The entire industry is focused on driving down the cost of solar and improving the efficiency of solar technology, so it’s no surprise that this past week brought more major innovations in solar power. Hanergy’s self-charging solar cars, the rise of solar in New England and the growing role of concentrating solar power in the world economy are the major headlines from this week’s Solar Energy News report.
Hanergy Debuts Four Self-Charging Solar Electric Cars
A constant criticism heard by electric car manufacturers is that electric cars can’t be built for long-distance travel. This week, solar cell manufacturer Hanergy revealed its solution at a car show in Beijing: four models of electric cars that use solar panels to charge themselves while driving. The sleek four-door vehicles are covered with thin-film solar modules that can convert solar energy at a record 31.6% rate. Hanergy is not the first company to launch a solar car, but it is the first that could be competitive with a fossil-fuel powered automobile on cost and energy potential. These new vehicles can travel up to 50 miles on five hours of sunlight.
While New England Solar Adoption Soars Overall, One State Lags Behind
When we talk about the “rise of solar” in the U.S., the impressive growth of PV in New England comes up frequently. Both Massachusetts and New York have been top-five states for solar in the U.S. for more than a decade, and New Jersey and Connecticut aren’t far behind. Solar is projected to supply three percent of New England’s total power usage by 2025, reaching 20 percent during peak daytime periods. But though New England’s solar growth is trending in the right direction, the state of Maine still lacks many of the solar policies and incentives that make solar a smart financial decision. However, that could soon change: in July, the Pine Tree State will be voting on whether to establish net-metered bill credits for solar homeowners, a policy that would help accelerate Maine’s solar transition.
Concentrating Solar Power May Be the Future of the World Economy
With so much news around the plummeting cost of solar and the rise of the rooftop PV market, it’s easy to forget that photovoltaic solar is just one of the ways that sunlight can be converted into energy. Thermal solar, also known as concentrating solar power (CSP), has some significant advantages over photovoltaics for utilities. Namely, CSP can store energy for long periods of time, which means that it offers sustainable power supply over night and during bad weather. China has just become the first nation to invest significantly in thermal solar by announcing plans to install 10,000 megawatts (MW) of CSP in the next five years. China already has significant expertise in CSP: the Chinese solar installer Solar Reserve is responsible for designing and building the Crescent Dunes solar array in Nevada, which went live last September and offers an astounding 110 MW of solar capacity.
Scientists Announce Breakthrough in Chemical Storage of Solar Energy
This week, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute and the ETH Zurich announced a new chemical storage process with major implications for solar. With their new approach, carbon dioxide and water are converted into sustainable fuel with the help of solar power. The findings could help with solar’s inability to offer a consistent energy supply under any condition, a major issue for utilities installing solar power. When implemented, this new dynamic “solar fuel” concept could provide backup solar power during off-peak sunlight conditions. Following successful testing in high performance ovens, the researchers will test the product in a more realistic environment with the hopes of eventually bringing the new technology to mainstream scenarios like rooftop solar.