Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

August 17, 2017 by  
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Do you love solar panels , but hate the color blue? You’re in luck – researchers in the Netherlands have developed a process for making conventional solar panels bright green, and they’re working on developing other colors as well. By making the panels more appealing, they hope to entice more people and businesses to invest in clean energy. Researchers at AMOLF devised a method of imprinting solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that make them appear green. Though the process decreases the efficiency by 10 percent, it’s considered to be an acceptable trade-off if the panels are installed on more buildings. Said Verena Neder, lead author of the paper and researcher at AMOLF, “The black appearance of the [conventional] solar panels is not attractive for many people and a reason to not put solar panels on their rooftop. Making solar cells colored makes it possible to integrate them in an architectural design of houses and full cities, but also to merge them in the landscape.” CleanTechnica reports that to turn the panels green , researchers “use soft imprint lithography to apply a dense array of silicon nanotubes onto the surface of solar cells.” At approximately 100 nanometers wide, each nanotube is carefully shaped to scatter a certain wavelength of light. The cells appear green to observers, and the color is constant regardless of where one is standing. “The structure we made is not very sensitive to the angle of observation, so even if you look at it from a wide angle, it still appears green,” said Neder. Related: Revolutionary glass building blocks generate their own solar energy Because the color can be adjusted by altering the geometry of the nanotubes , the researchers have started planning imprints that create red and blue solar colors. After the three primary colors of light are developed, they will be able to create any color — including white. “You have to combine different nanoparticles, and if they get very close to each other they can interact and that will affect the color,” said Albert Polman, a scientific group leader at AMOLF. “Going to white is a really big step.” The technology could make it possible to create tandem solar cells which are stacked in layers. Each layer would be fine tuned to absorb certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Theoretically, this could result in sunlight conversion efficiencies of 30 percent more. Considering commercially available solar cells are about 20 percent efficient, this could be a game-changer for the renewable energy industry. Affirmed Neder, “The new method to change the color of the panels is not only easy to apply but also attractive as an architectural design element and has the potential to widen their use.” + AIP Applied Physics Letters + AMOLF Via Clean Technica Images via Pixabay and Depositphotos

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Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

How the upcoming solar eclipse will affect 7 million homes and businesses

August 14, 2017 by  
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A total solar eclipse will block sunlight from reaching parts of the Earth for an estimated three hours on August 21. As a result, at least 7 million U.S. homes and businesses that rely on solar power will be directly affected. But there’s no reason to be nervous: electric grid and skilled operators are well-prepared. A total solar eclipse is a rare phenomenon which occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun . Though it will disrupt solar generation during times of peak generation, the event is not one to fear. According to Julia Prochnik , the Director of Western Renewable Grid Planning, people will not notice any change in their electrical service as electric grid operators across the country have made appropriate preparations. The last time citizens in the U.S. glimpsed a solar eclipse was in 1979, when solar energy was in its infancy. In the time that has passed, the energy system has changed significantly. Wind and solar energy are now the fastest-growing sources of renewable electricity in the U.S. Prochnik says that some states will see a larger drop in solar power than others; it all depends on how much the sun is blocked by the moon in their specific location. Fortunately, there are plenty of energy resources available to “fill the gap,” and they include geothermal , wind and hydropower. Related: Coming Total Solar Eclipse to be an ‘event of the century’, scientists say NASA reports that the solar eclipse will block a 70-mile-wide path stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. The longest period of total darkening will be about two minutes and 40 seconds. Nationwide, the moon will still block at least a portion of the sun. At any one spot, the longest period of partial darkness may last three hours. Arizona can expect to experience a brief interruption in 70 percent of its rooftop solar generation. New York follows with 68 percent, Utah can expect a 39 percent, and Nevada a 24 percent interruption. California and North Carolina may experience the biggest impacts from the eclipse, as they are both major solar producers. The difference can be compensated by reducing energy use and/or by temporarily drawing electricity from the grid. A few things environmentally-conscious individuals can do to prepare for the eclipse is replace all light bulbs with LEDs , turn off lights, unplug chargers and appliances, and turn down their thermostats. All of these steps will help save energy and reduce load grid pressure. All in all, the celestial event is one to celebrate, as it is one few will likely witness again. Via NRDC Images via Pixabay

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How the upcoming solar eclipse will affect 7 million homes and businesses

Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof

July 31, 2017 by  
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Good news for those who have been eyeing Tesla’s new Solar Roof – the company just announced pricing for its photovoltaic tiles, and they come it at just $21.85 per square foot . That’s nearly 20 percent cheaper than a normal roof — even without factoring in the energy savings. Tesla’s sought-after Solar Roof tiles are made of glass layered over a photovoltaic substrate, and they serve as a replacement for traditional roofing materials. This ensures they look like the “real thing” from the ground – even though they accomplish much more than a standard roof. So far, Tesla has two styles available for pre-order: a textured black glass tile and a smooth grey tile. The tuscan and slate tiles will be available for installation in early 2018. According to the company , installing a Solar Roof takes between five and seven days – and Tesla manages the entire process itself. The fact that the Solar Roof tiles are so economical is applaudable, considering that Consumer Reports predicted back in November that the tiles would need to cost under $24.50 per square foot to compete with traditional roofing materials. Tesla accomplished this — and went one step further. Now, the company is offering an infinite warranty for the tiles. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla representative told Inverse. Related: Tesla to power Gigafactory with world’s largest solar rooftop installation An additional benefit of the Tesla Solar Roof is that it is touted to be stronger than a traditional roof. In areas where thunderstorms and high winds are rampant, a sturdier abode makes all the difference. Fortunate consumers who purchase the Solar Roof will also receive the forthcoming Powerwall 2.0 , which is a battery storage device with a built-in inverter. It connects to your home’s electrical system, enabling a house to go 100 percent off-the-grid . Though it costs an extra $6,500, the long-term savings are estimated to add up to thousands of dollars. + Tesla Via Inverse Images via Tesla

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Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof

Evovelo unveils cute little solar car you can pedal like a bicycle

July 28, 2017 by  
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Today Evovelo unveiled a tiny solar-powered vehicle that combines the advantages of a car — such as safety, weather protection and stability — with the ease of a bicycle and the low energy consumption and space utilization of a light electric vehicle. The cute little trike is called Mö, and its practicality, customization, and sustainability make it a great fit for commuters looking to lower their environmental impact. Mö is perfect for short commutes, as it is made from sustainable materials and it has an all-electric range of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles). The vehicle has a top speed of 45 Km/h (about 30 mph), and a set of roof-mounted solar panels rapidly recharge the vehicle’s 1000Wh battery. A single hour in the sun will yield 5-10 kilometers of range, and the vehicle will fully recharge in 3-4 hours. The tricycle can also be propelled by pedal power to further extend its range, and a regenerative braking system stores energy as the vehicle slows down. Its dimensions of 140 cm wide, 200 cm long and 130 cm high means Mö doesn’t take up much space; however, it is large enough to seat two adults up front and two children in the back with optional kids seats. Because Mö has a full lighting system, turn blinkers, safety belts, a front crash crumple zone, side impact protection, and other safety features, one can feel comfortable commuting in the environmentally-friendly vehicle. The vehicle’s battery can be removed and charged at home, in the office, or in a garage – wherever one has access to an electrical outlet. Evovelo’s new prototype officially debuted today in Malaga, Spain, and more information — including its cost — will be released in the near future. + Evovelo

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Evovelo unveils cute little solar car you can pedal like a bicycle

Couple buys 100% sun-powered home built for the Solar Decathlon

July 28, 2017 by  
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This 100% solar-powered home has been sitting in Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens for the past ten years – but the tiny aluminum structure will soon serve a new role as a permanent home. The net-zero MiSo House was built for the 2005 Solar Decathlon , however it will soon be home to Lisa and Matt Gunneson, who are moving the 660-square-feet green energy machine piece-by-piece to their property in north Michigan. Designed by architecture students and faculty from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan , the compact, aluminum-clad home is completely powered by solar energy . The aluminum-clad exterior and rounded shape were inspired by the monocoque designs from the aircraft and automobile industries. After debuting in the 2005 Solar Decathlon, the MiSo House was installed as an exhibition in the university’s botanical gardens, but after ten years on-site the home is being shipped to its new location. The home features a number of solar energy systems including rooftop PV panels, solar thermal panels connected to radiant flooring, and even an energy recovery ventilator system. One unique feature is the home’s “solar chimney”, which heats air in glass spaces along the home’s south facade. The heated air is then circulated through the curve of the roof to provide heat for the interior in winter time. Excess energy is stored in batteries installed underneath the structure’s flooring. The MiSo’s solar systems provide enough power for 100% of the home’s electricity needs – from appliances and lighting to heating. Many of the home’s furnishings, such as the eco-friendly sunflower-board kitchen cabinets, were constructed using low-chemical processes , which further reduced the home’s overall footprint. After purchasing the home at auction, the Gunnesons hired remodeling contractor Meadowlark Design + Build to break down the home’s modular components in order to transport it to their home in Evart, Michigan. In a fun twist of fate, two students who worked on the home’s original design now work on the Meadowlark team. + The MiSo House + Meadowlark Design + Build Via Homecrux

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Couple buys 100% sun-powered home built for the Solar Decathlon

