To make solar energy more affordable, the Obama administration announced a $128 million initiative in 2012. Of that money, a portion went to research into new materials named after an obscure Russian nobleman. One such material is perovskite, a chemical compound that pushes solar cell efficiencies to 50 percent or higher. This material can also be used to develop solar panels that use more energy than one solar cell can produce. But that’s only the start. The future of solar energy technology depends on new breakthroughs in this field.
Today’s most common solar cells use silicon to collect energy from the Sun. This technology is so efficient that it’s used in satellites and traffic signs. The first solar cells were only four percent efficient, but today’s solar panels can convert sunlight into electricity at over 20 percent efficiency. In fact, today’s solar panels can generate as much as a quarter of the electricity they consume. Ultimately, the growth in solar energy has made solar power a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
Using perovskites is also promising because it can be used on surfaces where silicon solar cells cannot be used. Perovskites can be printed on clothing to power wearable electronic devices. And thin films of perovskites can be applied to glass windows to generate electricity. These new materials have the potential to revolutionize solar energy. They can rival the efficiencies of silicon cells a decade ago. And the benefits are many. So, why not try it?
The use of solar energy has increased considerably over the last decade. But it’s a limited resource due to intermittent sunlight and overcast skies. However, there are several recent discoveries that may address this problem. For example, noise barriers can be used to collect solar energy. But that’s not all. Some researchers are even using noise barriers to collect solar energy. One potential of solar energy is that it can be used to power mobile phones, as well as other electronics.
In the U.S., solar energy production is exploding and is expected to make up 3% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2030. With a growing population and economy, India will likely have the highest energy demand by 2022. The goal is to quadruple its renewable energy capacity by 2030. This is an ambitious goal, but a positive indicator of the future of solar energy. So, it’s not too late for the U.S. to make solar energy more affordable and accessible to the masses.
One promising new technology is known as heterojunction. This type of technology applies thin-film silicon to the surface of a silicon solar cell. This type of technology improves efficiency by up to 25 percent. Though this technology is not new, manufacturers continue to develop versions with higher efficiencies and deployments are expected to grow. Floating solar panels are becoming popular, with some parts of the world exceeding 2GW capacity. In South Korea, for example, plans to add 2.1 gigawatts across five dams. In Indonesia, the Duriangkang Reservoir project will add 2.2 gigawatts. In addition, floating photovoltaic panels are gaining ground in the agricultural sector, with Insolight having launched a pilot installation this July. With the use of a combination of solar panels and protective tunnels, this technology can augment conventional electric supply.
Concentrated solar power has been used for decades to generate electricity. It is best suited for larger solar installations and can be traced back to Archimedes’ burning glass. It utilizes a mirror or lens to focus sunlight. The resulting hot water drives a steam turbine and generates electricity. Currently, concentrated solar power is most commonly used in countries where sunlight is abundant. The largest capacity of thermal solar power is in Spain, followed by the United States and South Africa.
Solar technology is becoming more advanced, and today, there are many ways to harness it. Solar power is a renewable and infinite source of energy. A single hour’s worth of sunlight hits the earth’s surface, enough to meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year. Solar technologies can convert solar energy into electrical energy using photovoltaic panels, mirrors, or thermal storage. The sun’s radiation is concentrated enough to power a small home, or even a power plant.
Although COVID-19 and the sabotage of the solar industry in 2020 hampered its growth, the solar industry bounced back and is now forecast to install 191 GW of new PV capacity in 2021 – up 32.6% from 2020. In fact, several countries have already exceeded their 2021 solar capacity goals. The goal to decarbonize the global energy system is a key element of this transition. The future of solar energy is bright, and scholars consider research and innovation to be key drivers.