Spray-On Solar-Power Cells Are True Breakthrough

May 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Wind and Solar

SOLAR REVOLUTION – Solar Paint Ted Sargent is a pioneer in solar science. He’s working on solar technology that could literally be woven into every aspect of daily life, from our clothes to our roads, using what is known as a spray-on solar cell. The implications for our energy systems are profound. As Ted says, “Solar energy is not just an exciting science problem, but an incredibly important human problem.” Ted is working on solar nanotechnology with the potential to make solar energy very cheap and allow society to collect it on a huge scale. Currently, solar technology costs more to build and install than most people are willing to pay. Solar panels, for example, the technology most commonly associated with solar energy, are installed on your rooftop. The cost of collecting one kilowatt per hour of solar energy (about a third of the electricity an average household uses on any given day) is about 000. Not only are panels expensive to install, they capture only the visible portion of the sun’s rays so they work only on sunny days. Ted’s focus is the infrared portion of the sun’s rays which accounts for more than half of all solar energy. What’s more, infrared energy is available to us even in cloudy weather. A quantum dot is a semiconductor nanostructure that confines the motion of conduction band electrons, valence band holes, or excitons (bound pairs of conduction band electrons and valence band holes) in all three spatial directions. The confinement can be due to

The PS10 Tower: The Future of Energy Generation?

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

Just outside of the city of Seville in Spain, one can see a monolith that largely resembles something from the Lord of the Rings. A huge, towering eye stands a 115 meter high tower, looking out over a sea of large, shiny reflective objects. To the innocent bystander it is an odd, or even alarming sight, but what is happening in this small corner of Spain could indeed be the future of energy.

The monolith is in fact a PS10 tower, a technical name for what is essentially a huge solar panel. Like many solar panels, it gathers the sun’s heat and boils water to create steam; this, in turn, creates electricity, which can then be used to power anything from a small town to the oven in your kitchen.

What makes the PS10 Tower different, however, is that it does not just receive sunlight directly from the sun. While it would be effective in doing so, the PS10 Tower looks out over 624 movable mirrors, known as heliostats, all of which are positioned to shine the sun’s rays directly onto the solar panels atop the tower.

If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is – but essentially, what the PS10 Tower generates in power which then becomes electricity is 624 times more powerful than your average solar panel. Thanks to the heliostats bouncing the sun’s rays directly on to its receiving panels, the PS10 is able to create steam to drive a generator at a rate previously unheard of for solar technology.

What’s more, the experiment has proved so successful that a second tower and second bed of heliostats – the PS20 Tower – has now been built. The Spanish have capitalized on their natural resource – blinding sunlight – and used it to create electricity. Even more excitingly, it works. So is are the PS10 and PS20 towers the future of solar energy? They just might be.

Can Solar Panels Work In Winter?

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

When solar energy is touted as one of the natural replacements for the consumable energies of coal and oil, one of the first questions that is always asked is: what will happen in winter? Can solar panels function when there is precious little sunlight?

The simple answer is, yes. Even in winter, most countries experience six to seven hours of daylight, and to an extent this is all a solar panel needs to function. Solar panels, despite the name, do not necessarily need direct, hot sunlight to produce electricity; but what they do need is light. In daytime, some of the sun’s rays are getting through to earth even when it is cold and overcast. Quite simply, if these rays weren’t getting through the cloud cover, it would not appear to be daytime!

Therefore, for as long as it is daytime, solar panels can function and produce electricity to a degree. Temperature is a relatively unimportant consideration in solar panel development; in fact, some experiments have shown that the mechanisms and generation systems of solar panels actually function better when it is colder. All electrical systems slow down somewhat in intense heat – such as trying to use a laptop on a hot day – and the crisper temperatures of winter can allow solar panels to work to their full potential.

While all of the above it is true, it is nevertheless also a fact that the output of solar panels is effected by a lack of daylight – something which is characteristic with winter. One would not get the same effective output on a winter’s day as one would on a summer’s day, and for this reason other energy generation sources are required for the winter months. Thankfully, in most countries winter may decrease the amount of solar output, but the weather changes in a way that is beneficial to other renewable energies – such as tidal or wind power, which may be less effective in the more temperate summer months.