By Guest Blogger Liz Nelson
Contrary to the beliefs of many, the decrease in oil prices is not having as much of an impact as they thought when it comes to developments for solar power. In fact, the innovations and developments continue to progress in spite of the decrease in oil prices. Among these developments are those that pertain to efficiency and safety. As popularity grows for solar arrays, decreasing the overall costs of maintenance as well as improving features are what drives the sales for future products.
Overcoming Lost Energy – One obstacle that many scientists are trying to overcome is the efficiency in which light is captured by solar panels. Currently, only 20 to 30-percent of the light is actually absorbed by panels – which creates a great amount of wasted energy. If this manner of absorption can be increased, fewer solar panels could be used to generate greater amounts of power. As it is, scientists of the EU FP7 LaserNaMi project may have a method in which this efficiency can be increased.
Carving Patterns in Panels – The design of solar panels makes them reflective, which allows most of the light to be bounced off of the panel rather than being absorbed. Scientists of the LaserNaMi project believe that nanoscopic relief patterns can be essentially carved into the panel in order to trap the sunlight instead of it being reflected. These relief patterns decrease a panel’s reflective surface and allows it to absorb more of the light turning it into electricity.
Materials Other than Silicone – Developments for panels don’t merely stop at the reflective surface. The discovery of using perovskite in lieu of silicone has amazing promises for making solar panels cheaper and more efficient. Perovskite was discovered in the 1800s as having photovoltaic properties and has been experimented with since then. In 2013, it was found that there was a significant drop in lost electrons when using perovskite material in solar panels. As this material is in plentiful supply, the cost for manufacturing panels made of it would be greatly reduced as opposed to refining polycrystalline silicon – one of the main components in most solar panels.
Safety for Maintenance
Fire Hazards – Many stories are surfacing as of late about the hazards of solar panel fires. During a fire in a home or a business establishment, firefighters are having a hard time combating the blaze from above if roof top solar panels are present. Why is this such an issue? Because solar panels will continue to generate power even though the circuit breakers of the establishment are turned off. Thousands of watts and hundreds of volts are still being fed to the power lines of the array. If a firefighter hits an exposed power line, it could cause severe injuries and even death.
Power Shutoff “Valve” – An Australian company has developed the means to combat fires safely for those establishments that support roof top solar arrays. This Remote Solar Isolator is a device that is installed that operates by detected power from the grid. If grid power is shut off, the isolator reduces the power of the panels to manageable limits if not shutting it off all together. This means that the solar panels can be rendered useless by turning the power to the establishment off allowing firefighters to combat the blaze even while the panels are mounted on the roof.
Keeping the Panels Clean
Obstructing Light – One of the most painstaking truths about roof top solar installations is the aspect of keeping them clean of debris. Dust, dirt, leaves and other objects could reduce the efficiency of the panel and requires the homeowner or maintenance professional to keep them clear. Even a thin layer of dirt and dust can be detrimental to the panel’s ability to turn light into electricity.
Non-stick Panels – As with the development mentioned above for efficiency, the same nanoscopic pattern technology makes the surface of a panel non-stick and nearly self-cleaning. The development of this pattern has the capacity to reduce the dirt, dust and other grime from forming a film over the panel.
The interest in solar power drives manufacturers and scientists to develop more efficient and cheaper methods of development. The more enhanced these items get, the more the consumer will want to buy them. As the years pass, the technology will continue to see improvements. It’s a fundamental truth in consumerism. As long as people are still willing to shell out the money, solar arrays will continue to become safer, cleaner and cheaper.
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston.