Posted on January 16th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
India is preparing to have a huge army of skilled professionals ready to service the rapidly growing solar power market.
The Indian government has announced the launch of an online training program to help young individuals turn into professional solar power technicians. The Solar Energy Corporation of India recently reported that a Chennai-based company has been roped-in to implement this online program.
For just INR 599 ($8.79), anyone with an internet connection can enroll in this online program and learn the various aspects related to solar power generation. Among the various topics that will be covered in the course are the basics of photovoltaic power systems, electromagnetic spectrum and radiation, designing solar power systems, testing and commissioning of solar power plants, and operation and maintenance.
Successful candidates shall be issued a certificate from the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, which would open up vast opportunities for them. The program is likely a part of the Skilled India mission announced by Prime Minister Modi that aims at creating millions of jobs in the country.
The renewable energy secto, especially solar power, presents a massive jobs creation opportunity for India’s youth. The government has announced plans to have 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity operational by March 2022 which includes 100 gigawatts of solar power capacity. At the end of the November 2016, the renewable energy capacity stood at less than 47 gigawatts, with solar power capacity at just below 9 gigawatts.
According to a report issued by the Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC) last year, India may end up creating over a million new jobs in its endeavor to have 100 GW of operational solar power capacity by March 2022.
Around 210,800 site engineers and designers would be required to set the large-scale as well as rooftop solar power systems rolling. Around 624,600 semi-skilled workers would be needed for the construction and on-field execution of the projects. To monitor ongoing operations at the power plants, and their maintenance, another 182,400 semi-skilled workers would be needed. Thus, a total of 1,017,800 jobs are expected be created if India indeed manages to set up a cumulative operational capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022.
Posted on January 12th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Can thermal solar energy be stored until wintertime? Within a European research consortium Empa scientists and their colleagues have spent four years studying this question by pitting three different techniques against each other.
We are still a far cry from a sustainable energy supply: in 2014, 71 percent of all privately-owned apartments and houses in Switzerland were heated with fossil fuels, and 60 percent of the hot water consumed in private households is generated in this way. In other words, a considerable amount of fossil energy could be saved if we were able to store heat from sunny summer days until wintertime and retrieve it at the flick of a switch. Is there a way to do this? It certainly looks like it. Since autumn of 2016, following several years of research, Empa has a plant on a lab scale in operation that works reliably and is able to store heat in the long term. But the road to get there was long and winding.
The theory behind this kind of heat storage is fairly straightforward: if you pour water into a beaker containing solid or concentrated sodium hydroxide (NaOH), the mixture heats up. The dilution is exothermic: chemical energy is released in the form of heat. Moreover, sodium hydroxide solution is highly hygroscopic and able to absorb water vapor. The condensation heat obtained as a result warms up the sodium hydroxide solution even more.
Summer heat in a storage tank
The other way round is also possible: if we feed energy into a dilute sodium hydroxide solution in the form of heat, the water evaporates; the sodium hydroxide solution will get more concentrated and thus stores the supplied energy. This solution can be kept for months and even years, or transported in tanks. If it comes into contact with water (vapor) again, the stored heat is re-released.
So much for the theory, anyway. But could the beaker experiment be replicated on a scale capable of storing enough energy for a single-family household? Empa researchers Robert Weber and Benjamin Fumey rolled up their sleeves and got down to work. They used an insulated sea container as an experimental laboratory on Empa's campus in Dübendorf – a safety precaution as concentrated sodium hydroxide solution is highly corrosive. If the system were to spring a leak, it would be preferable for the aggressive liquid to slosh through the container instead of Empa's laboratory building.
Unfortunately, the so-called COMTES prototype didn't work as anticipated. The researchers had opted for a falling film evaporator – a system used in the food industry to condense orange juice into a concentrate, for instance. Instead of flowing correctly around the heat exchanger, however, the thick sodium hydroxide solution formed large drops. It absorbed too little water vapor and the amount of heat that was transferred remained too low.
Then Fumey had a brainwave: the viscous storage medium should trickle along a pipe in a spiral, absorb water vapor on the way and transfer the generated heat to the pipe. The reverse – charging the medium – should also be possible using the same technique, only the other way round. It worked. And the best thing about it: spiral-shaped heat exchangers are already available ex stock – heat exchangers from flow water heaters.
