Printed Solar Tiles Are Thinner, Cheaper, and Easier to Use

Solar panels have become increasingly inexpensive in the past months. However, while a number of large-scale energy producers are shifting towards solar power, there is still a lack of homes that have adopted the technology. In Australia, a place bathed in seemingly constant direct sunlight, price is still a major stumbling block for homeowners considering switching to solar. Things may be about to change, however, thanks to a new variety of solar tile developed by researchers from the University of Newcastle (UON).

Image Credit: University of Newcastle

Instead of the photovoltaics (PVs) that traditional panels use, UON’s Paul Dastoor and his team are testing printable solar tiles. “It’s completely different from a traditional solar cell. They tend to be large, heavy, encased in glass — tens of millimeters thick,” Dastoor told Mashable. “We’re printing them on plastic film that’s less than 0.1 of a millimeter thick.”

Currently, UON is one of only three sites that are testing printed solar. “We’ve put in the first 100 square metres of printed solar cells up on roofs, and now we’re testing that durability in real weather conditions,” Dastoor said. As soon as the performance and durability of these tiles are confirmed, it could easily go into market production.


Dastoor and his team are excited about the potential these printed tiles have in influencing the wide-scale adoption of PVs, especially for homes. “The low-cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting, particularly in the current Australian energy context where we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power,” he explained in UON feature article.

Just for reference, Tesla’s solar tiles — which Elon Musk promised to be cheaper than regular roofs — are priced at around US $235 per tile. Meanwhile, Dastoor’s printed solars can be sold at less than US$ 7.42 per tile, which is comparatively very cheap, “[W]e expect in a short period of time the energy we generate will be cheaper than that generated via coal-based fire stations,” Dastoor explained.

Of course, whether tiles are printed or created with traditional PVs, solar energy is currently a major leading renewable energy source. And, solar power is not only incredibly environmentally friendly — producing energy without harmful byproducts that contribute to climate change —  it can also generate more energy than fossil fuels.


Developer Plans Solar-Powered Townhouses

By: David McGee

Earl Keikirk/BHC

BRISTOL, Va. – A developer is seeking city approval to construct 30 upscale townhouses using solar power to partially or wholly offset the electric bills.

Aaron Lilly has proposed constructing Wildflower Ridge subdivision on 12.5 hillside acres behind the existing Seven Oaks townhouse development, near Interstate 81’s Exit 5. Lilly, who also built the Seven Oaks project, told Planning Commission members Monday that he envisions this becoming the first solar-powered subdivision east of the Mississippi River.

After extensive questioning, commissioners unanimously granted preliminary approval and a request that the site have an R-T residential townhouse overlay zoning designation. Final approval will require a number of additional steps.

“After seeing solar was at least possible, we’ve been working on this for over a year. It is more affordable than ever before and the price of electricity goes up every year,” Lilly said. “There would be two meters on the house – one telling how much power we consume from BVU and the other how much power is produced and the person would pay the difference.”

Solar panels would be attached on the south side of building roofs because free-standing units wouldn’t be allowed.

“If power keeps going up and solar keeps coming down, we’re there. If we’re not there yet, we’re close enough. This is our goal and we’re working feverishly to make sure it happens,” he said. “The first ones are an experiment. We don’t know how much power we can make.”

Planning commissioner and City Councilman Kevin Wingard told Lilly he “loves the idea.”

Each townhome is planned for 1,600 square feet of living space including a finished ground floor with two bedrooms. Each upstairs can be built to order with anywhere from one to three bedrooms, another bathroom or it can remain as unfinished storage, Lilly told the commission. Each would also have a 400 square foot garage.

Units can be configured with a wide range of “smart home” technology for monitoring and control, Lilly said, including the ability to relay relevant, medical information to a caregiver, if necessary, so that the “home” will be an “age in place residence.”

Current plans call for construction of nine connected homes in the first phase, nine units in phase two and 12 in phase three, along with privately owned streets for access.

“For right now, all of them may have to supplement their electric bill, but the more we can decrease [usage], the more they can save. Everything we can do inside the house to increase efficiency will decrease how much solar we have to put on the house. We have to do everything we can possibly do to make sure that house is tight,” Lilly said.

