People have always been excited about solar tech advancements. And why not? The idea of producing clean energy for your home and business without increasing our emission levels is immensely appealing. In fact, the idea is so alluring that we’re seeing a surge in solar applications lately as more and more people are choosing to harness cleaner energy sources for their everyday needs. But where will we be in the next few years?
As the price of solar technology decreases, power grids will include more and more solar power. With this increase comes the need for better management, reliability, and energy storage. Plenty of new advancements are already under development, making solar power a typical part of our lives in 2022.
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1. Solar Tech Advancements in Water Purifiers
Solar power can help provide clean drinking water in areas where it is unsafe. The World Health Organization estimates that two billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, drink contaminated water, which often leads to serious health problems.
But with the advent of new solar technology, that may soon change. Take note that researchers at MIT and in China have developed a solar-powered desalination system that can provide around seven liters of drinkable water per hour for each square meter of the system.
A 100-square-meter system would supply about 700 liters of water per hour. To illustrate, in Lagos, where there are an average of eight hours of sunshine per day, and residents use an average of 6,000 liters of water each every month to drink and cook with
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend that humans drink 2.7 to 3.7 liters (about 8 glasses) of water per day, including water in food sources like fruits and vegetables.
That means that for the average person, 2.6 liters is enough – so a 100 m² version of MIT’s solar network would supply more than enough drinking water for 2,213 people each day
The potential of this technology is clear, and if successful could result in millions of people getting access to fresh drinking water.
The quality of life would be greatly improved, and deadly diseases could be eradicated if contaminated water were made safe to drink.
In Kenya, a non-profit called GivePower has already implemented this kind of technology in Kiunga. The system can provide 75,000 liters per day, enough to quench the thirst of more than 28,800 people.
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2. Floating Solar Farms
Water can be used for more than one purpose, of course. Over the course of a day, the sun shines on all parts of Earth, including 71% covered by water, so why not make full use?
Floating photovoltaic systems could be a better solar tech advancement to work on since 29% of the Earth’s surface is land on which it can’t currently be installed.
In eastern China, the city of Anhui boasts two floating solar plants—the world’s largest and second-largest. These combined generate enough energy for more than 100,000 homes.
Other countries have also been embracing solar energy; Japan, for example, has built a 13.7MW farm by the Yamakura Dam on Honshu island. Cambodia now has an entire network of floating solar panels with a capacity of 2.8 MW.
A planned 145MW marine solar farm in Indonesia, a 1GW plant in India, and an unprecedented 2.9GW facility 19 times more powerful than China’s record-setting system are all poised to become the world’s largest when complete.
Europe is now taking notice of photovoltaics and has begun to turn to technology as we enter this new decade. To that end, the biggest European network, in Bomhofsplas, Netherlands, opened in 2020; it boasts a capacity of 27.4 MW
Floating solar panels are a new way of creating energy that saves on inhabitable space and produces significantly more electricity than land-based panels because the water acts as a coolant. Studies have shown that photovoltaics generate 11% more electricity efficiently than their counterparts
Floating solar panels could provide 10% of the US’s energy needs if installed on its 24,000 man-made reservoirs.
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3. Solar Tech Advancements in Solar Skin
Important to realize that creating flexible solar panels could be a game-changer in an industry currently dominated by traditional, hard solar cells.
If a thin, malleable layer can be made from highly effective materials, then solar energy could be harvested almost anywhere, with practically any object.
A team of researchers at the University of Queensland has broken a world record for solar skin efficiency by achieving 16.6%, just shy of their 18% goal, according to The Guardian. While solar panels typically have an efficiency of 18-20%, this new type is nearly as efficient.
Quantum dots (tiny light particles) were printed onto transparent plastic to produce a more efficient solar cell. The scientists hope their invention will be used for portable devices by 2022.
What’s more, the team hopes that by 2023, its products will be used worldwide on the roofs of houses.
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4. Solar Fabric
The sun’s rays are available all over the planet, so why not produce your own energy wherever it is needed? Imagine that you could also do this while on the move, besides generating solar power at a fixed location through clothes and other devices.
Scientists are working on a solar tech advancement with fabrics that have solar cells built in. You’ll be able to wear these clothes, powering your phone and other devices while also keeping you warm as the sun’s rays hit them.
What’s more, researchers have attempted to combine solar fabric and panels in several areas, including:
- Building facades that offer shade and generate power
- Awnings that lighten up streetlights, and
- Curtains that draw energy from the sun to power appliances.
An investment in solar-powered household appliances can help you reduce the cost of installing and maintaining a home solar power system. To point out, solar cell manufacturing companies are working with the U.S. Army on a project that envisions robotic tents powered by solar energy
With solar costs continuing to fall, it’s no longer hard to imagine a future where almost everything, from transportation to household appliances and electronics manufacturing, is powered by free solar energy.
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5. Photovoltaic Solar Noise Barriers (Pvnb)
Because of the concern that highway traffic noise has always generated in the United States, 48 states have constructed nearly 3,000 miles of barriers to reduce it.
In the past, noise barriers were designed to be cost-effective and efficiently reduce noise. However, the goal of the US Department of Energy has changed, they want power plants to reduce both their environmental impact (such as pollution) and their carbon footprint while continuing to generate electricity efficiently.
