Here Comes the Sun: 7 of the Hottest Updates in Solar Tech

The future of renewable energy sources is looking bright! Here are seven of the most interesting and exciting advancements in solar tech.

The world’s solar energy capacity has increased by almost 60 percent over the last five years. It was nearing 400 gigawatts in 2018, and experts predict it’s only going to keep increasing.

Part of the reason for the rapid expansion of solar energy is improvements and innovations in technology. These seven updates in solar tech show just how far solar energy has come.

1. Improved Efficiency for Solar Tech

For most of the history of solar technology, the biggest barrier has been efficiency. One of the most stubborn issues has been how solar panels themselves actually convert light from the sun to energy.

Older solar panels convert less than 20 percent of energy to power. That means you need a whole lot of sunshine to make relatively little power.

Technology advances are changing the story. Newer materials allow for higher conversion rates than before. In fact, it’s not unusual for some of the newest solar panels to achieve over 25 percent efficiency.

That may not seem like a big difference, but it’s a marked improvement. As materials and technology continue to advance, solar panels will become even more efficient.

2. Solar Skins and Solar Roof Tiles

When people think of solar panels, they usually think of roof-mounted systems comprised of panels. In some cases, they may think of ground-mounted panels on solar farms.

Some of the more innovative solar systems are moving away from “panels” at all. Technology like solar skins and solar roof tiles means you can power your house without unsightly panels.

A solar skin is like an automotive wrap. It can be applied to a roof or another surface. Ultra-thin solar technology allows the skin to convert light to energy.

Tesla has been pioneering solar roof tiles, which are similar in principle. Instead of mounting solar panels on top of your roof, the solar tech is embedded in the materials used to tile the roof. When the life of the panels is up, simply re-tile the roof.

3. Make Way for BIPV Tech

Solar skins and solar roof tiles aren’t the only way companies are looking to make their construction projects greener. Advanced solar panels are paving the way for building-integrated photovoltaic tech, or BIPV.

With this tech, windows, walls, and more can all become mechanisms for generating power. Architects and building engineers can now work to make new construction projects self-sustaining.

Some may even be able to supply surplus power to the grid, which could help phase out older forms of electricity generation. It could certainly help expand capacity, especially on North America’s aging and overtaxed grid.

4. Better Solar Storage

One of the most exciting solar innovations has to be the advent of solar storage options. Panels have been inefficient in converting power. Another major barrier to efficiency has been the loss of excess energy.

There’s been no real way to store energy for a rainy day. If you didn’t use everything your system generated, it disappeared. When weather patterns changed, you might find you suddenly didn’t have enough power.

Solar storage solves this problem. By capturing excess energy on good days, you can “save” it for later use.

Some options include solar batteries and solar thermal fuels. Solar thermal fuels are like a battery, but they’re much more accessible for the average homeowner.

STFs allow for capture and conversion of solar heat. Older forms of the technology converted solar energy to liquid storage. Newer models can transform power into a solid state.

The stored energy can then be discharged when needed.

5. Solar Fabrics Provide New Opportunities

Another option coming to market now are solar fabrics. While the word fabric might make you think about clothing items, solar fabric has many different applications.

Think about awnings on an RV, or even tents. Even the curtains in homes or other buildings could be used to contribute to solar power generation. Other uses, such as heated seats in cars, are also possible.

With the right fabrics, almost anything can become a source of solar energy. The advent of tiny, flexible solar panels that can be added to the material have paved the way for this amazing innovation.

6. Solar Tracking Mounts Make Tech Accessible

As people become more interested in going green, more are interested in solar power. Homeowners and others who don’t have suitable roof space have been turning to ground-mounted systems.

Tracking mounts make almost any solar installation more efficient. They’re particularly important for ground systems.

What do tracking mounts do? They allow solar panels to automatically rotate. Much like sunflowers, solar panels on tracking mounts follow the sun.

That allows them to be exposed to the light for longer. It also ensures they’re always on the best angle to get the most light. This helps the system generate more power.

7. New Frontiers for Solar

Perhaps the most exciting solar innovation of all is that solar technologies are everywhere. New building materials make it easier to make construction projects green.

Beyond that, though, solar has been incorporated everywhere from land to sea. Floating photovoltaic farms take advantage of the vast expanse of oceans.

Solar paving materials help turn roadways into part of the energy grid. This allows them to power traffic lights, street lamps, and more.

Solar has even become portable, as the experts at note. With the right solar technology, everything from homes to camping trips can be powered by clean energy.

The Solar Revolution Has Arrived

As you can see, solar tech has come a long way in a short time. As interest in renewable energy sources continues to grow, so too will interest in solar energy.

Solar innovation won’t stop here. Tomorrow’s technology will be more efficient and even more creative.

Hoping to keep tabs on the solar revolution and other clean initiatives? You’re in the right place. Check back with us to stay up to date on all the latest tech affecting your lifestyle.

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