We’ve been spending a lot of time on cutting edge solar thermal power projects this week, and here’s yet another new twist: a fuel cell that incorporates solar thermal energy, enabling it to use woody biomass, algae, and even chicken waste for energy…
Bicycles built specifically to carry cargo, instead of just one person and what they can fit on an aftermarket bike rack or panniers, can open up a lot of options for wider use of bicycling for transportation for more people. And when you combine the load-carrying ability of a cargo bike with the option for electric pedal-assist, it not only allows for more flexibility for daily use, but also makes getting around with a full load of gear much easier on the body. Integrate a solar panel for charging, and you’ve got a potential game changer in green transportation.
As a family guy and former bike commuter, I can attest to the fact that getting the weekly groceries home on a bike was pretty challenging, and only after getting a bike cargo trailer (mine is a BOB Trailer) was I able to manage it without feeling like I was one of the Joads, but with a bicycle instead of a truck. During that time, I also knew many people that wouldn’t use their bicycles for running errands because they not only had no space for it on their bikes, but also felt like they didn’t have the energy or weren’t fit enough to haul their stuff, even with a trailer. But if they had an electric cargo bike that would enable them to ride farther and faster, while carrying their gear with them, then those types of excuses wouldn’t carry any water.
Electric cargo bikes aren’t new, but the most recent release from NTS Works, the SunCycle, adds a twist, by integrating a renewable energy aspect to the bike with a 60W solar panel and charging system. The SunCycle is based on the company’s LockerCycle, which has a locking cargo area and electric assist from its front hub motor, but with the solar panel, it’s possible to also get a charge without plugging in.
“The NTS SunCycle integrates an incredibly small, lightweight and powerful solar panel. It weights about two pounds and is rated for 60 watts of power. We also make our own solar charge regulator that protects the battery from overcharging.
The noncrystalline solar cells used on our panels are over 19 percent efficient. Our panel is approximately 4 square feet.” – NTS
According to company tests on the SunCycle’s performance, the solar panel exceeded its rating of 60 W, which is more power than used on the low power setting for the electric assist, and could translate to being able to fully power the SunCycle with solar alone on sunny days.
The bike is powered by a 36v Li-ion battery (14.3Ah 517Wh), which is said to give the SunCycle about a 25 mile range (assuming no solar input), and the batteries from NTS come with a Lifetime Rebuild Warranty, so they can be repaired and rebuilt when needed for about half the price of a new battery.
The SunCycle will be available this spring, and is available for pre-order right now for about $4000.
One of the most common things people ask when they start to consider going solar or start to plan their life-changing solar expedition is which are the most efficient solar panels. However, first of all, that’s not even the right question for most people, and second of all, the literal answer to that question really isn’t relevant for the average consumer. Let me explain….
First of all, the important matter is not which solar panels are most efficient, but which solar panels are the best value for the money. If you’ve got space for 10 solar panels on your roof and you have an option between solar panels “ABEfficient” that are a bit more efficient but twice the price of solar panels “CDCheap,” chances are, you are going to make a much bigger savings by going with CDCheap. Of course, the important thing would be to see what’s available in your situation and simply run the numbers (or, if you are allergic to math, have a friend who can do math run the numbers for you).
But, anyway, if you really want to know which are the most efficient solar panels (or solar cells) out there, I actually happened to be putting together a list of solar records recently and can give you the rundown. But, as I do so, I’ll drop in a few key notes making the point above a bit clearer. Before looking at solar panels as a whole, let’s have a quick look at the producers of some of the most efficient solar cells (the key component of solar panels) and their efficiency records:
- 44.4% efficient solar cells by Sharp. Notably, these world-leading solar cells by Sharp are in the concentrator triple-junction solar cell category. Such solar cells are complicated and are not used in residential or commercial applications… because they are bloody expensive. They are used in space applications by the likes of NASA, where a bit of extra space (or, as it may be, less space via extra efficiency) can make a huge difference.
- 37.9% efficient solar cells by Sharp. Just a step down, these are in the triple-junction, non-concentrator solar cell category. If this is all new to you, it might take you awhile to see the difference in the categories. The difference is that these solar cells don’t use anything to concentrate the light hitting the solar cells, while the 44.4% efficiency cells above do use something to concentrate the light (of course, adding to their costs).
- 32.6% solar cells by a Spanish solar research institute (IES) and university (UPM). These are another step down, as they are in the two-junction, concentrator solar cell category. (For an intro on “junctions,” by the way, check out this multi-junction photovoltaic cell article on Wikipedia.) Again, these are still far different solar cells from what are used in commercial or residential installations.
- There are about a dozen or so extra categories that I could run down. Some categories have very high efficiencies but the solar cells are quite expensive, while others are actually on the other end of the spectrum (no pun intended) and are very cheap but have very low efficiency. Of course, some are both inefficient and expensive, but apparently worth researching nonetheless. The key, as I noted earlier, is finding the best balance between cost and efficiency.
Now, there’s less research on solar panels than on solar cells because the core of the technology is the solar cell, so that’s what researchers at many institutes and universities spend their time on. No one is even going to try to manufacture a solar panel that won’t sell because it isn’t made of marketable solar cells. Still, there are many different types of solar panels (more accurately known as solar modules) on the market and many, many manufacturers of some of the most common types. So let’s look at the leaders in this category.
Why didn’t I start with the solar modules? Because then it would be easier to miss the point, which is that solar panel efficiency is not the metric you use to choose solar panels for you home. Getting on to the solar modules, here are the most efficient solar modules in a few key categories:
- 36% efficient Amonix solar modules hold the overall solar PV module efficiency record. However, these are made with concentrator solar cells and are not used in residential applications.
