Solar Energy: World, ‘Warm Up’ to this Idea!
Posted on: April 4, 2019.

Aren’t ‘wind’ and ‘water’ the first things that come to mind when we hear “Renewable Energy”? In recent years, wind and water have become the most popularly named examples, and in fact, the cheapest renewable energy in use today is hydropower, while wind power is the fastest-growing alternative energy source. However, there is an energy source that is far better than either, far more abundant, and has the potential to provide a far higher Return-On-Investment (ROI). It is something that we all see and feel every single day.

“SOLAR ENERGY”.

While broader needs are being fulfilled by wind and hydropower, incredibly profound are the ways in which solar power can change lives.

So, how do we harness this game changer?

In what ways will it change our lives?

Unimaginable amounts of electricity can be harnessed by harvesting the sun’s vast output, and the primary means of achieving this conversion is what is called “Solar Cells”, also known as photovoltaic cells.

So, what are “Solar Cells”?

The first things that come to our mind when we hear “Solar Cells” are the massive arrays of panels in the desert, or the top of residential homes and commercial buildings covered by smaller, dark-coloured rooftop systems.

The dark anti-reflective coating on solar cells absorb sunlight, and the photovoltaic underlay—two layers of semiconductors with opposite charges—absorbs the light and generates an electrical current. Solar panels are linked to form an array as the low rate of absorption of individual cells generates, typically, only a small wattage per cell, designed to generate only a small amount of electricity. However, one of the critical inefficiencies that researchers are working to improve right now, is the fact that no solar cell can absorb 100% of the sun’s rays.

Several conditions influence the amount of electricity generated by solar panels:

  • Total number of cells in an array.
  • Amount and intensity of sunlight.
  • Length of time exposed to sunlight.
  • Any obstructions between sunlight and the solar panels, like clouds, or dirt or dust on the panel.

A solar cell would generate more electricity if it is exposed to intense, direct sunlight for a longer time.

Recent Innovations

Transparent Solar Cells

Transparent photovoltaic cells would not appear wholly clear in the true sense of the word, and furthermore, not even be of much functional use—light would pass straight through the glass without getting absorbed. However, this advanced form of solar cell has a design that incorporates organic salts that absorb UV and infrared light, achieving the capture of enough sunlight to convert the rays into energy. Imagine the screen of a tablet or smartphone, or the windshield of an automobile, made with this type of solar cell. The transparent method of solar collection opens up a far wider range of uses.

Organic Solar Cells

Silicon has been the most efficient material, till date, in transforming the sun’s rays into energy. 19-27% is the approximate conversion efficiency of silicon-based photovoltaic cells in converting the sunlight they receive into energy. However, organic cells made from plastics and carbon are catching up. Having earlier failed to come anywhere close to the efficiency of silicon, they are now matching silicon, with rates between 15% and 25%. Organic cells are flexible, lightweight, and easily manipulated, used in less rigid structures or integrated into clothes and accessories as wearable tech or in areas that call for semi-transparent materials such as windows.

Biogenic Solar Cells

How can solar energy be harnessed in the event of reduced or low exposure to sunlight? Here’s the answer.

“Solar cells made of living organisms”, a scientific breakthrough, are not be outdone by organic solar cells. Genetically engineered cells have an outstanding ability to generate energy even in places with not much sunlight. In areas that receive smaller amounts of sunlight, biogenic photovoltaic cells would complement existing cells in increasing amount of electricity generated.

Flexible and Ultrathin Solar Cells

Scientific breakthroughs have produced photovoltaic cells light enough and thin enough to rest atop a soap bubble without bursting the bubble! Such cells can be sewn into clothing, integrated into the surface of a tablet or smartphone, or manufactured as part of an automobile’s skin. On a larger scale, a whole building would receive an upgraded, laminated facade of solar cells capable of powering the entire structure, otherwise having to make use of large rooftop panels.

A revolutionary change in the installation of solar/photovoltaic panels will happen when the thinnest examples reach a level of scalability necessary for the mass scale projects.



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