Solar sustainability and innovation made for big headlines this week thanks to new research and development in the world of solar tech. MIT’s major breakthrough in solar cell technology, exciting improvements in solar cellphone charging and Chile’s new renewable subway system are the key stories from this week’s Solar Energy News Report.
MIT’s Latest Breakthrough Technology Makes Solar Even More Sustainable
Constant innovation in solar technology is the norm in today’s world, and MIT furthered that trend this week after publishing a research paper outlining how they can double a solar cell’s ability to harness energy from sunlight. The new research revolves around the concept of solar thermophotovoltaic devices (STVPs), which utilize energy that is typically wasted by solar panels because it is released as heat. MIT scientists have added a layer to their new solar cell that accesses the heat energy created by solar panels. The result: a projected double efficiency potential for solar cell technology.
Chile Launches First Ever Renewable-Powered Subway System
Chile’s capital city of Santiago will soon be home to the world’s first renewable energy-powered subway system, according to an announcement this week by President Michelle Bachelet. The city’s transit system will be powered predominantly by wind turbines and a solar energy system built by California’s SunPower and owned by French oil company Total. President Bachelet hopes it will help Chile meet its goal for 60 percent renewable energy generation, while clean energy stakeholders hope it will pave the way for a renewable public transit revolution.
Solar Giants Must Pivot After Solar Leasing Popularity Plummets
More homeowners have moved away from solar leasing models in the past year in favor of owning their solar systems through a cash purchase or loan, and big solar leasing companies are starting to notice. Industry giants like SolarCity, SunRun and Vivint Solar have all seen plummeting share prices in the past two quarters and now must respond to this shift in customer preference. A data report released in 2015 forecasted this change in homeowner preference, highlighting that 90 percent of solar shoppers chose ownership over leasing on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.
Touch Screen Cell Phones Now Able to Charge with Sunlight
Innovations in solar powered devices continue to rise in 2016. The latest: a cell phone powered by photovoltaic technology so that it never needs to be charged. This past week, Japanese cell phone company Kyocera demoed a touch screen phone powered by solar with impressive technical upgrades from the company’s previous prototypes. Kyocera collaborated with SunPartner Technologies to develop a translucent solar screen that could be placed on any touch screen cellphone, significantly reducing its need to be charged with electricity. The result is a phone that provides one minute of call time for every one minute of sunlight exposure – an impressive feat that overwhelms the previous prototype’s 15 minutes of talk time for every two hours of sunlight.
Clean Energy Now Creating More Jobs Than Oil
A number of solar milestones were achieved in 2015, and at the top of the list was the fact that solar created more jobs than coal or gas. However, somewhat under the radar was the overall growth of the clean energy economy (or “green industry”), which increased by five percent worldwide up to 8.1 million workers according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA’s data projects 24 million workers in the clean energy economy by 2030 and revealed that the U.S. solar industry grew 12 times faster than overall U.S. job creation in 2015.