- 21.5% SunPower solar modules hold the commercial solar module efficiency record. SunPower’s SPR-327NE-WHT-D modules are also the leading solar modules in solar module yield field tests, and other SunPower solar modules come in #2 and #3 in those tests. (For those of you to who this matters or is interesting, SunPower is a US-based solar panel company.)
- 17.4% Q-Cells thin-film solar modules hold the record in this specific solar panel category. Thin-film solar panels are widely used, but not in residential applications. (Q-Cells was a German company, but it filed for insolvency in 2012 and was then acquired by the Korean company Hanwha.)
- 16.1% First Solar thin-film solar modules claim the cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency record. Again, these are generally not used for residential applications, but I think including them helps to reinforce my key point yet again. (First Solar, a US-based company, was actually the #1 solar developer and the #2 solar module manufacturer in the world last year. Despite a relatively low 16.1% record efficiency in this category of solar panels, First Solar does very well with these relatively cheap solar modules in certain applications.)
- Just as one final example in order to show that the variation doesn’t stop there, 15.5% solar modules from MiaSolé hold the flexible PV solar module efficiency record. Naturally, in some applications, one doesn’t just need solar panels, one needs flexible solar panels. But, that probably isn’t you….
The takeaway point is:
Skip the focus on hypotheticals and irrelevant superlatives. Forget about what the “most efficient solar panels” are. Check on the solar installers in your area. See what they quote you. Ask them what solar panels they would use if you want to know. And compare your options to your heart’s content. Don’t go trying to find solar panels that were designed for NASA satellites.
By the way, the following chart from NREL isn’t fully up to date (solar efficiency records are broken quite frequently), but it gives you a good sense of the large variety of solar technologies:
Energy is not only required to maintain schools, hospitals and businesses running, but it is also needed to heat up homes and for efficient transportation of goods and services. Energy plays a significant role in the overall economy. With the ever increasing demand of energy, how can you save more on your energy bills? Let’s find out!
According to statistics revealed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 40.3% of the gross electricity consumption in the year 2012 was actually met from the renewable resources. If you want to secure your future then surly you need to save energy and it could be done by only optimized energy consumption. It will not only help to secure your future but also will cut down your energy bills.
Save More on Energy Bills
So how are you contributing your bit in the overall energy saving revolution started by the Scottish Government? There are numerous ways of conserving energy on daily basis, by making efficient use of the much needed renewable energy. Though some methods are extremely complicated, others are much easier to be conveniently adopted into routine life. Plus, you can also save upon your hefty electricity bills and the subsequent heating and cooling costs.
Read along the following tips to help the environment as well as your bank account:
#1 Draw Curtains and Blinds
Drawing up of your curtains and blinds right at dusk can actually help you conserve heat in the room. This can be surprisingly effective in heating up and saving money. In case you have shutters fitted, make sure you close them up at the night time and when you are out of the house.
#2 Switch Off All Electrical Appliances
Make sure you turn off all electrical appliances and even take them out of the sockets, instead of maintaining them in the ‘standby’ mode. It will help you save approximately £33 every year on your energy bills and will help environment by restricting 130 kg of carbon dioxide. Read more »
India is planning on building the world’s biggest solar plant, which has the potential to triple the country’s solar capacity.
The Government of India announced a Memorandum of Understanding for the project last month, which was signed by Indian ministries and six public-sector companies.
The planned site near Sambhar Salt Lake in Jaipur, Rajasthanmeasures 30 square miles, which is a larger space than Manhattan.
More than ten times bigger than any existing solar project in the world, the plant will help slash India’s CO2 emissions by over 4 million tons a year according to The Energy and Resources Institute.
Once it is built the plant will boast a 4 gigawatts power capacity, an amount that would drastically increase India’s renewables offering.
Currently India has a grid-connected solar capacity of 2.18 gigawatts, but is aiming to get as much 20 gigawatts from renewables by 2022 and over 200 gigawatts by 2050.
India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates that the first phase of construction of the giant plant will cost around US$1.08 billion, and is already approaching the World Bank for a US$500 million loan to kick off the first 750 megawatts of construction.
One of the biggest public sector undertakings in the country, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited will lead the first phase of the project (1,000 megawatts) along with key state-owned outfits including the Solar Energy Corporation of India, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Hindustan Salts Ltd and Power Grid Corporation.
Some environmentalists have criticized the size of the project, warning that the surge in power would be wasted in India’s inefficient grid. They suggest that smaller projects in rural areas would have a bigger impact on improving energy access for Indian people–40% of who are still not connected to the grid.
The Climate Group’s Bijli – Clean energy for all project offers such energy distribution. The project aims to reduce emissions and enhance the lives of rural communities in India by deploying renewable energy technologies and improving infrastructure quality.
Jarnail Singh, India Program Manager, The Climate Group, commented: “While it is crucial to deploy renewable energy technologies for the energy security of the country, it is equally important (if not more) to make sure that the energy generated is equitably accessible to all sections of the society. Smaller projects in rural areas can have a far reaching and disproportionate impact on marginalized communities while ultra and mega green projects like this largely remain neutral to the differences in economic statures and social positioning.”
India added over 1 gigawatt of solar power to its electricity grid in 2013, a landmark figure which saw the country’s total solar capacity almost double to 2.18 gigawatts, according to the Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
The growth, which was partially driven by India’s National Solar Mission and state-level policies, shows that India is on track to hit its solar target of 10 gigawatts by 2017, and 20 gigawatts by 2022.
By: Clare Saxon