The Year of Solar

Annual U.S. solar PV installations saw a 30 percent increase in 2014 alone.Source: GTM Research/SEIA

Annual U.S. solar PV installations saw a 30 percent increase in 2014 alone. (Click to enlarge.)
Source: GTM Research/SEIA

If you’re not excited about the promising potential of solar yet, you’re about to be.

According to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar is growing faster than all other sources of energy in the United States.

In the report U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review, GTM and SEIA were able to establish that solar is continuing its upward trend in the U.S. with an increase of 30 percent more photovoltaic installations than in 2013.

Not convinced yet? The analysts also paired solar against also forms of energy in their report. When compared to other non-renewable energy sources such as coal and natural gas, it showed equally impressive results.

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New Development in Biomass and Solar Energy

The results from this research show promise in the area of solar and biomass energy conversion.Image: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

The results from this research show promise in the area of solar and biomass energy conversion.
Image: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

Two researchers are thinking outside of traditional research standards to develop a new approach to solar energy and biomass conversion.

Kyoung-Shin Choi, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his postdoctoral researcher Hyun Gil Cha are looking for a whole new way to harness natural energy, and their technique is showing promise for future endeavors.

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Plant Power Meets Solar Power

By combining green wall technology and solar panels, researchers have been able to generate renewable energy during both night and day.Image: University of Cambridge

By combining green wall technology and solar panels, researchers have been able to generate renewable energy during both night and day.
Image: University of Cambridge

Researchers from Cambridge University have developed what is being considered “the greenest bus shelter” by combining solar power and plant power.

The scope of this project is much more vast than simply powering a bus shelter. Researchers are looking at this development as a possible answer to affordable power generation solutions for developing countries.

“To address the world’s energy needs, we need a portfolio of many different technologies, and it’s even better if these technologies work in synergy,” said Dr. Paolo Bombelli of Cambridge University’s Department of Biochemistry.

The bus shelter has the potential to power itself during both night and day times by harvesting the natural electron by-product of photosynthesis and metabolic activity, thus creating electrical current.

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Solar-Powered Plane to Launch World Tour

In an effort to promote the use of alternative energy, the first solar-powered plane is well on its way to making its round-the-world tour.

After 13 year of invention and ingenuity, Swiss pilots Piccard and Andre Borschberg are beginning preparations to launch the tour in less than a week.

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Wind- and Solar-Powered Car Created from Scraps

Casey Emilius, ECS’s Meetings Coordinator, spotted an article in Inhabitat on an amazing feat in student ingenuity out of Nigeria.

College student Segun Oyeyiola has transformed a Volkswagen Beetle into a wind- and solar- powered car with just $6,000. By using mostly scrap parts donated by friends and family, Oyeyiola was able to keep costs down and skyrocket the renewable efficiency of the car.

The car is fortified by a strong suspension system to hold the weight of the solar panel on the roof and the wind turbine under the hood – which takes advantage of the airflow produced by the car while it’s in motion.

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Is Solar Cheaper than Grid Electricity?

Q3_2014_Price_per_kilowatt_hour_by_RegionIf you haven’t embraced solar energy yet, it may be about time to do so. After all, it is cheaper than grid energy in 42 of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

According to the study “Going Solar in America: Ranking Solar’s Value in America’s Largest Cities,” a fully financed solar system costs less than residential grid energy purchased in over 80 percent of the largest U.S. cities. Additionally, 9.1 million single-family homeowners live in a place where their utility bill outpaces what solar would cost.

The falling cost of solar panels and solar fuel cells is largely driven by, in part, research into new materials and developments in the sciences. Check out a few interesting reads on solar energy from the ECS Digital Library:

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The Solar Breakthrough

wood_mackenzieCountries around the world have been embracing solar energy with open arms – just take a look at Germany or Switzerland. In the United States, however, solar energy has made its way into the mainstream, but has not gone as far as many environmentalists would like. With the advances in drilling technology in the U.S., one is left to wonder what the next big breakthrough in the nation’s energy supply will be.

The Wood Mackenzie consultant agency out of Scotland believes the next big thing in energy in the U.S. will be solar, and they’ve got some pretty solid reasons.

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Making Solar Wallpaper

Design freedom improves the range of applications of the panels on the surfaces of interior and exterior building spaces.Image: Antti Veijola

Design freedom improves the range of applications of the panels on the surfaces of interior and exterior building spaces.
Image: Antti Veijola

We’ve been talking about climate change and green energy for a while now, so of course we think solar panels should exist wherever light is. Now, that could mean using solar wallpaper to harvest as much energy as possible.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed and utilized a mass production method based on printing technologies that will allow the manufacturing of decorative, organic solar panels for use on the surfaces of interior and exterior building spaces.

The new organic photovoltaic panels are only 0.2 mm thick each and include the electrodes and polymer layers where the light is collected.

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Image: Antalexion

Image: Antalexion

With climate change being a continually rising global dilemma, many scientist have turned their attention to research in the area of renewable energy sources. Even with some of the most brilliant minds working on improving efficiency and price of solar cells, they are still not widely used due to the high cost of materials used to develop the them. Now, a scientist may be on the path to cracking the code on material prices of solar cells by using nanotechnology.

Elijah Thimsen, assistant professor at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, worked in conjunction with a team of engineers at the University of Minnesota to develop a technique to increase the performance of electrical conductivity.

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Professor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials hydrophobic, illustrated in this image of a water droplet bouncing off a treated sample.Photo: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Professor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials hydrophobic, illustrated in this image of a water droplet bouncing off a treated sample.
Photo: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

New super-hydrophobic metals developed at the University of Rochester could mean big things for solar innovation and sanitation initiatives.

The researchers, led by Professor Chunlei Guo, have developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials extremely water repellant, thus resulting in rust-free metals.

Professor Guo’s research in novel not in the sense that he and his team are creating water resistant materials, instead they are creating a new way to develop these super-hydrophobic materials by taking away reliance on chemical coatings and shifting to laser technology.

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