Solar Panels Just Keep Getting More Efficient
Solar power costs have come down steadily over the last few decades. At the same time creative financing has lowered the bar to entry, making solar power a more viable option for most small business and homeowners. When you add these two factors to the ongoing increases in the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells that make up the solar panels themselves, as well as advances in energy storage technology, the future just keeps getting brighter and brighter.
One side effect of all the advances in solar energy is that it has pushed researchers who are eager to make their contribution to sustainability and renewable energy into becoming more and more creative. One area that has seen some advancement in recent months is in the coating that the solar panels receive.
Solar panel coatings had been primarily designed to protect the PV cells from weather and other potentially damaging factors, up until now. But new advances are being made in coatings that increase the efficiency of the cells themselves, either directly or indirectly.
Bending the Spectrum
Recent research at the University of California, Riverside has led to the creation and testing of solar panel coatings that are directly increasing the efficiency of PV cells by allowing them to capture more of the sun’s energy.
Up until now, the invisible infrared spectrum of the sun’s solar output has not been available to PV cells for conversion to electricity. The infrared rays just passed directly through the cells, like they do most things.
But the new coating actually bends the sunlight so that it better matches up to the light-collecting material in the cells. This new technology has the potential to increase the output of solar panels by as much or more than thirty percent.
Anti-Reflective and Water Repellent Solar Coatings
In anther part of the country, researchers at the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have announced that research they’ve been conducting into such diverse materials as the organic material that makes up moths’ eyes and lotus leaves has led them to the creation of a solar panel coating that may increase efficiency by as much as three to six percent.
A moth’s eye is naturally anti-reflective, letting in as much light as possible, and lotus leaves contain a compound that makes them naturally water repellent. A solar panel that lets in all of the sun’s light, reflecting back none of it, and is naturally water repellent is one step toward a more sustainable green energy future.
The News Just Keeps Getting Better for Renewable Energy
Solar energy continues to lead the charge into a new, sustainable energy future. Recent research into coatings for solar panels marks just one step in the ongoing development toward maximizing the efficiency of photovoltaic cells.
With continued funding and research, we could see solar operating at greater and greater efficiency in the decades to come.
[Photo via: Energy.gov]