Solar energy is truly an amazing thing. Being able to harness energy from a source that will be around for the duration of our planet is the definition of a reliable source. But how far are we with the advancement of this technology?
The first glimmer of development of solar technology came all the way back in 1839, and has slowly been developed over the last 150+ years, peaking with the emergence of solar panels in the 1970s, around the time when former President Jimmy Carter ordered them to be installed on the White House (you can read the full history of solar development here).
Jimmy Carter speaking after successful installation of Solar Panels on the White House roof, 1979
Since then, panels have been modified and made to be more efficient, and even though they are substantially more advanced than the first solar-cell instruments we see throughout our history, panels are not going to be the final resting place for solar power generation.
So what is?
There are currently two new forms of solar energy generation that have been gaining media attention.
The first is something being developed by Tesla Energy, F.K.A. Tesla Motors. Tesla became active in the pursuit of solar efficiency after acquiring Solar City, one of the largest solar producers in the country. They have been working on a new form of solar generation that comes in the form of roof tiles. Rather than mounting a large system onto your roof, the process of going solar becomes more of a home renovation, which entails replacing the shingles on your roof with the solar cell shingles. This plan is part of Tesla Energy’s focus on Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) and Building-Applied Photovoltaics (BAPV), which they believe could be the future of solar power. BIPV is when the solar cells are integrated into the construction of the building, rather than an add-on attached to the completed building. BAPV is the process of remodeling a structure to incorporate BIPV, changing the construction of a building to integrate solar power rather than fixing an attachment.
Image of Tesla Energy’s proposed solar shingles
But Tesla Energy workers aren’t the only ones striving to improve solar energy.
An innovative company in Austria just released details about their new solar module, the Smartflower POP. (You can watch the video about their product on their Website homepage, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s some pretty cool technology.)
To summarize, the Smartflower tracks the sun throughout the day and moves with it to optimize sun exposure, meaning that your panels are exposed to full sunlight throughout the course of the day as opposed to be fixed to the roof or ground and only receiving full sunlight once per day, creating the potential for up to 40% more output.
In a previous post I talked about the Solar Roadways Project, a project focused on creating roads made out of solar panels that can charge electric cars as you drive on them.
These hexagonal panels have been in development since 2009. They’ve been through several phases of development and testing, and is currently in phase IIB testing, allowing for more work on the durability and lifespan of the tiles. There is no set release date yet, and there is still a lot of work to be done before the world is ready to convert to such originative technology.
We are a long way from where we started all the way back in the 1800s, but with the speed of technological advancements increasing, we are going to be taking leaps and bounds in the industry. With sunlight being an unlimited resource, creative thinkers around the world are getting new ideas to harness that energy and put it to good use for humanity. With such amazing ideas being manifested today, a mere 40 years after they became an available commodity, I am eager to see what will come in the next 40 years.