Tesla Announces Sleek New Solar Panels

Late last year, Tesla unveiled a range of solar panels that were actually roof tiles as well. The price was prohibitive though, since there was no way to install them on an existing roof without some expensive and time-consuming renovations. But this is no longer the case.
The company has now added a new product to their line-up: solar panels that are so sleek and thin that they will make any roof look good.

The new Tesla solar panels are to be made by Gigafactory 2, a Tesla factory located in Buffalo, New York. They will be exclusive to Tesla, and are intended to be integrated with their Powerwall energy storage units to provide an uninterrupted 24-hour a day supply of clean energy.

The mounting hardware of these new 325-watt panels is hidden, while the integrated front skirt allows them to blend with the roof on which they are installed almost seamlessly. According to Tesla, these panels not only meet but also exceed industry standards when it comes to durability and lifespan, though no data was provided to support this. According to Elecktrek, other 325-watt panels that Panasonic currently produces have an efficiency rate of 21.67%. The new Tesla panels probably have a similar efficiency, or perhaps an even slightly better one.

The company will start producing these new panels in the summer of 2017. They will be used exclusively for all future residential solar installations by the company, as well as for replacement of any other existing third party solar panel installations. No word on pricing yet, though those interested can also get a custom quote for their home via the Tesla website.

Energy Harvesting Clothing No Longer Just a Dream

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Soon, our clothing could harvest enough energy from the sun and from motion to power our gadgets. A team of researchers headed by Zhong Lin Wang, a professor at Georgia Tech, has managed to weave a new type of fabric that is created out of photoanodes, i.e. solar cells made from lightweight polymer fibers, and triboelectric nanogenerators, which can generate small amounts of electricity from motion. In other words this so-called “micro-cable power textile” is a fabric which has the ability to produce electricity.

This fabric was woven together with wool strands and has a thickness of only 320 micrometers. It is also highly flexible, breathable, lightweight, and can be adapted to a variety of uses. Needless to say, a fabric such as this would revolutionize charging devices in the field.

To test the performance, they took a piece of this new fabric (about the size of a standard sheet of paper) and attached it to a rod like a flag. They then attached this to a car that was driven with the windows down, and their findings were impressive even when tested on a cloudy day. According to the team, the output of a 1.6 by 2 inch (4 cm by 5 cm) piece of the this new fabric textile can charge a 2 microfarad capacitor to 2 V in one minute just from sunlight and motion.

Furthermore, this textile is made from common polymer materials, which are cheap and environmentally friendly to produce. The process used to make the electrodes is also a low cost one, which means that large-scale manufacturing would not be much of a problem.

The results of their tests are promising, but the team is currently still working on making the fabric more durable. They are also still optimizing it for industrial purposes; such as finding ways of shielding the electrical components of the fabric from moisture.

Solar Powered Clothing

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Back to the Future II is one of those movies that continue to influence our imagination even though it was released way back in 1989. It foretold a bunch of advancements that we would have by the year 2015, some of which came very close to coming true, some not so much. The movie also inspired a nanotechnology scientist at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center, Associate Professor Jayan Thomas, to try and create solar powered textiles. And he has now succeeded, so something like self-lacing shoes as worn by Marty McFly in the movie could well be available soon.

Thomas has successfully developed solar-powered filaments, which are able to harvest energy from the sun and store it. They can also be woven into textiles to create smart textiles, which would basically be a type of wearable solar-powered batteries. These batteries could then be used to charge our gadgets, while they’d also be able to perform various other functions.

The filaments Thomas created are constructed out of a thin copper ribbon, which has solar cells on one side. The other side is covered by an energy storing layer. Thomas and his team used a tabletop loom to weave these filaments into a square patch of cloth. The weaving process is very simple, and these filaments could easily be incorporated into a wide range of clothing, including jackets, sweaters, pants and more. This would be great for the average man, but the most obvious and advantageous application of this technology would probably be for military personnel. Currently, soldiers must wear batteries weighing about 30 pounds when walking in the desert heat. If solar-powered jackets were made part of their uniforms, this load would be lessened considerably.

Another potential use of it is in electric cars, though in truth the possibilities of how such solar-powered fabric could be used to pave the way to a more sustainable future are only limited by our imagination.

Using Rooftop Solar to Meet the Energy Code

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The Energy Rating Index compliance path could allow builders to trade insulation for solar panels

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Supply and demand are two different things. When you think of an energy code, say the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC International Energy Conservation Code.), you probably think of demand, not supply. Conserving energy, after all, means reducing demand. It’s related to supply only indirectly.

As a result, you might expect an energy conservation code to have requirements that affect only the demand side of the equation. With the 2015 IECC, however, that’s not true anymore.

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Does Cheaper Solar Mean We Can Forget Efficiency?

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The ramifications of the falling cost of photovoltaic systems

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Solar energy has sex appeal. If you want to show the world you’re doing something to reduce pollution, you put photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) panels on your roof to generate clean electricity. Even better, you drive a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric car and charge your car’s batteries with your clean solar electricity.

The good news for solar enthusiasts is the cost of installing a solar electric system on your home just keeps falling and falling. Let’s take a look at some data and then ask if it’s time to abandon energy efficiency.

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