The US federal government cut billions of dollars that used to fund the research and development of solar power technology but reports show that investments in renewable energy around the world increased by up to 32 percent to $211 billion. This is achieved even though the global economy is still down and large cuts in clean energy R&D funding.
It looks like solar power technology is moving forward in a steady pace. This resulted to a 60 percent drop in price per kilowatt in the production of solar panels in the last three years. In some areas of the world, solar power has become competitive with coal power. The price of solar panels will continue to decrease as new developments are made in solar technology.
There are several breakthroughs made in solar power technology in the past months. Below are some of them that can help reduce the cost of solar power installations in the near future.
A team from MIT managed to create a new nano molecule called azobenzene that can store energy for a long time. These molecules can convert solar energy and store it at an energy density similar to lithium ion batteries. It is a material that converts and stores energy that doesn’t degrade. And best of all, it is inexpensive.
Another team from MIT, led by Professor Karen Gleason, discovered a method to print solar cell on any surface by utilizing low temperatures and vapor. The conventional method of using liquid solutions is expensive and needs high temperatures that degrade the substrate materials. The printed paper cell is durable and could be folded without loss in performance.
Researchers are working on micro solar thermal panel that is eight times more efficient than the best solar panel at present. Typical solar thermal needs huge arrays of mirrors to heat up an element to turn a steam turbine. The new micro thermal panel, which is just the size of a regular solar panel, utilizes nanostructured thermoelectric generators that absorb heat made by the sun’s ray that strike on top of the panel. The panels would heat up from ambient light even during a cloudy day. And best of all, the panels are made out of inexpensive components.
A group of MIT graduate students managed to make a virus called M13 that has a unique ability to keep carbon nanotubes spaced uniformly. It could be used to efficiently convert solar energy. It could improve the efficiency of solar panels to 10.6 percent.