Tag Archives | Solar Energy

A Solar Cell That Stores Its Own Power

Credit: Yiying Wu, The Ohio State University

Credit: Yiying Wu, The Ohio State University

Via ScienceDaily:

Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery? Actually, the patent-pending device invented at The Ohio State University is both: the world’s first solar battery.

In the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers report that they’ve succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device.

Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

The university will license the solar battery to industry, where Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says it will help tame the costs of renewable energy.

“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu said.

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The Coming Era of Unlimited — and Free — Clean Energy

When I saw this headline in  a tweet from Daniel Pinchbeck I thought it was going to link to one of “those” blogs, but no, it’s straight from a stalwart of the mainstream media, the Washington Post, which is touting 100% solar-generated electricity meeting all our needs, sooner rather than later:

In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones.  McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant.  It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out.  McKinsey was wrong, of course.  There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use in 2000; there are billions now.  Costs have fallen so far that even the poor — all over world — can afford a cellular phone.

The experts are saying the same about solar energy now.

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Solar Panel Arrays Setting Birds On Fire While In Flight

PS10 solar power tower.jpg

Who said solar energy wasn’t going to cause casualties? AP’s The Big Story reports on burning birds flying over solar panel arrays with flames and smoke trailing behind them:

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

The deaths are “alarming.

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Multilayer, Microscale Solar Cells Enable Ultra-High Efficiency Power Generation

PIC: University of Illinois (C)

PIC: University of Illinois (C)

Rick Kubetz, writing for the engineering department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

As an energy source, the Sun has always been a dependable provider. Although it freely shines on everyone, the ability to capture and convert the Sun’s abundant energy is anything but free. However, new technologies aimed at achieving “full spectrum” operation in utility-scale photovoltaics may soon make solar energy a viable option.

“A few simple ideas in materials science and device assembly allow us to bypass many of the limitations of traditional photovoltaic technologies,” explained John Rogers, whose research group is developing these concepts. As a result of these new efficiencies, external industry experts project solar energy electricity generation costs that can reach, without subsidies, levels that are lower than coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

A Swanlund Chair and professor of materials science and engineering, Rogers is a pioneer in semiconductor devices and manufacturing techniques.

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Atomically Thin Solar Cells

Pic: Smokefoot (CC)

Pic: Smokefoot (CC)

Yet another breakthrough in solar technology (via EurekAlert):

It does not get any thinner than this: The novel material graphene consists of only one atomic layer of carbon atoms and exhibits very special electronic properties. As it turns out, there are other materials too, which can open up intriguing new technological possibilities if they are arranged in just one or very few atomic layers. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have now succeeded for the first time in creating a diode made of tungsten diselenide. Experiments show that this material may be used to create ultrathin flexible solar cells. Even flexible displays could become possible.

Thin Layers are Different

At least since the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded in 2010 for creating graphene, the “two dimensional crystals” made of carbon atoms have been regarded as one of the most promising materials in electronics. In 2013, graphene research was chosen by the EU as a flagship-project, with a funding of one billion euros.

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Spain Privatizes the Sun: Issues Heavy Penalties for Collecting Sunlight

AngrysunEarth First! Newswire cleans up and considerably shortens govtslaves.info‘s partially comprehensible translation of an article at Diario Digital Nuestro País:

If you get caught collecting photons of sunlight for your own use you can drop a fine not exceeding 30 million.

So if you were thinking that the best option was just to have some solar panels that were down 80% in cost and have the opportunity to disconnect from the mains and your bill scam, you can forget about it.

With the terror of “destabilized” power consumption, sometime in 2010 someone has decided to privatize the sun …. yes you read that right: Spain, unlike the rest of Europe, levies a toll on electricity generated and injected to the line.

Committing the sacrilege of being energy independent can be very expensive, and the sun now is only for the privileged few and the power companies. The ”Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF ), which brings together some 300 companies representing 85% of the industry, ensures that these changes would be more expensive than resorting to conventional supply.

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Trees Used to Create Recyclable, Efficient Solar Cell

Via ScienceDaily:

Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees. Just as importantly, by fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.The technology is published in the journal Scientific Reports, the latest open-access journal from the Nature Publishing Group.

The researchers report that the organic solar cells reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7 percent, an unprecedented figure for cells on substrates derived from renewable raw materials. The CNC substrates on which the solar cells are fabricated are optically transparent, enabling light to pass through them before being absorbed by a very thin layer of an organic semiconductor. During the recycling process, the solar cells are simply immersed in water at room temperature. Within only minutes, the CNC substrate dissolves and the solar cell can be separated easily into its major components.

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Wall Street Journal: Solar a “Mortal Threat” to Utilities

Picture: NASA (PD)

Peter Sinclair writes at Climate

Denial Crock of the Week:

Three weeks ago, I had my 5 minutes at a local “listening session” on energy, put on by the Governor of my fair state.

My main message was that a technological sea change is coming in energy production – and if regulatory and utility policy do not anticipate the further build out of wind, solar, and distributed energy, the transition is going to be ugly.  Traditional energy producers who think they can hold back the tide will be like typewriter makers trying to bad-mouth word processors. They are going to go away.

Last week had coffee last week with a well-informed friend, who agreed with me that this is an oncoming freight train. He pointed me to some new survey results from Ernst & Young.

Renewable Energy World:

We conducted a telephone survey of executives involved in corporate energy strategy at 100 companies with revenues of US$1 billion or more.

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Germany Sets New Solar Record By Meeting Nearly Half of Country’s Weekend Power Demand

Photo: Túrelio (CC)

Photo: Túrelio (CC)

This story from inhabitat has the sustainable energy movement incredibly excited, and rightly so methinks:

Germany fed a whopping 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour into the national grid last weekend, setting a new record by meeting nearly half of the country’s weekend power demand.

After the Fukushima disaster, Japan opted to shut down all of its nuclear power stations and Germany followed suit after considerable public pressure. This seems to have paved the way for greater investment in solar energy projects. The Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster announced that Saturday’s solar energy generation met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs AND was equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity! …

By meeting a third of its electricity needs on a work day and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed, Germany’s solar power industry has broken all previous records.

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In France, A Reactor Is Being Built Which Will Make Stars

To_Pit_Radial_2Soon we may have a glimpse of the world’s first star garden — imagine sitting within its confines on a summer night. BLDG BLOG writes:

An artificially excavated limestone pit in the south of France will soon host star-making technology. Construction involves inserting a supergrid of rebar into the quarried pit, securing the limestone walls with concrete foundation work, then pouring seismically-stabilized plinths that will support the so-called International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a kind of concrete garden that produces stars.

Nestled in its semi-subterranean, mine-like site and buzzing inside with radiation-resistant robot elevators, the ITER will recreate, again and again, “the process that powers the sun and most other stars. At extremely high temperatures, hydrogen nuclei will fuse to form helium, spitting out more energy than the process consumes, something that has never yet been achieved by a human-made device.”

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