See-through solar materials that can be applied to windows represent a massive source of untapped energy and could harvest as much power as bigger, bulkier rooftop solar units.
Led by engineering researchers at Michigan State University, the authors argue that widespread use of such highly transparent solar applications, together with the rooftop units, could nearly meet World electricity demand and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Lunt and colleagues at MSU pioneered the development of a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that when placed on a window creates solar energy without disrupting the view. The thin, plastic-like material can be used on buildings, car windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface.
The solar-harvesting system uses organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. The researchers can “tune” these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then convert this energy into electricity.
Moving global energy consumption away from fossil fuels will require such innovative and cost-effective renewable energy technologies.
Highly transparent solar applications are recording efficiencies above 5 percent, while traditional solar panels typically are about 15 percent to 18 percent efficient. Although transparent solar technologies will never be more efficient at converting solar energy to electricity than their opaque counterparts, they can get close and offer the potential to be applied to a lot more additional surface area.
Right now, transparent solar technologies are only at about a third of their realistic overall potential.
Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet team has only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years. Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.
The cost of battery storage for stationary applications could fall by up to 66 per cent by 2030, according to a new report published today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The falling price of batteries could stimulate 17-fold growth of installed battery storage, opening up a number of new commercial and economic opportunities.