Fumey then optimized the lab system further: which fluctuations in NaOH concentration are optimal for efficiency? Which temperatures should the inflowing and outflowing water have? Water vapor at a temperature of five to ten degrees is required to drain the store. This water vapor can be produced with heat from a geothermal probe, for instance. In the process, 50-percent sodium hydroxide solution runs down the outside of the spiral heat exchanger pipe and is thinned to 30 percent in the steam atmosphere. The water inside the pipe heats up to around 50 degrees Celsius – which makes it just the ticket for floor heating.
"Charged" sodium hydroxide
While replenishing the store, the 30-percent, "discharged" sodium hydroxide solution trickles downwards around the spiral pipe. Inside the pipe flows 60-degree hot water, which can be produced by a solar collector, for instance. The water from the sodium hydroxide solution evaporates; the water vapor is removed and condensed. The condensation heat is conducted into a geothermal probe, where it is stored. The sodium hydroxide solution that leaves the heat exchanger after charging is concentrated to 50 percent again, i.e. "charged" with thermal energy.
"This method enables solar energy to be stored in the form of chemical energy from the summer until the wintertime," says Fumey. "And that's not all: the stored heat can also be transported elsewhere in the form of concentrated sodium hydroxide solution, which makes it flexible to use." The search for industrial partners to help build a compact household system on the basis of the Empa lab model has now begun. The next prototype of the sodium hydroxide storage system could then be used in NEST, for example.
Posted on January 12th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Vandalized houses in Gahara Mojiri, a village in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state, bear the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The houses were destroyed by the militants who raided people’s homes and meted out attacks on residents in early 2015.
Many of those who fled the violence have since returned home since the militants lost most of the territories they took over from the Nigerian army.
Residents are now able to access clean water using solar powered water pumps and street lighting to help improve on security.
In an effort to help residents rebuild, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) introduced solar panels in the village located in the Hong Local government area.
“Before the solar, we used to fetch water in the stream but since the solar comes we stop going to the stream because the solar gives us water so much,” said Gahara Mojiri, Jacob Musa
“All the people of this community are benefiting from this borehole. One of the boreholes has stopped functioning properly, but we are hoping it will be fixed in time,” added another Gahara Mojiri resident,” Abraham Bulgumi.
Tapping renewable energy is helping tackle persistent energy shortages in the region as people work to develop themselves.
The solar panels have been set up in 8 villages, benefiting over 13,000 people. Residents are also now able to charge their mobile phones as well as use clean energy to light up their homes.
At the nearby Garaha Health centre, patients can access vaccines that were not available to them a few years ago. Joel Markus is the facility manager at Mojili Health Centre.
“There is even so many cases of hepatitis in this community now and the problem is because they did not have the vaccine earlier, so that is the cause of the problem they are having. But now since we have the vaccine, I believe the cases going to be less,” ha said.
Though Nigeria’s army has pushed the Islamist group back to its base, the militants still stage suicide bombings.
In recent years Boko Haram’s attacks have spilled into neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
Posted on January 11th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Located over 4,000 miles from the west coast of the United States in the South Pacific Ocean, the island of Ta’u in American Samoa is powered almost entirely by the sun.
The island previously relied on diesel generators for power, but thanks to government funding and contributions from SolarCity and Tesla, the remote island operates on solar power, a cleaner and more cost-effective energy source.
Back in November, SolarCity announced in a blog post that a microgrid of 5,300 solar panels and over 60 battery packs had been completed on the island within a year’s time. The solar panels can generate 1.4 megawatts of energy, while Tesla Powerpacks provide 6 megawatt hours of battery storage.
Unlike with diesel generators, which can lose power when powerful storms hammer the island, Ta'u's microgrid is able to store energy for several days, which is a huge benefit to the island of nearly 600 people.
Located in the South Pacific, American Samoa will get the occasional encounter from a tropical cyclone. Most recently, Tropical Cyclone Tuni hit the island chain in November 2015, causing significant property and crop damage.
American Samoa has a wet, tropical climate, with over 120 inches of rain falling per year, said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.
However, while solar panels are most effective in direct sunlight, they can still function when it's cloudy. Rain can be beneficial in that it helps keep panels operating efficiently by washing away dirt or dust, the Solar Energy Industries Association states.
The region still gets plenty of sunshine. Island resident Keith Ahsoon, whose family owns several stores on the island, told SolarCity that "it's always sunny out here" and being able to retain the sun's energy and not lose power will allow him to sleep "a lot more comfortably at night."
The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior and American Samoa Power Authority, which operates the system, funded the project. The island was chosen as part of an initiative by the Manu'a islands, which include Ta'u, to become fully free of fossil fuel-generated electricity.