New stacked solar cell absorbs energy from almost the entire solar spectrum

July 13, 2017 by  
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Most traditional solar cells aren’t able to convert long-wavelength photons into electricity . A team of researchers led by Matthew Lumb at The George Washington University is hoping to change that in order to capture more power. They’ve designed a solar cell that can harvest just about all of the energy in the solar spectrum – and could become the world’s most efficient solar cell with an efficiency of 44.5 percent. The scientists created a prototype of their solar cell that differs from most others: they stacked multiple solar cells to create a single device that can capture nearly all the solar spectrum’s energy. And as opposed to the solar panels that adorn many rooftops , this new solar cell utilizes concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) panels that concentrate sunlight onto micro-scale cells using lenses. Related: SunPower nabs record for world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel The cell works something like a sieve for sunlight, as each layer absorbs a certain set of wavelengths, to capture nearly half of available energy – most traditional cells only capture around one quarter. Efficiency is one of the main goals of any researcher working on solar cells, and these scientists obtained what could be the highest efficiency in the world using materials based on gallium antimonide (GaSb) substrates. A technique called transfer-printing allows the tiny cells to be constructed with great precision. But this groundbreaking solar cell wasn’t cheap. Still, though the materials utilized were expensive, the scientists think the technique to build the cells is promising to show how efficient a solar cell could be. In the future they think a similar product could hit markets “enabled by cost reductions from very high solar concentration levels and technology to recycle the expensive growth susbtrates.” The journal Advanced Energy Materials published the research this week. 12 scientists from the United States Naval Research Laboratory and other American institutions collaborated with Lumb on the paper. Via Newswise Images via Matthew Lumb and Pixabay

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New stacked solar cell absorbs energy from almost the entire solar spectrum

Trump approves new pipeline that will go right under the US-Mexico wall

June 30, 2017 by  
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As if President Trump’s promise to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border wasn’t controversial enough, he recently approved the construction of a new pipeline destined to go “right under” the dividing landmark. The New Burgos Pipeline will carry up to 108,000 barrels of refined petroleum products each day between McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. A joint venture between NuStar Energy LP and PMI, the project has, unsurprisingly, drawn plenty of criticism from environmental groups. According to The Hill , Trump remarked on the New Burgos Pipeline on Thursday at the Department of Energy’s “Unleashing American Energy” event. “[The pipeline] will further boost American energy exports, and that will go right under the wall, right?” said Trump, glancing at his cabinet for confirmation. “We have to dig down a little deeper under that section,” he added. President Mike Pence, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also joined the President on stage. Though President Trump’s 17-minute speech focused on America’s “ energy dominance,” he failed to mention the rapidly growing renewable energy sector. Not even once did he mention his infamous “solar” border wall proposal . Rather, he paid homage to “clean, beautiful coal” and celebrated the newly approved pipeline. As EcoWatch points out, Trump also dismissed concerns about fossil fuels , calling them “a big beautiful myth.” In his speech, Trump also mentioned the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, falsely stating that no opposition exists to their development. Noticeably perturbed by the new development, David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International , said: “The ‘energy dominance’ tagline should be called out for what it is: another manifestation of the president’s misogynistic, hyper-masculine, abusive outlook on the world. It reveals an attitude toward our environment and energy policy that would destroy communities and our climate in order to feed his own desire to feel powerful over others.” “Want to know what Trump’s idea of energy dominance looks like? Look no further than his crony cabinet,” Turnbull continued. “Thanks to this administration, Washington is more dominated by Big Oil, Gas and Coal executives and their shills than ever—and they’re having their way with American democracy. Someone should put the leash back on Donald Trump, while the rest of us keep working to make America the leader it needs to be in renewable energy innovation and job creation.” Related: Trump actually wants to build a border wall covered in solar panels Tim Donaghy, Greenpeace USA’s senior research specialist, had similar sentiments. He said, “People in this country demanded that President Obama protect public lands and waters from offshore oil and gas development, and communities from Alaska to South Carolina will do it again. Research shows that expanding offshore oil drilling will lead to increased global greenhouse gas emissions and higher costs that will be borne by Americans for decades to come.” In response to the news, Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch , asked local governments to invest in clean energy development. She said, ”A better vision for American energy exists, but it isn’t coming from the White House. Climate leadership and the transition to renewable energy will come from the local and state level, and we must continue to pressure elected officials around the country to commit to a transition to a clean energy future, starting now.” Via The Hill , EcoWatch Images via Sky News , Pixabay

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Trump approves new pipeline that will go right under the US-Mexico wall

A postcard from Hawaii to the nation’s capital

June 30, 2017 by  
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The mood at the second annual VERGE conference in Honolulu last week was upbeat about the future of clean energy, despite pushback on the U.S. mainland. Apparently, those committed to a clean energy agenda, including the private sector, are more motivated than ever to push forward with aggressive programs to bring renewables resources online.

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A postcard from Hawaii to the nation’s capital

11 Ways to Use Solar Energy Besides the Home

June 21, 2017 by  
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Solar panels can be installed on your home and save you thousands a year in energy. However, your house is not the only place they can be applied. You can save money and help preserve the environment by using solar panels in a number of…

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11 Ways to Use Solar Energy Besides the Home

This app helps corporate buyers evaluate solar and wind projects

June 21, 2017 by  
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New service from the Business Renewables Center simplifies the comparison of contracts, including virtual power purchase agreements.

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This app helps corporate buyers evaluate solar and wind projects

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