Solar panel technology is one of those types of technologies that are continually undergoing innovation, with new advances announced constantly. In fact, keeping up with all of the breakthroughs can be an ongoing task.
Right now, there are two main types of solar panel technology. Concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaics (PV). CSP allows us to harness heat from the sun, using it to generate thermal energy to power turbines and heaters. PV capture sunlight, using it to generate electric power. Within these two different types of solar energy, there is a huge range of opportunities for innovation.
Earlier in 2019, a company called Oxford PV received funding from the United Kingdom government to develop technology that would be able to boost the adoption of renewable energy. This technology makes solar cells with different materials, using tin halide-based or hybrid-organic-inorganic lead to convert light more efficiently and at a much lower cost.
One of the many reasons why some people have been reluctant to embrace solar panels (other than the price) is due to their appearance. Tesla is aiming to remove this problem, by creating Tesla Solar Roof tiles. These tiles are durable, but also attractive, and your solar roof can consist of both non-solar and solar tiles. Tesla makes it easy for customers to calculate how many tiles they would need and allows them to turn sunlight into electricity which can be used at any time. The solar tiles have a lifetime guarantee, and the tempered glass makes them much more attractive than any previous solar tiles available on the market.
It’s not just homes that can benefit from solar technology either. In fact, Audi and Alta Devices have partnered, developing a thin layer of solar film which can be added to car roofs. The goal is that the cells will be able to power a car’s electric power system, ultimately extended how long it can drive for.
Alternatively, the energy can also be used to power interior electricity needs such as air conditioning or heated seats. Audi hopes that one day, the solar cells can directly charge the batteries of electric cars, minimizing how many times the cars would need to be recharged.
Right now, these panels are just included in the cars’ sunroofs, however, it’s likely that Audi will eventually be covering the entire surface of the car roof with cells.
As solar panels become cheaper and more efficient, Floatovoltaics (or floating solar farms) may be the next big thing. These panels are placed on water bodies like reservoirs and dams, generating huge amounts of electricity without the need to take up valuable real estate on land.
While solar panel technology represents massive opportunities for saving electricity, companies around the world are also looking at new ways to use solar. One of them is solar fabric, which would include solar filaments embedded into winter coats, t-shirts, and other clothing. This could help you do everything from staying warm to keeping your phone charged.
While solar panel technology has long been seen in popular culture, we’ve mostly been lagging behind. In 2008, Wall-E featured the robot using solar panels to recharge his batteries. Black Mirror featured an episode when refugees used electricity from solar panels to seek shelter inside a rundown building.
In the horror movie A Quiet Place, solar panels are seen when Jim is doing work in his backyard. And of course, Gravity, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney heavily featured solar panels on the International Space Station.
Solar panel technology is exciting, and this innovative technology is moving forward all the time. It represents an excellent opportunity for us to move toward clean, green energy while saving money.