According to SolarCity, the project will offset the use of more than 109,500 gallons of diesel per year.
Ahsoon has seen the effects of climate change firsthand and said this endeavor will help lessen the carbon footprint around the world.
"Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of life here. It’s a serious problem, and this project will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow,” said Ahsoon.
Posted on January 9th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
At this rate, just about every man-made surface there is could be covered in solar panels in the future.
Yesterday, Tourouvre-au-Perche, a small town in northern France, opened what is likely the first road paved in solar panels in the world, the Guardian reported. The road is roughly 1 km (0.6 miles) long, with one lane covered entirely in a patchwork of small solar cells that look rather like bathroom tiles, or a very dirty version of the road in the Wizard of Oz.
The panels are coated in a special silicon film that helps protect them from the weight of trucks. The road will likely see around 2,000 vehicles a day, passing through the town of roughly 3,400 residents.
The road was opened by France’s environment minister and former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, who said that she would like to see the solar panel-paving installed on thousands of kilometers of French roadways. As the Guardian points out, this part of France, Normandy, isn’t exactly known for its sunny weather, receiving around 44 days of good sunshine a year on average. Royal and the French company behind the road, Wattway, are hoping to see over the next two years whether the road can generate enough electricity to power the town.
It’s the not the first paved solar-panel project in the world—that honor went to Dutch company SolaRoad in 2014 with its solar-powered bike path—but it’s possible that this road will suffer the same issues. SolaRoad’s bike path can generate roughly 3,000 kilowatt-hours of power, but the estimated cost of building it was equivalent to paying for 520,000 kilowatt-hours’ worth of power.
France’s project was not cheap: The short stretch of roadway cost about €5 million ($5.2 million) to build. It may not prove to be the most cost-effective use of capital either. Solar panels are more efficient when they are tilted at an angle toward the Sun, rather than flat to the ground, and the road’s construction cost may well be greater than the amount of energy it can produce. “We have to look at the cost, the production [of electricity] and its lifespan,” Jean-Louis Bal, the president of the French renewable energy union SER, told the Guardian. “For now I don’t have the answers.”
Wattway aims to lower the cost of installing paneled roads as it builds more of them, and although the cost-effectiveness is in question now, it’s a novel use of otherwise wasted space. Many buildings around the world are covering their roofs with solar panels, in an effort to cut down on energy costs: Apple’s new campus is awash in solar paneling, and is aiming to be a nearly self-sufficient building, and Elon Musk’s Tesla plans to bring shingle-shaped solar panels to homes around the world in the near future. Solar panels also grace trash cans, tents, and planes, so perhaps it won’t be that long before they’re ubiquitous enough on our infrastructure to drive costs further down.
Posted on January 9th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Imperial College London has partnered with the climate change charity 10:10 to investigate the use of track-side solar panels to power trains, the two organisations announced yesterday.
The renewable traction power project will see university researchers look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains, a move that would bypass the electricity grid in order to more efficiently manage power demand from trains.
According to the university, the research team will be the first in the world to test the “completely unique” idea, which it said would have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world”.
“It would also open up thousands of new sites to small- and medium-scale renewable developments by removing the need to connect to the grid,” Imperial College London said in a statement.
Network Rail is currently investing billions in electrifying the UK’s railways in a bid to reduce the number of trains running on diesel fuel, curbing costs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
Combining this effort with increased renewable energy generation in the UK could significantly decarbonise train lines by 2050, according to 10:10, but in many rural areas the electricity grid has reached its limit for both integrating distributed energy generation and supplying power to train firms.
“What is particularly galling is that peak generation from solar and peak demand from the trains more or less match but we can’t connect the two,” explained 10:10’s Leo Murray, who is leading the project. “I actually believe this represents a real opportunity for some innovative thinking.”
Initially the project will look at the feasibility of converting “third rail systems” which supply electricity through a power line running close to the ground and are used on roughly one third of the UK’s tracks.
“Many railway lines run through areas with great potential for solar power but where existing electricity networks are hard to access,” explained Prof Tim Green, director of Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London.
The university will collaborate on the technical aspects of the project with Turbo Power Systems – a firm that works on distribution and management of power in the railway sector – while 10:10 is leading on research looking at the size of the long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) market for directly connecting renewables to transport systems.
“I don’t think you get a better fit for PPA than a train line,” added Murray. “A rural train line even more so, the project would open up many investment opportunities across the country and further afield.”
The news comes as it emerged that every one of the Dutch state-owned railway company NS’s passenger trains are now being powered entirely by wind energy.
