based solar cells currently on the market, the 10x10cm green demonstration cells generate enough electricity to run a small fan in low-light conditions – making them ideal for cloudy climates. The dyes can also be incorporated into tinted windows that trap to generate electricity.

He says the green solar cells are more environmentally friendly than silicon-based cells as they are made from titanium dioxide – a plentiful, renewable and non-toxic white mineral obtained from New Zealand’s black sand. Titanium dioxide is already used in consumer products such as toothpaste, white paints and cosmetics.

“The refining of pure silicon, although a very abundant mineral, is energy-hungry and very expensive. And whereas silicon cells need direct sunlight to operate efficiently, these cells will work efficiently in low diffuse light conditions,” Dr Campbell says. “The expected cost is one 10th of the price of a silicon-based solar panel, making them more attractive and accessible to home-owners.” The Centre’s new director, Professor Ashton Partridge, says they now have the most efficient porphyrin dye in the world and aim to optimise and improve the cell construction and performance before developing the cells commercially.

Related: Solar power breakthrough at MasseyCheap, Super-efficient SolarLarge-Scale, Cheap Solar ElectricityMicro-Wind Turbines for Home Use

Solar Tower Power Generation

How Australia got hot for solar power

In Australia Enviromission looking to build a 1,600-foot tall “solar tower” that can power 100,000 homes.

The tower will be over there,” Davey says, pointing to a spot a mile distant where a 1,600-foot structure will rise from the ocher-colored earth. Picture a 260-foot-diameter cylinder taller than the Sears Tower encircled by a two-mile-diameter transparent canopy at ground level. About 8 feet tall at the perimeter, where Davey has his feet planted, the solar collector will gradually slope up to a height of 50 to 60 feet at the tower’s base.

Acting as a giant greenhouse, the solar collector will superheat the air with radiation from the sun. Hot air rises, naturally, and the tower will operate as a giant vacuum. As the air is sucked into the tower, it will produce wind to power an array of turbine generators clustered around the structure.

The result: enough clean, green electricity to power some 100,000 homes without producing a particle of pollution or a wisp of planet-warming gases.

View Discovery Channel segment on EnviroMission

Large-Scale, Cheap Solar Electricity

Photo of solar sheet manufacturing

Large-Scale, Cheap Solar Electricity by Kevin Bullis

This week, Nanosolar, a startup in Palo Alto, CA, announced plans to build a production facility with the capacity to make enough solar cells annually to generate 430 megawatts. This output would represent a substantial portion of the worldwide production of solar energy.

According to Nanosolar’s CEO Martin Roscheisen, the company will be able to produce solar cells much less expensively than is done with existing photovoltaics because its new method allows for the mass-production of the devices. In fact, maintains Roscheisen, the company’s technology will eventually make solar power cost-competitive with electricity on the power grid.

Nanosolar also announced this week more than $100 million in funding from various sources, including venture firms and government grants. The company was founded in 2001 and first received seed money in 2003 from Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Information on the nanotechnology involved from the Nanosolar site.

MIT Hosts Student Vehicle Design Summit

Solar concept car drawing

Student summit set on vehicle design by Deborah Halbe

Seventy-three students from 21 universities around the world will gather at MIT this summer to design and build between five and 10 commuter vehicles that exploit human power, biofuels, solar technologies and fuel cells to travel at least 500 miles per gallon of fuel.

An added goal for the June 13-Aug. 13 program is to lay a foundation for ongoing multidisciplinary transportation research involving all five MIT schools. “We hope to create a project-based, socially conscious engineering curriculum for the ’06-’07 academic year,” said Anna S. Jaffe, a junior in civil and environmental engineering and one of the summit student organizers.

Image by Mitchell Joachim and William Lark, sketch of a concept solar car was created for the MIT Vehicle Design Summit.