Researchers recently unveiled a new breed of materials that could catapult PV solar panels into entirely new thresholds of conversion efficiency—far past the limitations of the Shockley-Queisser limit. The secret lies in the use of a barium titanate crystal to convert sunlight into electric power. Laying the groundwork for this breakthrough was Russian physicist Vladimir M. Fridkin, who nearly 50 years ago discovered a mechanism for converting light into electrical power. He suggested that such materials could collect the "hot" electrons that carry extra energy in a PV material when excited by sunlight, and they would do so before they lose their energy. Current Conversion Efficiencies Hit 25 percent Wall  It’s no secret that solar PV manufacturers have been leapfrogging barriers to efficiency for years now. First it was 10 percent, then 17 percent and later 22 percent. SunPower currently holds the record for the world's most efficient rooftop solar module, reaching an NREL-confirmed efficiency of 24.1 percent.  The record-breaking SunPower module was constructed "using laboratory solar cells” of 25 percent mean efficiency. The design is based on commercially available… Read more

Futurists envision tomorrow’s cities with an eye toward solar. They see people being moved by zero-emission electric vehicles charged by solar power. On the horizon will be monorail and suspended people cabs moving smaller groups of passengers—all solar powered, of course. Streetlights and LED-lighted walkways will be powered by solar. And multi-unit dwellings will be covered with glass windows that double as solar panels. Solar powered cities like these may be just around the corner. In October 2017, Solar Decathlon 2017 will offer a preview of cities that will be entirely powered by solar energy.  Denver Area Smart City Coming Soon Peña Station Next , a “smart city” between downtown Denver and the airport being mapped out by city planners is expected to add 1.5 million square feet of corporate office space, 500,000 square feet of retail stores, 2,500 solar-powered residential units, and 1,500 hotel rooms. The new sustainable city will rise in the area separating the busy urban hub from the country’s largest land-area airport. Recently, the publicly run Regional Transportation District (RTD) opened the University of Colorado’s A… Read more

Avid campers and outdoor festival lovers who have struggled with the limitations of sleeping in ordinary tents now have an alternative—solar powered tents. Many of these tents fully exploit the suns supply of free energy to provide much needed power for mobile gadgets, lighting (LED of course), and in some cases, heating the tent’s floor on those cold damp nights. One tent even saves enough of the sun’s energy to glow in the dark, should you get lost and can’t find your tent amidst the sea of tents at a festival or busy campground. Orange Solar Tent  Kaleidoscope’s innovative Orange Solar Tent provides on-site power for eco-conscious campers. The earth-friendly tent delivers sustainable power to run mobile phones, camping gadgets and other electronic devices. The tent features photovoltaic fabric, RFID-activated lighting, a Wi-Fi touchscreen and induction charger. If you venture out past dark and you can’t seem to locate your tent, you can send a SMS message from your mobile phone that will activate the tent’s Glo-cation technology and your tent will literally glow in the dark.  A wireless charging pouch… Read more

It’s something researches have been struggling with for some time now: how to create a solar panel that produces electricity at night. Adding this capability to a solar-based source of electricity could vastly improve the economics of going solar and reduce our dependence on non-sustainable fossil fuels. The good news is that significant forward strides have been made in technologies that piggyback energy storage technology onto solar photovoltaic or solar thermal systems. So the race is on to fully utilize every joule of energy sol provides us. Solar Cells with Efficiencies of 46%  The US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls says its new Thin Film Solar Technology that can actually produce electricity at night. Researchers maintain that their new thin film solar cells can achieve efficiencies that far surpass the current 20%-to-25% threshold of today’s most efficient solar panels. The new technology is capable of reaching solar cell efficiencies as high as 46%. Granted, some new technologies still in their infancy have claimed super efficiencies, but these, like the "hairy" nanowire-based solar panels, are far from… Read more

If you live in a developing country, miles from access to the nearest electrical grid and you want to watch television, you have to make the trek to the nearest grid-serviced town.  Not a great alternative if you have to drag your wife and kids through blistering heat of day or the danger-filled night in many third world areas. As an example, less than a third of Kenya’s 45 million people have their own TV, which is why solar powered TVs made by companies like M-KOPA Solar have been so well received in far-flung villages, and why new technologies like TVs that run on ambient room light will change the world. 30 Free Channels Besides food, water and shelter, what most people living in rural developing countries want is television. In Kenya, M-KOPA Solar TV connects to the country’s digital television network of 30 free channels. Programming includes soap operas, premier league football games and marathons. But news about politics and business typically draws the most viewers. M-KOPA has sold thousands of its solar powered TV sets, and the company… Read more