Solar energy has become a staple in every industry – from rural farms to space programs. So it’s no wonder that solar innovations are coming up in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Our Brisbane solar power experts looked into the most interesting solar innovations this year.
Discover them below!
Solar in Orbit
Let’s start at the top. The very top. At the end of May (2020), SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon shuttle into orbit to dock with the International Space Station. It had two US astronauts on board and a unique solar array to power its systems.
Unlike its predecessor (the cargo version), Crew Dragon doesn’t have solar panels that fold out. Instead, 25% of the shuttle’s outer body has been dressed with solar cells. While the surface is small, they’re durable and doing the job better than what its engineers expected.
Solar Fact: The higher levels of radiation in space can cause solar panels to degrade up to 8x faster than they would on Earth.
When we think of Brisbane solar power systems, we imagine one-sided rooftop panels. But overseas, a research team at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) have another idea in mind. They’ve created solar cells that can generate electricity from both sides. This means that the sunlight reflected behind the panel will bounce back up to the other side.
When combined with sun-tracking equipment, SERIS claims the panels can generate up to 35% more energy than one-sided panels. But what’s this sun-tracking technology they’re talking about?
Another pursuit at SERIS is an obsession for getting that perfect solar panel angle. In fact, they’re going a step further to find that perfect angle and keep it throughout the day. By utilising live data from NASA’s weather forecasting and using heliostat technology, SERIS plans to give solar panels maximum sun exposure throughout the year.
While these innovations won’t be hitting the Brisbane solar power market any time soon, it’s interesting to know what our rooftop panels might be capable of doing in decades to come.
Aussie Heavy Metal
Much closer to home and smaller in scale, UNSW’s Materials Energy Research Laboratory in nanoscale (MERlin) have made a much different breakthrough. There are two parts to efficient solar energy use: generating and storing electricity. And this breakthrough tackles the latter – providing a more effective material to use in solar batteries.
The idea is to store hydrogen not in a liquid or gas form, but to bond it with something solid. Aguey-Zinsou, the mind behind it, uses a metal alloy (which includes titanium) to bond with hydrogen. This can be used with solar battery technology to create a more effective and cheaper storage system. And it could become commercially available in the next few years.
When it comes to residential solar systems, some of the best innovations have already been made. If you’re curious about what having your own Brisbane solar power system could do for you, we’d be happy to tell you.