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Ranked as our #1 overall solar installer, SunPower features the world’s highest efficiency solar panels and features three flexible purchase options to fit the needs of nearly every homeowner. Not only will SunPower…

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The rush to improve solar technology, to make it more efficient and affordable continues unabated. As an inexhaustible source of free energy, solar holds more promise than perhaps any other sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. As in many endeavors, the search for the ultimate solar technology often leads us in wildly different directions. Case in point: inflatable solar balloons. The Inevitable Challenge The inherent problem that seems to ball-and-chain most of today’s solar photovoltaic cells is that they remain relatively expensive to manufacture.  The answer thus far has been simply to reduce the PV surface area these cells use. This has given rise to concentrators, which direct more sunlight to smaller—and in some cases, more efficient—solar panels. But even this “solution” presents manufacturers with high costs for both support materials and the concentrators. Enter the Inflatable Solar Collector Addressing both efficiency and cost roadblocks, a company called CoolEarth says it has a more efficient and economical solution to harnessing the sun’s energy. Its inflatable solar collectors replace today’s large expensive solar panels and costly concentrating mirrors with balloons made of… Read more

A key challenge facing today’s power grid utilities is that supply and demand are often out of phase. Or to put it more directly, electricity must be consumed as soon as it’s generated. Adding wind and solar power to a grid make it difficult to reconcile power generation and demand. A sudden high demand for electricity during cloudy/rainy days could leave some without power; conversely, sunny or windy days could generate more electricity than the current demand. The Solution: More Efficient Energy Storage Connecting more energy storage to a power grid solves this problem by dovetailing supply and demand. Storage allows for stockpiling energy when its available, then drawing it from an “energy ballast” when it’s needed. Add enough storage and a utility grid could adopt 100% renewable sources. Until now, battery storage systems were bulky, unattractive and quite frankly a bit expensive (to buy, install and maintain). They just looked too clunky for the average homeowner who couldn’t fit them in today’s cramped garages. What consumers wanted was an affordable, sleek solution that didn’t eat up valuable garage real… Read more

Renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that within 20 years, solar will solve the world’s energy problem. He compares the development of solar tech to what’s already happening in computers—that every two years these technologies grow exponentially in capability and power—providing twice the performance for half the cost. From Parity to 100% in Less Than 16 Years Solar currently remains slightly more expensive than fossil fuels, but costs are falling rapidly. Deutsche Bank predicts that solar systems will be at grid parity in nearly 80 per cent of the global market within two years. Analyst Vishal Shah notes that solar will rise to grid parity throughout most of the world by the end of 2017. The reason? Grid-based electricity prices are rising worldwide, while solar costs continue to fall. Shah expects solar module costs will drop an additional 40 per cent over the next five years. Grid parity without subsidies is already here, notes Shah with parity rising and penetration rates ramping up worldwide. Solar demand in the US is expected to jump to 16,000MW in 2016. Even at prices of… Read more

Current solar cells are hovering at efficiencies of around 25%. But that could change if Semprius, a startup based in Durham, North Carolina gets the funding it needs to proceed with some new innovations. Chief among these is a new breed of solar cell that could convert half the sun’s energy into electricity. The secret to achieving this level of efficiency lies in what’s called “the stamp.” It allows Semprius to use a type of solar power known as concentrated photovoltaics. While the concept has been around for some time, it basically exploits the fact that the amount of energy any solar cell gathers can be increased by focusing light into it using specially designed lenses. Pairing Solar and Lens Arrays Semprius’s stamp allows solar cell arrays to be made much smaller and thinner than those used in concentrating photovoltaics. The concentrating technology works by placing and arranging solar cells in pairs with lens arrays. The rubber stamp picks up and transfers thousands of the tiny solar cells in groups without breaking them. This novel technique completely alters the economics… Read more

Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have combined advanced solar and 3D printing technologies to develop trees that harvest energy. The leaves on these specially designed trees generate and store enough solar energy to power today’s mobile devices, humidifiers, thermometers and LED light bulbs.  The trees can even capture kinetic energy from wind and temperature changes. So how do they work? Flexible Organic Solar Cells Unlike solar cells many people are used to, like the one’s on rooftops, this technology uses organic solar cells, printed on flexible “tree leaves.” But like today’s solar cells, the process uses existing, proven mass-production techniques. Equally impressive is the fact that each leaf has its own power converter. Cumulatively, this multi-converter power-generating tree is able to draw energy from not just the sun, but from wind and ambient heat. Needless to say, the bigger the tree (more leaves), the greater the energy capture. Supporting these multiple energy collectors is a sturdy trunk, which is 3D printed from wood-based bio-composites. This wood-based filament is an environmentally-friendly material of choice for this sustainability-focused… Read more