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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Energy Innovation: 6 Radical Solar Energy Technologies 

By Yoni Binstock 
Greentech Innovation and Solar Energy 
The Energy Collective 
Saturday, November 16, 2013 

The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of reaching 
less than $1 a watt for complete installed solar systems 
by 2020. Reaching $1/watt would bring the cost of solar 
power to six cents/ kWh, which is cheaper than the 
average cost from new natural gas power plants and would 
allow solar to grow without any subsidies. But how are we 
going to get there? Scientists and entrepreneurs from 
around the world are working in their labs and garages 
developing new solar technologies. They range from big 
leaps in existing technologies to completely 
transformative innovations. Here’s a list of several new 
technologies that we’re most excited about. 

1) Solar Paint 

Instead of being limited to flat surfaces, researchers at 
the University of Notre Dame have developed low-cost 
solar paint using nano-sized particles of titanium 
dioxide, coated with cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide. 
Once brushed onto any conducting materials and exposed to 
the sunlight, the paint will create electricity with a 
light-to-energy conversion efficiency of 1%.  Its 
efficiency isn’t high enough for current market use, but 
hopefully with continued development, we can imagine a 
day that any surface could generate solar power. 

(Image courtesy of TreeHugger) 

2) Solar Fabric 

A company called Pvillion is currently making fabric with 
solar power capabilities for use in commercial 
applications. The company’s fabric, which is as efficient 
as standard rigid solar panels, could be used to cover 
structures such as the US embassy in London, which will 
have a generation capacity of 124MW. 

3) Solar Windows 

One of the ways that solar could become mainstream is by 
diversifying the locations that it could be placed, 
rather than just rooftops and large installations in the 
desert. Companies like Oxford Photovoltaics are working 
to develop transparent glass solar panels, which would 
allow windows to become power generators. Imagine how 
useful this technology could be if we turned every window 
covering our skyscrapers clean energy producers.     

4) Solar Roadways 

Another location that’s currently being tested for solar 
capabilities are walkways, roads, and parking lots. 
Spanish tech company Onyx Solar is currently developing 
walkable PV floor panels and Solar Roadways is currently 
prototyping their plan to cover roads with embedded solar 
panels with 12 x 36 foot parking lot.  Parking lots cover 
up to 15% of city surfaces and highways crisscrossing all 
over the country, so the potential for this technology is 

5) Space-based Solar 

If we ever run out of space for all these new 
technologies, we might start getting our energy from 
outer space. That’s exactly what Solaren Corp is thinking 
as they plan to beam down solar power from orbit 
beginning in mid 2016. Even Pacific Gas & Electric is 
interested in the idea and has agreed to purchase 200 MW 
of electricity from them. 

6) Increased Efficiency 

What about ways to increase the efficiency of today’s 
technology? Solar panel manufacturer China Sunergy, is 
building a pilot manufacturing line for a two-sided solar 
cell that can absorb light from both the front and back. 
Where one-sided solar panel might generate 340 watts, a 
two-sided one might generate up to 400 watts. They expect 
the panels to generate 10 to 20 percent more electricity 
over the course of a year compared to one-sided panels. 
At the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, 
Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin jointly 
announced a new record for solar efficiency of 44.7% 
using CPV or concentrated photovoltaic technology. 
Although just in the research phase, these efficiencies 
have the potential to revolutionize the solar industry. 

These technologies are just a sample of the great 
innovations in both business models and technologies 
happening around the world in the field of photovoltaics. 
Some of them may not pan out, but many others will and 
will usher in a new era of renewable energy. For all of 
us in the field, the future of solar looks very bright. 

Original article 

Authored by: 

Yoni Binstock 

Yoni is a Fellow at Mosaic working on their PR, 
marketing, and their mobile app. He graduated from 
Rollins College in three years in Political Science and 
International Business. He then spent three months 
volunteering in rural India where he met his fiancée. 
After attending Boston University’s Graduate Program in 
Energy and Environmental Analysis, he worked at a web 
startup for a year in Cambridge. He then left to start 
Climate Scores, a website dedicated in grading 
Congressmen on how they stood on climate change. He then 
worked at Ashoka as their lead strategist on targeting 
Gen Y donors. In his free time, he likes to read science 
fiction, play quality video games, and run. 

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