Solar Energy Makes Giant Strides In Efficiency

Despite what naysayers may constantly argue, solar power is rapidly making gigantic strides toward grid parity, low cost, and increased efficiency. “Grid parity” refers to the comparative cost per kilowatt hour of a given energy generation method for the electricity grid. In several regions within the continental United States, solar power generating systems are now as cost-effective as electrical generation from coal- and natural gas-fired powerplants. Driving this trend are two factors: technological improvements and growing incentive to switch to cleaner, renewable power. The design and engineering developments of solar PV panels has resulted in double the energy generation efficiencies that could be expected ten years earlier.

The second factor, growing incentive to make the changeover to clean power sources, is driven by both new regulations in a number of localities and other nations mandating carbon reduction, and necessity to clean the local environment. In China, for example, heavy coal usage has caused in an air pollution crisis not seen since the 1960s. As a result, China has canceled a major coal-fired powerplant initiative and has instead opted for solar and wind power development to take its place. While such air pollution levels are not being experienced in Western cities, dirty fuel sources are becoming less attractive both from an environmental and a cost-effectiveness basis. Balanced against these factors, solar power becomes a better choice all around.

At the University of California, Riverside, researchers are investigating the exciting possibility of converting infrared light into visible light, which is what photovoltaic panels use to generate electrical current. This represents a different approach than attempting to directly harvest infrared light for electrical generation. The usage of a hybrid material for the absorbing surface of a solar panel does not require a different transistor design. By taking this approach, it will not be necessary to completely reinvent solar panels, entailing significant surges in cost for manufacturing.

The other advantage would remove one of the major objections to solar power raised by naysayers: that they cannot work on a cloudy day. Infrared radiation passes right through clouds as if they were glass. This means even under overcast conditions, solar panels will continue to function. Combined with improved battery technologies, solar power will have the potential to completely replace conventional power generation. Readers can look this up here, and learn other relevant facts regarding new developments in greener technology that will prove revolutionary.