It was a week filled with scientific brilliance in the solar industry with a number of inventions and discoveries that could set a faster track for solar power’s future. Spray-on solar cells that could come to market as soon as 2018, chemical conversion from biomass to hydrogen through solar and the success of GE’s solar power venture are the headlines we’re discussing in this week’s Solar News Report.
University of Cambridge discovers how to use solar to turn biomass into hydrogen
University of Cambridge scientists announced a discovery this past week that could change the scope of renewable energy. The team achieved a chemical transition from biomass energy to clean hydrogen. The key catalyst: solar power.
To date, biomass has only been able to convert into usable hydrogen through a high temperature gasification process which can be inefficient and polluting. The scientists believe this new process using solar cells could make hydrogen a plentiful resource that provide sophisticated power and applications. “Our sunlight-powered technology is exciting as it enables the production of clean hydrogen from unprocessed biomass under ambient conditions,” said Erwin Reisner, the head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Sustainable SynGas Chemistry. “We see it as a new and viable alternative to high temperature gasification and other renewable means of hydrogen production.”
Scientists invent spray-on solar cells, hope to manufacture by 2018
Though the solar industry has run almost entirely on silicon cells to date, there’s a good chance the future of solar will utilize other technologies. One that has industry experts buzzing is perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide mineral that can convert photovoltaic power and is useful in versatile applications. Perovskite is the key to “spray-on solar,” a concept that would completely revolutionize the concept of an entire world run on solar power. Perovskite cells can be crystallized, similar to silicon; however, they can also take a liquid form that allows truly versatile installments. One British technology company is aiming to have thin-film perovskite solar cells ready for market in 2018.
If skyscrapers, roads and bridges could all be easily sprayed with a solar cell solution, the scale of solar power is practically unfathomable. Though perovskite technology has been studied for many years now, Oxford scientists announced this week a legitimate timeline for the creation of this spray-on solar concept. “We expect to have a product that meets industry requirements by the end of 2017,” said Frank Averdung, CEO at Oxford PV. “Adding some time for qualification, certification and production, our first product could be commercially available towards the end of 2018.”
General Electric leading solar expansion in Northeast
It was no surprise when General Electric, one of the world’s great technology conglomerates, announced a startup division that would focus entirely on clean energy. The Boston-based firm is known as Current and came to fruition in late 2015 to integrate GE’s solar, energy storage electric vehicle and LED businesses. In 2017, the small startup has already made leaps and bounds in terms of photovoltaic development: Current already has a solar portfolio that exceeds 17 megawatts. Primarily, Current has led installment projects of ground mount installations and solar carports throughout Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. With thousands of on-site plants and offices serving General Electric, it is and will continue to be Current’s job to lower the titan’s carbon footprint and improve the efficiency of its electricity operations.