Based on this country’s widespread use of noise barriers, the potential for producing solar energy from them could be as much as 400-gigawatt hours(GWh) per year, providing electricity to more than 37,000 households.
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6. BIPV Solar Technology Advancements
Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are solar panels that integrate seamlessly into building architecture. Unlike traditional solar PV panels, BIPV can be aesthetically appealing rather than a compromise to design aesthetics.
Aesthetics and economics are both important factors for solar buyers, but the good news is that BIPV systems enable homeowners to save money on building materials and electric power.
By substituting BIPV for standard building materials, you can reduce the cost of solar panel mounting systems by eliminating their need.
The use of BIPV technology (building-integrated photovoltaics) on the building’s facades, atrium, and terrace floor canopies provides it with a number of benefits
- Zero carbon footprint
- High thermal and sound insulation
- Increased energy efficiency
- Decreased O&M costs
- Clean and free power output from the sun
The photovoltaic PV glasses installed as building materials act like conventional architectural glass and generate energy from natural light.
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7. Solar Tech Advancements in Wearable Solar
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have developed solar cells as small as 3mm x 1.5mm, about the size of a flea’s eye. They can be embedded into yarn and woven into clothing, so you will never have to worry about being disconnected from your MP3 player again!
In trials, 200 cells were able to charge a Fitbit. If 2,000 of these were woven into clothing (the developers say is possible), it could power a smartphone and more.
Imagine wearing a solar-powered coat or dress that automatically extends your phone’s battery life. That’s a pretty cool solar tech advancement!
The cells are coated with a waterproof resin so that they can withstand repeated trips through the washing machine. You can treat it like a normal piece of clothing while still reaping all the benefits.
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8. Great Solar Tech Advancements in Solar Airplanes
So why not wear solar cells, too? And what about vehicles? Could they sport a layer of solar tech that enables them also to turn the sun’s rays into energy as humans do with clothing? Well, sure! This is the future we could be living in now with the great solar tech advancements.
The PHASA-35 is a plane created by the British BAE Systems and Prismatic companies. It’s designed to get closer to the sun in its attempt at solar travel than any other aircraft before, which probably isn’t exactly why they built this thing, but it’s still a fun fact!
This large plane, powered by the sun’s rays and with a wingspan of 35 meters, can fly throughout the day because its lightweight solar panels keep it airborne while storing enough power in its battery at night.
In February 2020, the plane completed its first flight successfully at an Australian Air Force test range. It will undergo further testing in the coming months.
BAE Systems, which agreed to take over Prismatic in 2019, has claimed that its PHASA-35 will be able to fly for up to a year without landing.
After testing the plane, the Australian Air Force declared that it expected a commercial version of this craft to be available within 12 months.
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9. Solar Windows
A solar window is a type of solar cell that can be incorporated into the existing glass, making it less conspicuous and more aesthetically appealing. Solar windows are still in their developmental stages. But many experts predict that with the rapid solar tech advancements, they will be commercially available within the next five years.
Dr. Richard Lunt, who created these “solar window” technologies, has said that they are a “form of solar cell one can install in windows like blinds or shades to harness the power of the sun on demand.”
In the solar market, technological advances have enabled us to generate electricity from light sources we cannot see. Light such as infrared and ultraviolet rays.
This means solar windows will produce more energy than solar cells. This is true since they generate electricity from visible light and non-visible spectrum.
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10. Night Time Solar Plant
In May 2016, solar power plant developers Enel Green Power North America unveiled a new type of solar power plant. It can produce electricity at night; something other plants cannot do.
This solar farm is located in California’s Mojave Desert. The panels are mounted on steel stilts that allow the desert sand to blow beneath them without damaging them.
During the day, a battery system stores electricity from a solar farm. At night, it is used to generate more power.
11. Solar Tech Advancements in Perovskite Solar Cells
Researchers from Manchester University in England announced a new solar cell made with perovskite crystals. To conclude, perovskite solar cells are 20% more efficient than silicon-based ones. Perovskites have only been researched since 2009, yet their popularity is exploding.
Expect to see many more solar power plants and solar panels in the coming years as solar tech advancements keep increasing.
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Has Solar Technology Improved?
Certainly, yes. According to the information above, efficiency rates are increasing at an astonishing rate, like sunlight.
As more and more people buy solar power, it’ll be possible to bring technology to any corner of society. From charging your car and phone with clean energy while driving or flying to powering all our devices by harnessing sunlight through the clothes, we wear regularly.
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So Is Solar the Future?
Solar power is poised to become a bigger player in the renewable energy market with the rapid solar tech advancements. This is true even as fossil fuels lose popularity and clean water becomes increasingly scarce.
As countries become increasingly aware of the dangers posed by climate change, they have begun to turn away from polluting energy sources like oil and embrace solar power. The development of green energy technologies benefits everyone.
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The time has come for solar power to take a more prominent role in the world. Its cost-effectiveness will only increase as we keep developing new ways for it to become self-sustaining or more powerful. Solar energy is really coming into its own. The future looks bright, as evidenced by the progression we see today.
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