Since its relatively recent inception to the mainstream in 2010 in the UK, the solar market has developed rapidly, with several new solar energy sources and energy storage solutions coming onstream.

There are a few great solar technologies on the horizon, many of which involve new forms of solar panels that completely reimagine how consumers can integrate solar into their lives.

Transparent Solar Panels

New solar panel technologies will transform the global solar energy landscape. Some of these promising technologies are in the advanced stages of development and will hit the market soon. With such innovations, solar will not need large tracts of land or unsightly mountings on vast expanse of roofs.

Photovoltaic glass is probably the most cutting-edge new solar panel technology that promises to be a game-changer in expanding the scope of solar. These are transparent solar panels that generate electricity from any area made of glass that is exposed to sunlight.

Bifacial Solar Panels

This is a radical departure from the perception of how solar panels are supposed to be envisaged. Until relatively recently, the thought of both sides of a solar panel being able to generate energy would have been unfeasible. However, major advances in technology mean that this method is fast becoming common reality.

Bifacial solar panels are solar panels that absorb light from both sides. This means that at the right angle, the top of a panel could absorb light in the normal way, while the bottom could absorb light reflected from other nearby surfaces, drastically increasing the power output of the panel.



Tesla Solar Roof Tiles

Building-integrated PVs are becoming more accepted in the market. However,Tesla has had some challenges over the past few years with its overly aggressive production timelines for its line of renewable energy products, and its solar roof is no exception. There is no telling whether Tesla will be up to meeting consumer demand for these products, but there is no doubt about the future for this type of installation.

Split Cell Solar Modules

Another exciting advancement to solar technology is split solar panels. These panels are about half the size of traditional panels and have a new type of silicon chip architecture that supports solar thermal cycling, improves module longevity, and improves overall efficiency.

Half-cell modules are solar cells cut in half; this improves the performance and durability of the module. So the standard 60 and 72 cell panels will have 120 and 144 half-cut cells. When solar cells are cut in half, their current is also halved, which means that resistive losses are reduced and the cells can produce more power. Smaller cells face fewer mechanical stresses, so there is less incidence of cracking. Half-cell modules have higher outputs and are more reliable than traditional panels.

Light-Sensitive Nanoparticles
Scientists at the University of Toronto unveiled a new type of light-sensitive nanoparticle called colloidal quantum dots, that many believe will offer a less expensive and more flexible material for solar cells. The new materials use n-type and p-type semiconductors which can function outdoors. This is a unique discovery since previous designs were not capable of functioning outdoors and therefore not practical applications for the solar market. Panels using this new technology were found to be up to eight percent more efficient at converting sunlight.

Gallium Arsenide
Researchers at Imperial College University in London believe they have discovered a new material; gallium arsenide; that could make solar PV systems nearly three times more efficient. The solar cells are called ‘triple junction cells’ and they are much more efficient because they can be chemically altered in a manner that optimises sunlight capture. The model uses a sensor-driven window blind that can track sunlight along with ‘light-pipes’ that guide the light into the system.

Magnesium Chloride
Many believe the next generation of solar panels will be made of a thin film technology that uses narrow coatings of cadmium telluride in solar cells. This promises to be a cheaper and more efficient way to engage the photovoltaic process. One major obstacle for cadmium telluride thin film cells is that they become highly unstable during the manufacturing process, which currently uses cadmium chloride. Researchers have found a new, low-cost way to overcome this hurdle by using magnesium chloride instead of cadmium chloride. Magnesium chloride is made from seawater making it low cost and non-toxic; and could increase the efficiency of solar cells from between two to fifteen percent.

Solar Roadways
Various countries are already testing the viability of lining motorways and roads with solar panels that would be used to send large amounts of electricity to the grid. This would help overcome a major barrier to industrial scale solar, which opponents say threatens to take up too much land.



Space Based Solar

Scientists are resurrecting a technology that was first tested over forty years ago in which space-based satellites capture sunlight and convert it into microwave energy that is then beamed back to earth. This type of technology promises to capture significantly more sunlight (nearly ninety percent) since satellites can be positioned to optimize light capture round the clock. India, China and Japan are investing heavily in these technologies.

Anti-Solar Panels

Prototypes are currently being built of an invention that could harness solar power at night. This technology could represent a turning point in sustainable power.

It is based on the concept of using heat to generate energy but an inverse version of the solar panel where the new system makes use of the heat difference between the coolness of the night atmosphere and the Earth with the Earth being the hotter side. A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow. In these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. Different materials have to be used, but the physics is the same. The concept device has a clear advantage over conventional solar panels, which can only work during the day.


Perovskite solar cell

The industry is increasingly focused both on optimising new techniques and innovations, and on applying new PV materials and technologies such as perovskites. Perovskite materials for solar technology are in the early stages of development so the efficiency improvements from 3.8% in 2009 to about 23% in 2018 are quite an achievement. This efficiency learning curve is far steeper compared with any other emerging PV technology. Although the efficiencies refer to lab efficiencies and not to mass-production commercial cells, they still indicate that perovskites can have a huge impact on the solar industry.

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