Solar recycling – a looming problem with a European solution

The price of solar panels continues to drop – down 86 percent since 2009! That means having solar is more affordable than ever and with solar leasing options growing and now California mandating all new construction must include solar, its use is set to explode.

But as I’ve noted before, every solution presents new problems which must be addressed. Solar panels have been rated for a 25-year lifespan. Although they will continue to function after that – many solar panels installed in the 1980’s still function close to their original levels – ultimately they will lose efficiency and at some point need to be replaced. The looming issue here is what to do with those solar panels?

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Renewable energy and its real potential for this country

Solar Day - celebrate the opportunities of renewable energy

Contrary to what the conservative media continues to focus on, renewable energy is alive and well and holding strong in this country. And its potential to replace fossil fuel-based energy sources looks pretty darn good.

In July, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report examining and applying methods for estimating the current and future economic potential of domestic renewable energy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which recently crunched the numbers, NREL’s analysis shows that renewable energy sources have the potential to supply anywhere from “35 percent to as much as 10 times the nation’s current power needs.”

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The future of commercial buildings – see-through solar powered windows

Mew Energy Technologies' new Solar Window™

Mew Energy Technologies’ new SolarWindow™

The growth of solar is exploding. As the technology continues to improve, the focus for commercial buildings is solar, but with a twist.

Not all commercial buildings can handle large solar arrays on their rooftops. Between the weight of the solar panels and the fixed angle of the buildings, standard solar panels aren’t a one-size-fits-all. Because of this, the new technology of smaller solar cells embedded in glass has become a race to see who will perfect and make this available first.

One of the leading contenders in the U.S. is New Energy Technologies, a building integrator photovoltaic (BIPV) developer in Maryland. Their chief focus – a product called SolarWindow™ – is a spray-on solution of solar cells that allows windows to generate electricity.First announced in 2010,/the idea of this solar film caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 2011. NET now has an exclusive world-wide licensing agreement with the University of South Florida, and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with NREL to advance SolarWindow technology.

To learn more about this exciting new innovation, see the full article here.

Colored Solar combines beautiful color with energy efficiency

Colored Solar (green)As the cost of utilizing fossil fuels continues to unfold – i.e. oil spills devastating wildlife habitat, increased carbon released into the air, growing occurrences of asthma in metropolitan areas – cost-saving renewable energy sources look better and better.  As the price of the installation solar panels continues to fall, this is becoming an increasingly attractive option. Yet homeowners have to put up with unattractive solar panels with no regard to aesthetics. Until now.

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Solar panels showing to impede fire prevention

Solar panels on fire 1As useful as solar panels are in helping to save energy and helping to wean us off fossil fuels, there’s a darker side that is proving to be unexpectedly hazardous. Firefighters are having enormous difficulty fighting fires in or on buildings sporting energy-producing solar arrays.

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SolarReserve brings sun and salt together to light up Las Vegas

Much has been written about the anticipated large solar array in the Mojave Desert, and the unexpected problems posed by the native population of endangered desert tortoise, the official reptile of the state of California.

While that is still being sorted out, SolarReserve, a Santa Monica-based company, is working on a different type of solar project.

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New Windows Generate Solar Power

EnergyGlass turns skyscrapers into electricity-generating solar farms

With the growing emphasis on alternative energy sources, rooftop solar arrays are springing up around the country. As useful and environmentally friendly as photovoltaic panels are, they don’t exactly blend in aesthetically. What’s more, they can sometimes be difficult to integrate with other rooftop equipment, and can sustain damage from exposure to the elements.

Florida-based SAF-GLAS, which creates disaster-resistant and security-related glass products, recently introduced EnergyGlass at a solar seminar at GlassBuild America.

For more on the amazing capabilities of this energy-efficient glass – including its ability to withstand natural disasters – see http://bit.ly/zRNd0i.

Solar panels to be micro-sized in the near future

The products including some sort of solar charger continues to grow – from backpacks to clothing. Now the technology is progressing so that we may soon see solar cells that are thinner than human hair!

Future solar cells could be microsized, making them more efficient and less costly

Future solar cells could be microsized, making them more efficient and less costly

Sandia National Laboratories have been developing glitter-sized photovoltaic cells made from crystalline silicon that are fabricated using microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) techniques. Measuring around 14 to 20 micrometers thick and 0.25 to 1 millimeter across, these cells are expected to be cheaper and more efficient that current solar cells.

Sandia’s lead investigator Greg Nielson said  these cells would be wrapped around unusual shapes for building-integrated solar, tents and possibly  clothing. The latter would  allow consumers to walk around and charge up simultaneously. Hunters, hikers or military personnel in the field would be able to recharge batteries for phones, cameras and other electronic devices as they walk or rest.

Inverters, intelligent controls and storage would be built in at the chip level. It’s thought these amazing cells will be mass produced sometime in the future.

Sanyo's new 2-sided solar panels deliver 50% more energy

Sanyo's HIT Bifacial solar panels raise the bar in the solar industry

Sanyo's HIT Bifacial solar panels raise the bar in the solar industry

Sanyo has introduced their newest solar panel – the HIT Double Bifacial, a new type of photovoltaic that raises the bar for the solar panel industry.

This revolutionary system lets solar panels generate power from both sides simultaneously, using Sanyo’s HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer) proprietary bifacial technology Its two glass layers increase the amount of energy produced by up to 30% compared to a single-sided HIT solar panel – delivering 50 percent more power per square inch than the average solar panel.

DuROCK Alfacing International Inc., a Canadian company specializing in innovative interior and exterior coatings, has combined these new solar panels with its  Tio-Coating reflective white roof membrane, which reflects up to 89% of the solar radiation. This lets the double-sided solar panels do double work, said Gary Campacci, President of DuRock.

Sanyo HIT Bifacial solar panels 2Sanyo officials said the company’s products have the world’s highest solar-light-to-electric-energy conversion efficiency per installed square foot.

According to the Statesman Journal, a Salem, Oregon factory that produces silicon for Sanyo HIT panels has just entered production.

And so another step forward for the solar industry. Stay tuned to see where it goes next!

School district in southern California to go solar

Irvine schoolThe Irvine (California) Unified School District (ISUD) has partnered with SunEdison and SPG Solar to install solar energy at each of its twenty-one campuses.

Purported to be the largest solar deployment for a public school system in California, and possibly the United States, the project will reduce Irvine’s school power bill  by 20 percent – a savings of $17 million over twenty years.

SunEdison will own, operate and maintain the solar photovoltaic systems, with IUSD purchasing energy at a discounted  rate. The solar companies  will act as utilities, building and financing the system with no money from the district .

Solar schoolThis agreement could generate more than 6.6 million kilowatt hours of solar energy in just the first year. Over 20 years, the solar installation is expected to offset 127 million pounds of CO2, the equivalent of removing more than 12,000 cars from the road for one year.

An added component to this exciting venture is taking solar into the classroom. Using an internet-based monitoring system, students can track each solar site in real time while participating in lessons on how solar panels work and how weather impacts energy production. The school will also introduce a complement of courses to educate students about the use and benefits of photovoltaics.

This progressive step is one other school districts will want to check into,