Solar energy is a vast energy source that can be used to satisfy so many modern-day needs, from heating and cooling to electrical power and more. We only need a tiny fraction of the solar energy that falls on the earth to satisfy all of our energy needs. Solar energy methods continue to advance in ways we never thought possible. In 2018, these methods evolved more than ever and are paving a bright future for this year’s solar energy trends.
Solar Energy Research in 2018
Overall, solar energy research in 2018 centered around one thing – improvement. While this has been an effort since the creation of the first photovoltaic cells back in 1883, 2018 was a definitive movement to continue investing in solar energy research to:
- Enhance energy storage methods.
- Explore other ways to convert solar energy into useful forms.
- Improve the efficiency of converting solar energy into other forms while also lowering the cost.
Understanding the Top Solar Energy Methods Better
To understand why there is a prominent solar energy method trend that has grown in the past few years, we have to explain the solar energy methods and their differences and similarities. These different methods of capturing the sun’s energy and converting it into useful energy to fill our needs have each evolved on their own and have their own pros and cons.
Solar Concentration Systems (CSP)
Using mirrors, these systems focus the sun’s reflected rays on a heat-collecting element, often a “power tower.” Then, the concentrated sunlight heats a heat-transferring fluid to generate steam. This is then used conventionally to spin turbines and generate electricity.
Solar concentration systems use the same conversions as thermal power (whether fossil fuel or nuclear-based). This means it can be easily integrated with existing infrastructure. It also uses the same storage as thermal energy, which reportedly is one-tenth the cost of battery storage. However, its efficiencies are not as high as other methods, and its price is much higher than other methods, making CSP a not-so popular choice for commercial use or to satisfy mass-market needs.
Photovoltaic Cells (PV Cells)
Made of silicon, PV cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. When sunlight hits a photovoltaic cell, they instantly generate DC (direct current) electricity, which is then sent to a power inverter, often situated underneath the solar panels, to convert this energy into AC (alternating current), which is the form in which electricity is delivered to homes and businesses today.
In the last 10 years, the cost of PV has fallen dramatically, making it much more appealing to homeowners and businesses looking for a cleaner way to power themselves.
While not as popular, 2018 focused on expanding the PV research, primarily thanks to the abundance of materials that could be potentially used. Some of the materials used in today’s PV panels are not abundant and eventually can become hazardous waste once the panel life ends. Research on other materials is focusing on:
- Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC) – low-cost solar cells using a photo-electrochemical system.
- Polymer Solar Cells – a solar cell that uses organic electronics for light absorption.
- Perovskite Solar Cells (PSC) – solar cells with a perovskite-structured compound to function as the light-harvesting layer.
2018’s Experts Choice
While the research trend remains on new materials, the focus is to find a way to make photovoltaic solar cells more efficient and stable over time. This makes PV cells the experts’ choice in 2018 and most likely in the years to come. This is why leading solar companies are investing in PV panel research to improve their efficiency beyond today’s limits. The industry’s research remains around reducing the cost of battery storage to make it available to the mass markets and improving thermal energy storage. POWERHOME Solar is at the forefront of this solar revolution, helping homeowners and business power their homes with clean, renewable energy.