Here are Future Technologies for Solar Energy (and How They Fit into Lighting)
Posted by Stephen Shickadance in Inspiring Projects.
Solar energy will never be perfect. The conversion process of photons (units of light) to electricity will always have some problems of efficiency that will never allow a panel to be 100% efficient. Some sources online claim solar cells in labs have reached over 50% efficiency with use of specific semiconductors, but it would take decades to develop that technology into a commercially-available product. The same goes for solar panels built specifically for solar lighting. Generally, the panels for a solar light have to be smaller and more lightweight in order for the pole to support them. Strong weather patterns can turn a poor-quality solar light into a street hazard, so panels have to be properly designed to be supported at the top of a pole.
Fortunately, efforts in research and development have pushed solar energy capabilities beyond thresholds that weren’t previously accessible. While future technology for solar energy may not utilize silicon dioxide, we'll certainly see much higher efficiencies for solar cells in the future. Currently, monocrystalline silicon in a lab gives us about 25% maximum efficiency ratings.
But what about other technologies? What might they provide? Here are some technologies that may deliver higher efficiency ratings.
Here are Future Technologies of Solar Energy (and How They Fit into Lighting)
PSC (perovskite) cells have advantages over silicon, primarily in the efficiency range. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive, slow processes to manufacture perovskite. In addition, the material can be cut into rectangular wafers so there isn’t waste (whereas monocrystalline silicon typically does see waste because of silicon ingot shapes).
However, early perovskite cells developed in the mid-2000s degraded quickly because of environmental problems such as high heat and moisture, but manufacturing processes have boosted stability in more recent cells. Perovskite cells still aren’t commercially viable, but increases in stability and cell longevity have put it on the radar for future cell tech.
Implementation into solar lighting is questionable since silicon is a heavily-used component in many electronics (computers, anyone?), and even though perovskite is relatively similar in price to silicon, recent studies have shown silicon panels are still dropping in price. In addition, it’s difficult to say if perovskite panels will last as long as silicon--a good lifespan for a silicon panel is about 25 years. It’ll take a lot of time and testing to see perovskite on level ground with silicon when it comes to longevity.
It may seem odd, but there are actual solar cells that are as transparent as glass. It’s an interesting future technology for solar energy. While their efficiencies aren’t as high as monocrystalline panels (since a lot of photons traverse through clear glass), these solar cells capture infrared and ultraviolet rays in order to generate their solar power. The result is literally a window that gathers energy. These solar cells are highly desired for commercial applications such as skyscrapers. An entire building could operate power gathered from the solar panel windows.
As far as lighting, transparent cells could be installed onto light poles in an aesthetic way so it doesn't detract from the presentation of the light. Admittedly, solar panels detract some from the aesthetics of a light (such as park lighting). If a solar light used transparent panels to draw in power, it may be combined into some kind of glass enclosure to protect the light, serving a dual-purpose.
That kind of application for transparent cells is far off since efficiency is not enough to supply enough power to a solar light's batteries, but if we’re able to capture enough photons over time, this future technology could be paired with lighting for a fantastic solution.
Bifacial panels are definitely strong for increased efficiency since a lot of photons that are not captured by the first panel are bounced back by a reflective coating and absorbed by the second panel. Plus, this could give the purchaser options as to how they want to tilt the panels for maximum energy gathering. However, the price for the extra materials and the dual-sided panel are not yet commercially viable for lighting. They’re meant for much larger scale arrays. Even though you see a boost in energy efficiency with a panel that captures more photons, the current price doesn’t justify the cost for smaller-scale commercial applications like parking lots. However, that could change if solar panel efficiency goes up inversely to price. Bifacial solar panels may be used in lighting in the near future.
One of the most interesting-sounding names for a solar panel, an anti-solar panel is actually capable of gathering energy at night. Radiative cooling is a process where heat radiates from the surface of the earth in the form of infrared light. The anti-solar panel then captures that energy. However, it’s only about a quarter of the energy of what’s normally gathered during a full day of sun exposure.
A single night of anti-solar energy is not enough energy to sustain power for lighting, but combined with a full day of exposure, smaller, cheaper panels could be used for light poles. They’d also be more stable since poles need to bear the weight of panels--smaller ones would do well. And with enough research and development, anti-solar panels may be able to capture enough energy day-round to keep their fixtures on indefinitely. It’s just another example of the future technologies of solar energy that may one day be implemented for lighting.
These are just a few examples of the future technologies of solar energy and how they might be used in public lighting. These aren’t yet commercially viable, but it’s exciting to think about how this kind of technology could improve how we use energy globally.
For now, the best technology on the market to power your lighting uses monocrystalline silicon, a technology used by Greenshine. If you’re interested in solar lighting for your next project, find out how this technology can save money, energy, and time. Fill out a quote request today or learn more about what Greenshine has to offer with our comprehensive solar lighting guide.
LATEST NEWS & ARTICLES