As of 1 January 2017 all trips taken by the estimated 600,000 people who ride NS trains everyday are being powered by wind energy.
Having teamed up with the energy firm Eneco in 2015 with the aim of reducing its emissions, NS has now reached its target of switching the sources of power for its trains to 100% renewables one year ahead of schedule, with the firm originally setting a target date of 2018 for the milestone.
Posted on January 5th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
In sunny Israel, solar energy supplies only a small percentage of the nation's power needs, leaving it far behind countries with cloudier and colder climates.
Now the fledgling solar industry is trying to make a leap forward with a large-scale project boasting the world's tallest solar tower, as a symbol of Israel's renewal energy ambitions.
With Israel traditionally running its economy on fossil fuels, renewable energy has long been hobbled by bureaucracy and a lack of incentives. But the country is starting to make an effort, setting a goal of generating 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from the current 2.5 percent.
The Ashalim project, deep in the Negev desert, is made up of three plots, with a fourth planned for the future, each with a different solar technology. Together, the fields will be Israel's largest renewable energy project when completed by 2018. They are set to generate some 310 megawatts of power, about 1.6 percent of the country's energy needs — enough for about 130,000 households, or roughly 5 percent of Israel's population, according to Israel's Electricity Authority.
"It's the most significant single building block in Israel's commitment to CO2 reduction and renewable energy," said Eran Gartner, chief executive of Megalim Solar Power Ltd., which is building one part of the project.
The centerpiece is a solar tower that will be the world's tallest at 250 meters (820 feet).
Solar towers use a method differing from the more common photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity. Instead, towers use a solar-thermal method: Thousands of mirrors focus the sun's rays onto the tower, heating a boiler that creates steam to spin a turbine and generate electricity.
Encircling the Ashalim tower are 50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats, in a shimmering blanket of glass over the desert. The tower is so tall because the panels were squeezed together to maximize use of the land — and the closer the panels are the taller the tower must be, Gartner explained.
Another solar-thermal plot at Ashalim will be able to store energy even when the sun goes down. A third plot will use photovoltaic solar technology to produce energy.
Yaron Szilas, CEO of Shikun & Binui Renewable Energy, the lead developer of the second solar-thermal plot, said combining the three technologies was a wise move because each has its own advantage. The amount of electricity it produces will be comparable to large-scale solar fields in California and Chile.
There are around a dozen solar tower fields around the world, the largest being the Ivanpah plant in California with some 170,000 heliostats around three 140-meter-tall (460-foot) towers.
Israel has developed some of the world's most advanced solar energy equipment and enjoys a nearly endless supply of sunshine. But Israeli solar companies, frustrated by government bureaucracy, have mostly taken their expertise abroad.
Countries with cooler climates have outpaced Israel. Germany, for example, gets nearly 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
"Israel has a potential to be a sunshine superpower," said Leehee Goldenberg, director of the department of economy and environment at the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, a non-governmental organization. Despite some steps in the right direction, "Israel's government hasn't really been pushing to reach its small goals regarding solar energy."
Israel has often been reluctant to hand out huge parcels of land, a necessity for large-scale solar power production, Gartner said. Large projects also demand access to state-owned infrastructure like gas, water and electricity, and connecting to those utilities out in remote plants in the Negev desert often takes time.
Israel's Finance Ministry said the price of generating solar power in Israel has come down, and the ministry has pushed new laws to promote the industry. Recent legislation has also provided incentives and cut down some of the bureaucracy for Israelis wanting to install solar panels on their roofs.
The ministry said if Ashalim is successful, it will aim for more such facilities.
After the discovery of major natural gas deposits offshore, Israel now gets 70 percent of its energy from cleaner-burning gas. That discovery was welcome, Szilas said, but it has also delayed the impetus for promoting renewable energy.
The developers in the Ashalim project say they want Israel to step up its renewable energy goals.
"With all the sun that we have and how progressed we are in technology, these goals are very, very, very modest," Szilas said. "But these are the goals that were set, and we are working toward it."
Posted on January 5th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Solar cells could be placed under the skin for the process of recharging implanted electronic medical devices. New research published by Swiss scientists shows that as little as 3.6 square centimeters (0.55 square inch) of solar cell would generate enough power throughout winter and summer so as to power a generic pacemaker.
The research is the first of its kind, as no other study has ever published real-life data about the implications and mechanisms of using solar cells for the purpose of powering devices, such as pacemakers.
