Solar power is the world’s fastest growing renewable energy technology. In the United States, there’s now enough installed solar energy capacity to power 13.5 million homes, and this number is predicted to double within the next five years. Up until now, traditional rooftop solar panels have dominated the solar market. However, innovative new solar technologies are promising to revolutionize solar power and help create a greener world.
Unlike traditional solar panels, solar fabric can be applied to any type of surface, including clothing. Solar fabric is non-toxic, ten times lighter than solar panels, and also has a longer lifespan of up to twenty years. Even though solar fabric harnesses less energy (between 13% and 18%) in total than solar panels, it ends up being a more stable energy source during temperature changes. Solar fabric is effective even in gloomy weather, as it’s able to collect a wider spectrum of light. Researchers at the University of Queensland recently found their flexible solar “skin” technology broke the world record for electricity conversion (16.6% up from 13.4%). Currently, researchers are developing solar fabrics with solar power contained within each individual fiber. As a result, these solar fibers can create coats, t-shirts, jumpers, and other items of clothing that can help keep you warm, as well as fulfill energy needs like charging your phone while you’re out and about.
Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) technology has an impressive dual purpose: it functions as the exterior layer of a building while simultaneously being able to generate electricity suitable for either one-site use or feeding back into the grid. BIPV technology can be used on a wide range of architecture, such as facades, atriums, canopies, terrace floors, curtain walls, roofs, and skylight systems.
It has a number of cost and lifestyle benefits to entice homeowners; it’s important solar contracting companies educate customers on the advantages of BIPV technology to both attract customers and grow the solar industry. For example, unlike traditional solar panels, BIPV solar panels can blend in seamlessly with a building’s existing design, providing valuable aesthetic benefits. Moreover, BIPV solar technology provides high thermal and sound insulation and increased energy efficiency, and reduces electric power costs. By replacing regular building materials with BIPV technology, homeowners can also lower the extra cost of solar panel mounting systems.
Floating solar panels
Floating solar — also known as floating photovoltaic (FPV) — is an innovative technology able to successfully float on top of bodies of water (most typically, drinking water reservoirs, hydroelectric dam reservoirs, and wastewater treatment ponds). The biggest benefit of floating solar is the generation of electricity without having to use up valuable land. It also prevents the need for tree removal and forest clearing, which is usually required for large solar panel installations.
Floating solar panels also provide shade for the body of water, and therefore minimize evaporation; this is particularly beneficial in areas prone to drought. The shade from the panels also helps to minimize the formation of noxious algae blooms in the water (harmful to humans, animals and the environment), and therefore reduces water treatment costs. Floating solar technology is also efficient; it generates up to 10% more electricity than traditional panels, thanks to the cooling effects of the water (higher temperatures usually lead to decreased power outputs).
Solar technology is continually evolving to better benefit our lifestyles and the health of the environment. Solar fabric, BIPV technology, and floating solar panels are new advancements ensuring that solar technology is now lighter and more versatile, and applicable everywhere.