research Posts

Space-based PV plants: the next big step for photovoltaics

Space-based PV plants: the next big step for photovoltaics

Building solar power plants in space will be possible in the not-so-far future according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Indeed, JAXA has announced that they have achieved a major technical breakthrough, which would eventually make the construction of space-based solar power plants possible. Concretely, the JAXA team has succeeded in converting and transferring electricity using microwaves for a distance of 55 meters.

German researchers develop photovoltaic concrete

German researchers develop photovoltaic concrete

Germany has added a new technological contribution to the renewable energy sector with a new invention developed by researchers at the University of Kassel: Photovoltaic Concrete. Named “DysCrete”, this concrete is still in prototype stage but it would be able to generate electricity by converting solar energy into an electric current.

Photovoltaic Innovations: Future Challenges

Photovoltaic Innovations: Future Challenges

Despite the decrease in demand that the photovoltaic market is currently experiencing, universities and other institutions continue to invest in research and development in the field of solar PV. The sector is driven by the desire to achieve better performing and more efficient technologies that can help produce more green electricity than ever before. We will introduce some of the most promising innovations that will, in the near or far future, enter the solar PV market and help us optimise our environmentally conscious behaviour.

Interview with Project Manager of UK’s National Solar Centre – Jonny Williams

The BRE National Solar Centre (NSC) in the UK opened on April 25th this year as a centre for excellence and knowledge for solar energy in the UK. It aims to drive the UK solar market and solar innovation forwards through industry-led research, data analysis, testing, and training. The NSC will also connect to universities world-wide to further research and future technologies. The NSC can also act as a united voice for the UK industry and connect to international photovoltaic (PV) players. The centre also hopes to develop set standards for large-scale installations that will also compliment UK’s current standards, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and offer due diligence consulting.

Milk the Sun is interviewing Jonny Williams, the project manager of UK’s recently opened National Solar Centre.

Milk the Sun: Mr. Williams, what will be the main goals of the NSC in 2013?

Williams:  To establish the BRE National Solar Centre as the leading knowledge centre for solar PV and solar thermal in the UK.  Also we wish to look at international opportunities and to set up our solar test site.

Milk the Sun: NSC wants to focus on evidence-based information for the people involved in the PV suppl

Johnny Williams (right) states that quality information will support the UK solar industry.

Johnny Williams (right) states that quality information will support the UK solar industry.

y chain. How can this type of information and research benefit the UK solar market?

Williams: The rapid development of the UK solar industry since April 2010 has seen a lot of benefits for the industry but also a number of problems to do with a lack of reliable information.  The provision of good quality information on cost, quality and energy generation for a range of different projects will support the industry to grow, mature and thrive.

Milk the Sun: How will the NSC reach out to international players? How does the NSC plan on contributing research to the international PV market?

Williams: We are actively pursuing a number of international opportunities through BRE’s existing network of contacts and also via UK government departments such as UKTI (UK Trade and Investment).

Milk the Sun: Do you think that UK public opinion on solar energy is dependent on their knowledge of solar energy?  Will research acquired by the NSC be transparent and accessible to the public?

Williams: The public perception of all type of energy generators or energy savers is subject to many different influences, some of which bear little resemblance to science or good quality data.  All BRE National Solar Centre key outputs will be available to the public.

Milk the Sun: What do you expect to see in UK’s future government policies in regards to the solar energy sector?

Williams:  We have been very pleased to see the UK government’s continuing support of the solar industry.  Clearly energy security, UK jobs and low carbon generation are viewed as being key contributions from the UK solar industry.  As such I would expect to see support in the UK to continue, as long as the industry can focus on quality and innovation.

Milk the Sun: What do you predict for the future of UK’s solar PV market, especially with the EU’s tariff on Chinese solar modules?

Williams:  The job for the BRE National Solar Centre is to focus on reliable evidence produced by independent research and testing.   By providing this the industry will continue to develop in the future.

Milk the Sun would like to thank Mr. Williams for a compelling interview and are excited to see how the NSC will change the UK solar industry.

Cheap Low Quality Silicon turned into the Highest Quality Silicon

At the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, researchers have managed to greatly increase the efficiency of solar cells while simultaneously reducing its costs. These improvements were not expected within the industry for at least another ten years and includes new technology.

Using low quality silicon wafers can decrease the price of solar panels©Fernando Alonso Herrero

Using low quality silicon wafers can decrease the price of solar panels©Fernando Alonso Herrero

Researchers at UNSW have figured out a method to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms to correct deficiencies within silicon. Professor Stuart Wenham, the head of the university’s photovoltaics centre of excellence said, “We’ve been able to figure out what the secret is that enables hydrogen to sometimes work the way people want it to, and sometimes doesn’t.” Essentially, it allows poor quality silicon wafers to behave like high quality wafers which reduces the costs of solar panels. Currently, the silicon wafer alone accounts for over 50% of the costs required to make a solar cell. This leads to the industry tendency to focus on finding ways to lower the cost of silicon but often instigates a higher number of defects and contaminants that lower its efficiency. However, with this new technology, cheaper silicon is more efficient than using even the highest quality silicon. Using lower quality silicon wafers in this case could be an effective way to lower solar cell prices.

The new technology would allow for solar cell efficiencies between 21-23% , much greater than the 17-19% efficiency of the cells on the current market. The UNSW has patented their technique of controlling hydrogen atoms. Nevertheless, prices for solar panels have fallen by approximately 65% in the last two years, partially due to the huge increase in solar panel production in China. The falling prices have also lead to an increase in the Australian solar market with over 1 million homes with solar photovoltaic energy installed. The industry is also interested in UNSW’s new technology. They are working with industry partners to commercialise the project and with manufacturing companies to implement these new capabilities. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is supporting the project and is expected to be complete in 2016.

Source: Computer World

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