Medical Implants On Solar Energy Now Possible
The research, published in Springer's journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering, comes as a solution for patients who have battery-based implants and who have to go through surgical procedures every time their device's batteries wear off.
At this moment, the vast majority of electronic implants are battery-based, and their size is directly proportional to the battery volume that is necessary for a longer life. However, should the power of these batteries be consumed, they have to be either changed or recharged.
Most of the time, this means that patients have to undergo a surgical intervention through which their implants are changed, which is both expensive and disquieting for the patients. Additionally, depending on the patient's health status, these interventions could lead to complications and alter the quality of life of the patients in the long run as well as on a short-term basis.
Recently, there have been numerous efforts from different researchers when it comes to electronic solar cells. Different teams of scientists have worked on prototypes of tiny electronic solar cells which can be employed in under-the-skin implants to recharge life-saving medical devices for patients.
The process of generating solar energy to power the implants works very similarly with any other solar energy device. Being implanted inside the body, the device will absorb the solar energy that the patient's skin comes in contact with, thus ensuring continual life.
In an attempt to apply the theory of solar cells to patients who need implants, the researchers tested their prototype for feasibility. As part of the testing process, the team designed devices that measure the output power of the solar generator. Additionally, every device subjected to tests was covered by optical filters, thus simulating how the skin's properties would affect the sun's penetration through the skin.
As part of the tests, 32 subjects volunteered to wear the cells on their arms for a week during three seasons: summer, winter and autumn. Regardless of the season, the cells were found to generate significantly more than the power that is generally necessary for powering a pacemaker, thus passing the feasibility test.
A Successful Test
"The overall mean power obtained is enough to completely power for example a pacemaker or at least extend the lifespan of any other active implant," noted Lukas Bereuter of Bern University Hospital and the University of Bern in Switzerland, lead author of the study.
The success of the tests means that this prototype could actually be implemented in patients, saving them the trouble of having to go through surgical operations every time the battery of their devices wears off.
According to Bereuter, wearing power-generating solar cells under the skin will one day save patients the discomfort of having to continuously undergo procedures to change the batteries of their life-saving devices.
Posted on January 4th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Sunflare has unveiled flexible solar panels that can be stuck onto walls and roofs.
The new thin-film solar product is flexible, light, and affordable. The company made the announcement at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory declared in a recent report that due to tax credit extensions, the United States is projected to add 53 additional gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by the year 2020. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects solar to achieve the greatest increases, adding 9.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar in 2016.
“Sunflare has worked for six years to perfect Capture 4, a cell-by-cell manufacturing process with the highest degree of precision and the cleanest environmental footprint,” said Philip Gao, CEO of Sunflare, in a statement. “This allows us to do what no manufacturer of CIGS thin-film has done before — mass produce efficient, flexible solar panels.”
Compared to crystalline silicon, Sunflare is flexible and light because it does not use a glass substrate and has thinner layers of semiconductors. It is environmentally cleaner because it requires less energy to manufacture and does not use toxic chemicals. Sunflare said it captures 10 percent more energy from dawn to dusk at a comparable cost than crystalline silicon.
Sunflare said its panels are 65 percent lighter than silicon modules, allowing an entire roof to be covered without load-bearing concerns. In addition, it is easier to install because it does not require an aluminum frame, nor does it require building penetration. With Sunflare, nearly any surface — vertical, horizontal, even curved — can be transformed into an energy-gathering and power-generating plant.
The panels cost about $1.07 per watt generated, with total costs at $1.50 per watt. That compares to 54 cents per watt for standard solar panels, with a total cost of $1.51 per watt.
Posted on January 3rd, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.
Since the beginning of the modern architectural era, humankind has dreamed of self-sustaining buildings that generate their own power. Futurists of the early 20th century looked ahead to the days when the sun would power our homes and commercial buildings and we would be transported to and from our workplaces in flying cars. Unlike the overly ambitious estimates concerning personal air transportation, today the concept of a solar-powered building is neither remote nor unachievable.
In fact, over the past six years in America, solar power has exploded into the energy sector with the kind of industrial vigor not seen since the 1950s. In 2010 America had less than 1 gigawatt of deployed solar generation. Today that number has ballooned to over 30 gigawatts and continues to increase at an astonishing rate of growth.
This enormous upswing in solar generation is due in large measure to a precipitous decrease in the cost of solar generating materials. In 2006 a solar cell cost between $3.75 and $4.25 per watt. Today that same solar cell is 20 percent more efficient and costs about $0.35 per watt. Significant increases in demand have spurred the growth of production capacity and economies of scale have propelled the solar energy markets at unprecedented rates. A dramatic increase in the cost of electricity in many parts of the country in combination with a generous investment tax credit provided by the federal government have provided further motivation for investment in solar generation.
