We’re halfway through 2015, and the world has already seen exciting tech advancements this year, from consumer tech like Apple Pay, to medical advancements like Brain Organoids. However, these aren’t the only industries developing break-through technologies. In the past six months, we’ve also seen many solar innovations that are changing the face of the industry. Check out some of the latest and greatest solar advances of 2015 below (see also, 11 Superstar Facts About Solar Energy).
Solar Power Becomes More Efficient
Solar power has always been an ideal source of energy because, unlike fossil fuels, the energy is renewable. Unfortunately, most solar panels aren’t as efficient as they could be. The typical solar panel converts only about 11-15 percent of the sunlight hitting it into electricity.
The Swedish company, Ripasso is changing that by doubling solar panel efficiency through a concaved design that rotates to follow the sun. The Guardian reports that these solar panels convert up to 34 percent of the sunlight hitting them.
These solar dishes are able to generate 75 to 85 megawatt hours of electricity per year, which could power 24 typical UK homes, says The Guardian. The newspaper also reports that an equivalent amount of energy made by burning coal would release 81 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. The dishes are currently being tested in the Kalahari dessert.
The First Solar Sail is Being Tested
The idea of a solar sail — a wide reflective surface on a spacecraft that, with the force of solar radiation, helps push the ship along — is not a new concept. The idea dates all the way back to the 1600s, and we’ve since seen the concept in sci-fi books and movies, such as Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, Star Wars Episode II, and Avatar.
However, the idea has never been officially tested — until now. In May, the first flight test took place, and another is planned for 2016. The LightSail project is headed by Bill Nye (the “Science Guy”) and backed by the Planetary Society.
A Solar Sharing Project Launches
One concern about solar power is that some people simply don’t have access to it, whether it’s because they’re in an apartment and don’t have access to the roof, or their yard is shaded by trees. Yeloha changes that by making solar power available to more people.
As EcoWatch reports, the project works by sharing solar energy between neighbors. Sun hosts, who have access to solar energy but don’t have the money to invest in solar panels, can receive the panels free of charge from Yeloha as long as Yeloha has access to the energy. Sun partners are those who don’t have a proper roof or don’t own their home, but they can access the energy from the sun hosts’ panels for a fee less than what they’d pay for utilities.
This program is currently available on an invite-only basis to Massachusetts residents, but as the program gains traction, we’re likely to see a more efficient use of solar energy while consumers gain the opportunity to save money and the world.
Solar Energy Helps Provide Clean Drinking Water
Today, parts of the world are running low on clean drinking water. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a method of converting brackish water into fresh drinking water using solar energy, according to EcoWatch.
As EcoWatch reports, “with this technology, water recovery is above 90 percent and the 5-10 percent reject concentrate is dried in a solar pond without creating any environmental hazard.” In addition, this system could supply enough water for 2,000 to 5,000 people.
This solar-powered machine is able to pull the salt out of the water while also disinfecting it using ultraviolet rays. This would make the water suitable for irrigation and drinking, and would be especially useful in areas where quality water is hard to come by and funds are scarce.
We’re only halfway through 2015, so imagine what the rest of the year could bring in terms of solar technology advancements. What solar energy advancements do you hope to see over the next six months?