Plastic Solar Cells’ New Design Promises Bright Future

Energy consumption is growing rapidly in the 21st century, with rising energy costs and sustainability issues greatly impacting the quality of human life. Harvesting energy directly from sunlight to generate electricity using photovoltaic technologies is considered to be one of the most promising opportunities to produce electricity in an environmentally benign fashion.

Among the various photovoltaic technologies, polymer (plastic) solar cells offer unique attractions and opportunities. These solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies similar to how newspapers are printed. But the challenge has been improving the cells’ power-conversion efficiency.

Now a research team of faculty members and students led by Professor Tobin J. Marks of Northwestern University reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors and reports the realization of polymer solar cells with fill factors of 80 percent — a first. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.

Written by Science Daily. To read the full article, click here.

Stanford Researchers Develop Record-Breaking Thinner Solar Cells That Absorb More Light

Solar power research is a big deal. Scientists have been searching for a way to improve photovoltaic efficacy for years by developing new technologies – from giant solar concentrator arrays to satellites that beam power back to Earth. Now, Stanford University researchers have developed what they call the thinnest, most efficient photovoltaic wafers ever. Instead of increasing the size of the solar arrays, the researchers created solar wafers with a nano-sized structure that is 1,000 times thinner than any other commercially available thin-film solar cell absorbers.

According to the researchers, the thin film solar wafers are only 1.6 nanometers thin, which cuts down on materials required to produce the cells while making them lighter. At the same time, all of this was done without comprising the solar cells’ ability to absorb visible light. These smaller photovoltaic cells can actually absorb parts of the visible light spectrum with incredible efficiency.

“The coated wafers absorbed 99 percent of the reddish-orange light,” Carl Hagglund, postdoctoral scholar at Department of Chemical Engineering and lead author on the study, said in a statement. “We also achieved 93 percent [light] absorption in the gold nanodots themselves.”

Written by Kevin Lee. To read the full article, click here.

Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

Here’s another use for fracking: expanding access to hot rocks deep beneath Earth’s surface for energy production. In April Ormat Technologies hooked up the first such project—known in the lingo as an enhanced geothermal system, or EGS—to the nation’s electric grid near Reno, Nev.

“The big prize is EGS,” enthuses Douglas Hollett, director of the Geothermal Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). “The key is learning how to do it in a reliable way, in a responsible way.”

By some estimates, the U.S. could tap as much as 2,000 times the nation’s current annual energy use of roughly 100 exajoules (an exajoule equals a quintillion, or 1018 joules) via enhanced geothermal technologies. With respect to electricity, the DoE concludes at least 500 gigawatts of electric capacity could be harvested from such EGS systems. Even better, hot rocks underlie every part of the country and the rest of the world. Australia’s first enhanced geothermal system, spicily named Habanero, began producing power in May, and Europe has brought three such power plants online.

Written by David Biello. To read the full article, click here.

Solar Tracking Systems Gain Ground

“It sounds obvious: put solar panels on a movable mount to follow the sun and catch as much sunlight as possible. But applying solar trackers to a project is not clear cut. Developers not only have to consider cost and location but the type of tracker that best suits the project. Yet as innovations in technology continue, trackers are starting to play a larger role in the industry.

Fixed, Single or Dual

Solar panels are typically mounted at a fixed angle. Such systems have few parts, so are less costly than those with trackers and have fewer operations and maintenance (O&M) considerations.”

Written By: Meg Cichon To read full article click here

Solar park at SDSU’s Brawley campus gets funding

“A five-megawatt solar project planned on 40 acres at San Diego State University’s Imperial Campus in Brawley has secured a $19.2 million construction loan from North American Development Bank.

NRG Solar will supply renewable power from the project to the Imperial Irrigation District under a 25-year power purchase agreement. NGR has hired Boeing to engineer and construct the solar park.”

Written By:  Mike Freeman To read full article click here

Solar plant surpasses 1 million panels

“The millionth solar panel has been installed at a sprawling desert power plant that will feed energy to San Diego-area utility customers as soon as late spring, the project developer said Tuesday.

Omaha, Neb.-based Tenaska announced the milestone at its Imperial Solar Energy Center South, a utility-scale photovoltaic solar plant taking shape across nearly 950 acres of private agricultural land southwest of El Centro, adjacent to the U.S. border with Mexico.”

Written By:  Morgan Lee To read full article click here

San Diego Vaults into Solar Energy and Green Jobs Future

Two of the world’s solar energy leaders have just announced major plans to bring new solar energy technology and green jobs to San Diego. The Sanyo Electric group has embarked on a three year, $3 million partnership with the University of California, San Diego on next-generation solar energy systems and management, and in a separate development, solar cell efficiency wizard Kyocera has started up a solar module manufacturing plant in the city, aiming to produce about 30 megawatts annually.

Written By : Tina Casey To read full article click here