In addition to these market propellants, a vast network of solar technicians and solar suppliers also has sprung up in the new American energy market. Thousands of installers and electrical contractors are fully invested with solar skills and technology and every major electrical supply house in the nation provides a comprehensive line of electrical management systems to support solar energy integration. Solar energy is fully embedded in the National Electrical Code and utility-grid connection of solar generators is widely permitted.
In short, solar technology is now settled science and has become an accepted part of our mix of energy resources in America. There is still nearly unlimited room for growth but it is safe to say that solar energy is here to stay.
Resting on the foundation of this extraordinary American solar success story sits the framework of the next generation of solar technology, architectural solar or as it is known in the industry, building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). This market segment is the logical progression of solar energy generation and is ripe for exponential growth.
Architectural solar is defined as a BIPV component, which forms part of the structure of a building. It is not a solar panel attached to a structure but rather a typical building component such as a window, spandrel panel or other cladding component adapted to produce electricity. If a building integrated photovoltaic component were to be removed from a structure, the resulting gap in the façade would be filled with a substitute building material.
Unlike traditional solar energy generation however, architectural solar generation is quite a bit more complex and depends on the cooperation and collaboration of numerous stakeholders. The success of architectural solar relies heavily on buy-in from building-owners, architects, construction companies, glaziers, building envelope suppliers and civil electrical contractors. Furthermore, until very recently, there has been no supply chain to support architectural solar in America. There have been boutique BIPV suppliers; however, none significant enough to be embraced by the mainstream construction market sufficiently to create a real market.
Most significant, the construction industry has been reluctant to fully embrace architectural solar because it was uncertain of the reliability of the warranties provided by the nascent industry. Over the past few years, the birth of the solar energy market often has been turbulent and uncertain, with many players failing to rise due to rapidly changing market conditions. To sum it up in a phrase coined by a construction company executive: "How can I accept a 20-year warranty from a company that has only been in business for six months?" This sentiment has been echoed by many construction industry professionals and exposes the fact that they are looking for integrated solutions from legacy players, not start-up companies without measurable track histories.
For this reason, companies such as California-based Walters & Wolf Glass Company have embraced this nascent architectural solar market and are bringing their considerable resources, reputation and expertise to it. Major construction companies and building developers will be able to incorporate architectural solar into new projects with the confidence provided by a venerable 40-year building envelope provider. Walters & Wolf can offer one-stop shopping for their clients and provide the confidence of supply chain reliability, technical excellence and warranty security.
Furthermore, the opening of this market has created tremendous opportunity for the new development of creative and unique architectural solar concepts. One such developer of this new architectural solar technology is Solaria Corporation of Fremont, California. Solaria has developed groundbreaking photovoltaic technologies that are ideal for use in building integrated photovoltaic components. Solaria’s unique solar cell singulation technology has allowed it to develop an architecturally beautiful vision glass that can be used in typical window openings providing a see-through window that generates electricity. Solaria’s other architectural solar products such as spandrel and solar cladding are equally aesthetically appealing and are creating a great deal of buzz in the architectural community.
Going forward, as more players enter this market segment, it is expected that dramatic new breakthroughs will be made in architectural solar technology. As the new technology takes root, architects will be encouraged to evolve their building designs to incorporate more building integrated photovoltaic components. As a result, it is expected that buildings will generate incrementally greater amounts of electricity.
Many industry watchers have wondered why architectural solar has not flourished sooner, but to be completely frank, the market has not been mature enough to support it until now. In the past, architectural solar was considered very expensive with a poor return on investment based on energy generation. Today, with low raw material cost and tax incentives, architectural solar looks very attractive indeed. Furthermore, much of the cost of installation and maintenance is shared with the building. This allows more money to be allotted to high quality architectural solar components using money that otherwise would be spent on PV infrastructure. The result is that architectural solar can legitimately compete with traditional solar energy for return on investment in addition to being aesthetically beautiful.
Over the next decade, it is expected that architectural solar will become a standard practice on all new construction and soon the idea of erecting a new structure without it will be architectural heresy. Once the full power of the shared imagination and technical capabilities of this robust new market are brought to bear, we finally will realize the dream of those visionaries of yesteryear. Soon we will look out over the cityscape through the windows of our cars as we fly to work and wonder how we ever lived in a world that did not draw its energy from the sun.