New Breakthrough with Perovskite Solar Cells

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As you’re probably already aware, perovskite solar cells have the greatest potential of being the most prominent source of solar energy in the near future. They’re cheap to make and flexible enough to be applied to most any surface.

And now a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia has made a breakthrough by creating the biggest perovskite solar cell so far, and setting a new efficiency record with it.

According to them, they have managed to achieve a 12.1 percent energy conversion efficiency rating for a 6.3 sq in (16 sq cm) perovskite solar cell. This cell is also about 10 times larger than any existing high-efficiency perovskite cell. The team also managed to achieve 18 percent efficiency for a 0.5 sq in (1.2 sq cm) single perovskite cell, as well as 11.5 percent for a 6.3 sq in (16 sq cm) four-cell perovskite mini-module. They are also confident that they can achieve a 24 percent efficiency within a year or so.

These cells get their name from the crystals they are made of, which are grown into a structure called perovskite. Due to their special characteristic, such as the smooth layers of perovskite with large crystal grain sizes, these cells can absorb more light than solar cells made of silicon. They are also much cheaper to produce.

Perovskite cells can also be created in different colors, or be transparent due to their chemical composition. This means that they can be used to cover virtually any surface, such as the sides or roofs of buildings, gadgets, cars and even windows.

One of the major downsides of perovskite solar cells is the fact that they are not very durable. However, the team believes that they can also improve their durability as they strive for even higher levels of efficiency.

London Will Get Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Array

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Following the example of Japan, which has already begun constructing numerous floating solar arrays to meet it’s renewable energy goals, UK’s Thames Water has now announced plans to do the same. They are already building what will be the largest floating solar array in Europe, and they plan to install it on a reservoir in London. This project is part of Thames Water’s goal of finding solutions to generate one third of its own energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Placing a solar array onto a body of water is actually a very good idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is hard to obtain large areas of land where solar panels can be installed, especially in densely populated cities such as London. The second reason why placing them in water makes great sense is that the water can then be used to cool the panels, which makes them perform better and extends their lifespan. And placing them on reservoirs has the added benefit of blocking out sunlight and therefore inhibits algae growth in the water, while it also reduces loss of water through evaporation.

The floating solar array in London will be constructed on the Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir, which is located near Walton-on-Thames. It will be comprised of 23,000 solar PV panels, which will be used to cover around one-tenth of the large body of water. To put in perspective, the covered area will be roughly the size of 8 football pitches. The capacity of the array will be 6.3 MW and it is estimated to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours of energy in the first year. This would be enough energy to power around 1,800 households for a full year. The power generated by the array will be used to partially power the water treatment plant located near the reservoir.

Shopping Mall Going Solar

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The Stockland Wendouree Shopping Centre in Victoria, Australia is using solar-concentrating thermal technology as the sole source of power for their air-conditioning system. Given that a lot of the power consumed by shopping malls, and other such large commercial structures is down to heating and cooling, this is quite a beneficial and sustainable move, and one that more business owners should consider. After all, there is only so much that individuals can do when it comes to assuring a more sustainable future.

The system used by the mall is a prototype and was developed by the CSIRO. It is also partially funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) program, which was established in an effort to increase the supply and competitiveness of renewable energy in the country. The newly developed system is basically a “closed-loop” air-conditioner in the sense that it cools and heats the air inside the building without letting in any outside air. It also features two “desiccant” (drying) wheels that function as dehumidifiers and remove the excess moisture from the air. These wheels operate at different temperatures, with the high-temperature wheel using the harvested solar energy for regeneration, while the low temperature wheel does not require any external heat to operate.

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Trough collectors are used to capture solar heat of around 302 to 392° F (150 to 200° C), which is then stored in a 528 gallon (2,000-liter) thermal oil tank. Though a heat cascading design, this heat is then used to heat the air in the center in the winter, and also to power an indirect evaporative cooler to keep the interior cool in the summer. The system is also very compact, and the entire solar air-conditioning unit is about 40 percent smaller than a standard single-stage desiccant system.

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CSIRO will spend the next 12 months monitoring and assessing the prototype to see how well it functions in a commercial environment. They are, however, confident that such a system will prove successful in reducing the electric power requirements and costs related to supplying humidity in large commercial spaces. The entire system cost just under 1.3 million USD to create and install.

Watch: First-ever solar-powered music video (and the product behind it)

Judging by the crowd at Battle of the Bands during Intersolar, the solar industry is into music. The organizers of Battle of the Bands may want to consider Minneapolis hip hop duo Atmosphere – featuring Slug and Ant, as headliners for 2016, as they have just released “the first-ever solar-powered music video” for their biggest single to date, 2007’s “Sunshine.” No, really, here it is:

(Be honest, if you attended the Battle of the Bands, the beginning of that song spoke to you.)

Atmosphere makes this claim thanks to a new product, currently in crowd-funding mode, called SunPort. SunPort is a small plug adaptor that the the creators say allows users to use solar power everywhere there go. No panels, just an adaptor for a an outlet. This “wearable tech for power cords” then measures the electricity you take from any outlet and “automatically upgrades it to solar.”

“Certified S-RECs are big chunks of solar, each one larger than a typical home’s entire monthly energy use,” the company states. “Our hack is simply breaking S-RECs down into much smaller increments called SunJoule™ microcredits.”

For more on SunPort, head to its Kickstarter page.

— Solar Builder magazine

Washington Gas Energy Systems Celebrates Completion of Solar Projects Totaling More Than 15 Megawatts in Georgia

Company Holds Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies in Donalsonville, Richland and Greenville

 DSC00292McLean, Va. – December 16, 2014 – Washington Gas Energy Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of WGL (NYSE: WGL) today announced the completion of 20 solar projects, totaling more than 15 megawatts, that will produce renewable energy for Georgia Power. The company held ribbon cutting ceremonies at their sites in Donalsonville and Richland, Ga. on Thursday, Dec. 11, and another event in Greenville, Ga. on Friday, Dec. 12.

“These projects significantly increase renewable energy capacity in the state through the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative,” said Sanjiv Mahan, chief operating officer of Washington Gas Energy Systems. “We commend this program for spurring economic growth in the solar energy industry while reducing the carbon impact of Georgia Power customers, and look forward to completing more projects through this partnership with our diversified offerings across the energy eco-system.”

All of the solar arrays will be owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Systems under 20-year Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) with Georgia Power. The project in Donalsonville is a 2-megawatt ground-mounted system composed of more than 6,000 solar panels, and is expected to produce more than 3,000-MW hours of electricity annually. The project was developed by Office of Solar Development and all engineering, procurement and construction was performed by Cantsink Manufacturing.

The Greenville project is a 1-megawatt ground-mounted solar away at the Meriwether County Industrial Development Authority. It is composed of more than 3,000 solar panels and expected to produce more than 1,500-MW hours of electricity per year. Engineering, procurement and construction was managed by Hannah Solar.

In Richland, the 1-megawatt solar project consists of more than 7,000 solar panels and is expected to produce more than 1,500 megawatt hours of electricity per year. The project was developed by Inman Solar in collaboration with the City of Richland and the Richland Development Authority.

Other Washington Gas Energy Systems projects under construction in Georgia include sites located in Montezuma and Homer, each sized at 1-megawatt.  All projects are expected to be completed by February 2015.

— Solar Builder magazine