The field of solar energy is always expanding, and thanks to new inventions and innovative technologies, there are now more possibilities than ever before for generating and storing power on-site, leading to more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional fossil fuels. Here are 10 amazing new inventions in solar energy that will change the way we view this green energy source.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has just unveiled the world’s first autonomous self-sufficient airship. Dubbed the “Solar Impulse’,” the aircraft is completely powered by the sun, with no need for any fossil fuels. It is, in fact, a fully functioning living space that can stay aloft for more than a week at a time. When the sun sets, the Solar Impulse’s four hydrogen fuel cell engines gradually cut off, and the 12,400-pound (5,900 kg) plane descends slowly and gracefully like an exhausted yet magnificent bird.
The Solar Impulse can travel up to 280 miles (446 km) at night, and as long as there is sunlight, it can stay in the air. This means that it can travel almost anywhere in the world, with the exception of North and South poles – areas covered in permanent darkness or polar nights. Because the solar-powered plane can stay in the air for such a long time, it has a myriad of applications, the most obvious of which are environmental research and monitoring, and border patrol and security. The German government has even suggested that the craft could be used to power emergency beacons, helping rescue teams in the event of a disaster. The aviation industry has also shown interest in the Solar Impulse, with plans for it to be integrated into future passenger planes.
Space-Based Solar Power Station
Space-based solar power stations (SBSP) are now capable of generating more electricity than ever before, due to innovative technology and greater utilization rates of resource-rich solar power. Made possible by SpaceX and the International Space Station (ISS), these large-scale photovoltaic power stations are used to supply electricity to orbiting satellites and ground-based users. In order to protect Earth’s environment, these stations use computerized controls to regulate energy production and minimize their carbon footprint while in operation.
SpaceX has already tested an SBSP, delivering over 1,000 kilowatts of power to the ISS in March of this year. This was enough to sustain the entire outpost for a day, with some left over to recharge batteries and provide backup power for crucial systems. It’s safe to assume that more and more countries will want to be able to provide their own satellite-based solar power in the coming years. With increased solar power capabilities and decreased costs, this option for generating electricity will become considerably more attractive.
High-Efficiency Solar Cell
The efficiency of solar cells has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years, with some panels reaching peak efficiencies of over 22%. These high-efficiency solar cells are the result of immense technological advancements, with the introduction of new materials and designs. The most obvious example of this is Silicon Photovoltaic Modules (SiPVM) developed by Solar Junction, which can generate up to 24% efficiency. This is almost double the 12% efficiency of traditional solar cells. If efficiency is your main concern, then high-efficiency solar cells are the clear choice for you.
The HelioVigilance System, designed and developed by Swiss company SolarWorld AG, aims to improve the security and reliability of electricity generated by the sun by harnessing the power of multiple solar panels. This system of interconnected solar panels monitors the output of each individual cell and calculates the overall output, providing a secure and stable power supply for buildings and communities. The HelioVigilance System reduces energy consumption and minimizes the chances of blackouts, thanks to its advanced algorithms that reactivate inactive solar cells and redistribute power accordingly when one or more panels fail. These benefits make the HelioVigilance System a must-have for any green energy project.
High-Frequency Current Transformer
High-frequency current transformers (HFC T) improve the performance and productivity of high-power electrical equipment, allowing for greater energy efficiencies and lowered energy consumption. Made with thin ferrite or toroidal core materials and superconducting materials, HFC T’s enhance the electrical characteristics of the associated equipment, allowing for greater power levels and extended operational lifetime. In order to achieve these benefits, HFC T’s must be operated at extremely high frequencies (4 to 20 MHz).
Polymer Solar Battery
Also known as organic solar batteries or organic light emitting diodes (OLED), polymer solar batteries combine the advantages of both organic and inorganic solar cells. These solar batteries are eco-friendly and highly efficient, emitting light and generating power with a light touch on the environment. Developed by researchers at Brigham Young University, polymer solar batteries use a plastic substrate with a thin layer of transparent conductive oxide (TCO) as the anode. The cathode is made of a catalytic material, such as silver or copper, which promotes charge transfer and improves the energy conversion efficiency of the device. The power generated by polymer solar battery is comparable to that of a conventional solar cell, making them a versatile and cost-effective option for sustainable energy generation.
Tandem-Pair Photovoltaic Systems
Tandem-pair photovoltaic systems are ideal for remote and isolated areas where access to traditional energy grids is limited. This type of photovoltaic system consists of two or more solar cells that are connected in series, improving voltage and amperage while generating more electricity than a single cell of the same dimension. These systems are highly efficient and can generate over 20 times the amount of power compared to a single conventional solar cell. The increased voltage and amperage of the system make it easier to transport across long distances, and the increased efficiency reduces the costs associated with energy generation. Tandem-pair photovoltaic systems are, therefore, ideal for off-grid applications.
Hybrid Photovoltaic System
A hybrid photovoltaic system combines the benefits of both solar cells and solar-powered electricity, delivering increased efficiency and versatility for advanced energy applications. This type of photovoltaic system integrates a solar cell with a power converter that can increase or decrease the voltage and amperage of the generated electricity, depending on demand. A hybrid photovoltaic system can, therefore, operate like a conventional power station, with the added advantages of solar generation and power storage. As the demand for clean energy rises, more and more countries will turn to hybrid photovoltaic systems to generate and store power on-site, leading to a more sustainable future.
All-solid-state lighting (SSL) eliminates the need for a filament in fluorescent, LED, and plasma lamps, dramatically improving their efficiency. In fact, SSL lamps are so bright that they can be used for general lighting needs, such as inside homes and buildings, or outdoors, in places like stadiums, malls, and airports. The increased efficiency and longevity of these lamps make them the clear choice for any green energy project.
Thermal Storage Tank
Also known as a heat bank, a thermal storage tank stores heat for use at a later time, allowing for greater independence from the traditional energy grids. This type of energy storage system is made of specialized materials, such as phase-change materials (PCM’s), that can both store and release energy as needed. PCM’s are, in fact, a class of materials that undergo a reversible, physical transformation, changing from a solid state to a liquid state and vice versa as needed. These materials are the result of an intricate chemical formula and are able to absorb and release large amounts of heat very quickly, due to their unique phase-change properties. This makes them ideal for use in thermal storage tanks, as they can both absorb and release a large amount of heat in a very short time frame. Thermal storage tanks are, therefore, an ideal choice for storing large amounts of energy generated by renewable energy sources like the sun and wind.
Wave Energy Device
The worldwide wave energy potential is estimated to be between 300 and 500 times the energy generated by the world’s current energy consumption. In order to tap into this seemingly inexhaustible source of energy, wave energy devices harness the power of ocean waves, converting them into electricity through the use of buoyant generators, hydraulic pumps, and rotary converters. The Ocean Renewable Power Company has developed a device that harnesses the power of ocean waves, generating electricity and desalinated water as needed. By 2030, it is estimated that 10,000 units of this type of device will be in use, providing energy to coastal communities and exporting power to the national grid.