Japan Takes on Large Solar Power Challenge

As more and more countries try to find ways to combat pollution, they are turning to solar power. Japan has announced an aggressive plan to build a new solar power plant that will be one of the largest in the world when complete. The new solar power system is expected to provide energy to more than 80,000 homes.

The new facility is expected to open in 2018, and it will be the biggest in all of Japan. GE plans to bankroll part of the $80 billion project, covering between 12 and 25 percent of the project costs. This isn’t GE’s first foray into the world of solar power. It has been involved in several projects in the US and Europe in the past.

What is remarkable about the move in Japan is how it is signaling global efforts by governments to make the switch to renewable power. Considering the alarming amount of pollution in densely populated regions throughout the world, the switch to solar is the responsible—and affordable—move for many countries big and small. For Japan, the trend of solar power is gaining a lot of traction in light of the events at Fukishima. Though solar power only accounts for one percent of the country’s energy use right now, that number is expected to grow. This makes the new solar power plant a potentially lucrative investment for GE and other investors.

This new solar power system shows that more nations are interested in renewable energy as a reliable alternative to more harmful energy sources. Both affordable and efficient, solar energy is quickly gaining popularity as a trusted energy source.

Could the Next Solar Panel Revolution be Made of Paper?

Could the Next Solar Panel Revolution be Made of Paper?

As scientists learn more about how solar panels work, they are able to create better, cheaper, and more efficient technology for producing solar power. The latest breakthrough in harnessing this renewable energy source comes in the form of paper PV panels. If these panels prove successful, they could revolutionize the way solar panels are produced.

The new technology uses oxidized wood fibers that are much more transparent than today’s solar panels. The transparency of 96 percent means a more efficient means of capturing the sun’s rays and converting them into solar power. This form of solar cell is also much more affordable than some of the other cells currently on the market.

The paper cells showed that they were able to improve the ability to harness power by ten percent, making them a better option for areas that don’t receive as much direct sunlight as states in the western portion of the US.

Of course, there is also the benefit of a smaller carbon footprint associated with the production of solar panels. Since the production and shipping of panels is the only true source of carbon emissions for solar power, creating a more eco-friendly option for manufacturing can have a profound impact on the environment as well.

Whether or not these new paper panels will gain popularity around the globe remains to be seen. Scientists are still looking into how solar panels work when made from paper, but it is possible that this technology might soon be in homes across the US and around the globe.

Next Generation Solar Panels Even More Efficient

Solar panels for your home may be even more efficient in the near future, according to an article at ScienceDirect. Currently, the component of the solar panel that transports the sun’s energy is made primarily of silicon, but that may change in the near future.

A study from Umae University shows that carbon nanotubes, one dimensional nanoscale cylinders made of carbon atoms, have unique properties which may make them 100 million times more efficient at transporting solar energy. The tubes must be specifically arranged for maximum efficiency. Today’s solar panels for homes are made with a less efficient design and a less efficient conductor (silicon), so some of the energy collected is lost in transportation.

While the next generation of solar panels will likely be much more efficient, that doesn’t mean homeowners should put off installing solar panels. Solar panels for homes have been increasing in their efficiency steadily as scientists and engineers become increasingly interested in alternative energy sources.

The generation of solar panels for homes that use the carbon nanotube technology is still in the earliest stages of development and is likely years away from commercial use, but should eventually lead to the development of flexible carbon-based solar cells that are both cheaper to produce and more efficient.

In short, the next generation of solar panels will be both cheaper for the homeowner and offer better use of the energy collected. Sadly, the article did not predict how long it would take for the next generation of solar panels to become commercially available. In the meantime, existing solar panels can help reduce a homeowner’s energy costs and promote green energy.

Cost of Installation Only Solar Drawback

The cost of solar panels installation is now the only thing preventing solar from being as affordable as conventional energy, according to an international consulting firm.

Eclareon analyzed the cost of solar energy on the open market in Spain, Italy and Germany, and found that the days of solar-generated energy costing more than conventionally generated energy are a thing of the past. According to the report, in those three countries where solar energy is widely used, the cost of solar-generated energy is the same as energy generated by other means.

The only problems, the report indicates, come in the form of strange government regulations and the initial cost of the solar panels. For example, in Italy where solar energy now costs the same to buy from the power grid as conventionally generated energy, lawmakers are considering legislation that will make it illegal for homeowners to use solar energy generated by their own solar panels.

The study also looked at solar energy trends in Brazil, Chile, France and Mexico, where the cost of solar panels and installation is still significantly higher, thus making the cost of solar-generated energy higher than the cost of other forms of energy. The researchers conclude that as the cost of installation declines, the leveled cost of energy will also decline, making solar energy much more affordable.

Right now, Germany and Spain are among the world’s leaders in the use of solar energy, even though they are less geographically desirable as solar energy sites than some parts of the United States, especially the Southwest.

Thanks to tax policy, it is now fairly inexpensive to have solar panels installed in California.  Unfortunately, these tax rebates may not be around forever, so it is important to take advantage while they last.

Solar Energy Requires Storage

A solar energy fact that opponents like to bring up is that for several hours a day, from sunset to sunrise, solar energy cannot be generated. They like to claim this means that users of solar energy either 1) need an additional energy source for overnight, or 2) that solar energy must be stored for overnight, and that costs large amounts of money.

The truth of the matter is that having a backup energy source is never a bad idea. Just like the electric lines coming to your house from the power plant, your solar panels can malfunction, leaving you without power. When looking at solar energy facts, it is obvious that these glitches happen far less frequently than outages from traditional power sources, but they can happen. So having a backup energy source is just good planning. However, you won’t be needing it every night, as some people would have you believe.

During the day when your solar panels are collecting energy, they also charge the backup system, giving you plenty of energy to keep all your appliances and other electricity drains running all night.

But that backup storage is expensive, according to solar opponents. Again, the solar energy facts prove this to be a half-truth, at best. Storing large amounts of electricity — say, enough to run a city — can be costly, but a switch to solar does not increase the need to store electricity. As it is, according to the International Energy Association, having solar power make up a portion of the nation’s electric generating capacity has no impact on the need for electricity storage.