The solar industry was abuzz this week with a major announcement from President Obama and some impressive developments from clean energy CEOs. Elon Musk’s ambitious growth strategy for Tesla, a new solar panel design opportunity known as “solarskin” and Obama’s solar financing initiative for low-income households are the focus stories we’re discussing from this week’s Solar Energy News report.
MIT Startup Sistine Solar Revolutionizing PV Design with Solar Panel Skins
One of the barriers to widespread solar adoption is that some homeowners don’t like how solar panels look on their roofs. A group of MIT entrepreneurs passionate about solar took that criticism and turned it into a market opportunity. Based in Massachusetts, Sistine Solar has developed “solar skin” products that can match a solar panel array to the exterior design of any household. The goal of the company: to re-brand solar panels as a luxury product that improves the aesthetic of a house while also generating major energy savings.
“We strongly believe in the transformative power of design,” said Ido Salama, co-founder and head of sales for Sistine Solar. “The moment we admit that design matters is the moment that clean energy can go from producing 1% of our energy needs to 100% in our lifetime.” Sistine Solar is backed by the Department of Energy and will bring its solar skin products to market in 2017.
Obama Reveals Solar Financing Plan for Low-Income Homes
In a video release on Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced a new plan to reach one gigawatt of installed solar for low-income households by 2020. To offer some perspective, the plan will require a tenfold increase in solar installations over the next three years, so it is bold to say the least. However, President Obama is confident: “Solar panels are no longer for wealthy folks who live where the sun shines every day,” he declared in the announcement. “Today we’re offering even more families and communities to choose clean energy.” President Obama is not alone in launching this major initiative. His administration has received support from housing authorities in 36 U.S. states totaling $287 million in combined financing. The initiative is expected to move the U.S. 280 megawatts closer towards its 2020 goal.
Elon Musk Reveals Aggressive Growth Strategy for Tesla
It was another typical week for the zero-emissions mastermind, Elon Musk, who announced his latest growth concepts for the world’s largest clean energy corporation, Tesla Motors. Channeling the persona of a common comic book supervillain and perhaps his French Canadian heritage, Musk published his “Master Plan, Part Deux” this week offering up an extensive list of new avenues for Tesla’s expansion. Here’s what we can expect from Tesla in the years to come, according to Musk’s plan:
- Electric truck and bus models to satisfy more segments of clean auto consumers
- A new self-driving model 10 times safer than a human-driven car
- A clean-energy rideshare offering to compete with Uber and Lyft
- Integrated solar panel systems with improved energy storage thanks to Tesla Powerwall technology and SolarCity’s acquisition
Harvard Researchers Announce New Solar Battery Concept Inspired by Vitamins
Innovation in solar storage surfaced in Cambridge, MA this week as Harvard scientists announced they can mirror the high-performing organic molecules in B2 vitamins in order to improve solar battery efficiency. For those interested in the applied science behind this breakthrough, the research team utilized a high capacity flow battery that combines organic molecules known as quinones and a food additive called ferrocyanide. The new storage technology uses non-flammable, low-cost chemicals that will allow for cheap and scalable renewable energy storage.
“With only a couple of tweaks to the original B2 molecule, this new group of molecules becomes a good candidate for alkaline flow batteries,” said Michael J. Aziz, a research team member who specializes in energy technologies. “They have high stability and solubility and provide high battery voltage and storage capacity.”