To be appealing, townhouses also must be “affordable,” Lilly said, forecasting they will likely cost $200,000 to $250,000.

At the site Monday, workers were clearing trees, although final approval hasn’t yet been granted.

“He is working on his soil and erosion control because he wants a grading permit,” said city planner Sally Morgan. “He has to do a site plan, a storm water management plan and a storm water management agreement. They will need a landscaping plan, too.”


Philippines to Save P10 B Yearly on Shift to Renewable Energy

By: Danessa Rivera

The Philippines stands to save over P10 billion a year if it replaces diesel generation in off-grid areas with renewables, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said. File

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines stands to save over P10 billion a year if it replaces diesel generation in off-grid areas with renewables, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said.

A report done by IEEFA titled “Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids­” calls for prudent reforms that will require electric cooperatives and private distribution utilities alike to optimize procurement, to help level the playing field for renewable power generators and reduce taxpayer costs by phasing out subsidies for imported diesel fuel.

“Small islands in the Philippines are placed perfectly to benefit from dramatically reduced costs of renewable energy. Simple reforms can pave the way for cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy for more than 800,000 of the poorest Filipinos,” IEEFA analyst Sara Jane Ahmed said.

Under the current system, there are no incentives for electric cooperatives to procure cheaper sources and reduce costs.

“The Department of Energy should direct the National Power Corp.’s Small Power Utilities Group to speed up the hybridization of its plants and install as much renewable energy-powered plants in new sites identified for electrification,” Ahmed said.

“Moreover, the National Electrification Administration should direct electric cooperatives to be technology-neutral in the procurement of power,” she added.

According to the report, investment opportunities in small island renewables are worth at least $1 billion to private developers in the country.

At present, the country’s small islands are served by mini-grids powered by generators fueled by imported diesel and bunker oil. As a result of grid instability, inadequate generation capacity and lack of subsidized fuel, these islands suffer from blackouts and unplanned power outages.

Power for the islands costs over P60 billion in subsidies despite only accounting for six percent of total energy demand and 0.49 percent of total generation, based on the report.

Moreover, not all islands have 24/7 electricity service even with expensive subsidies. Only 22 of 233 areas in question have 24/7 electricity, with over 70 percent having less than eight hours per day of electricity.

“Currently, Philippine taxpayers are footing a huge bill by subsidizing expensive imported diesel to provide dirty and unreliable power for the small islands,” Ahmed said.

With solar-powered electricity costs falling by 99 percent since 1976 and 90 percent since 2009, and with the cost of wind-powered generation declining by 50 percent since 2009, the economics of renewable energy make it particularly suitable for small islands, which are unable to link to mainland electricity grids, the ICSC said.


Solar-Powered Emergency Phones at Cycling Track

RTA launches solar-powered SOS telephones along Seih Al Salam Cycling Track. Credit: RTA

Dubai: Cyclists can now use solar-powered telephones installed at the Seih Al Salam cycling track in case of emergencies, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced on Sunday.

RTA in association with Dubai Police and Etisalat has installed 30 phones along the 78 kilometre track located in Al Qudra.

The phones are located along the track spaced out at every few kilometres and can be identified by its bright orange colour during day time and a glow of light makes it visible at night.

“RTA’s specialised team has installed 30 solar-powered SOS telephones along the cycling track at Seih Al Salam in cooperation with Dubai Police, and Etisalat,” said Nabeel Yousef Al Ali, Director of RTA’s Administrative Services.

He said the device will provide enhanced safety and security to cyclist during an emergency as it is capable of working in all weather conditions.

“This service aims to enhance safety and security in the Emirate, and offers assistance to cyclists especially during emergency cases. The service is also intended to enhance RTA’s strategic goal of ‘Asset’ Sustainability’ by using renewable energy sources such as solar-powered telephones and operate them in a sustainable manner with minimal power consumption. These devices operate efficiently in different weather conditions at temperatures ranging from 0 to 70 degrees Celsius,” he added.



These Window Blinds Can Charge Your Devices Using Solar Power

By: Kerrisa Wilson

Photo: SolarGaps

There’s a new type of window blinds that can do more than just provide shade. Smart solar blinds called SolarGaps, use solar power to charge your devices, while also saving you money on your electricity bill.

Launched on crowdfunding site Kickstarter this week, SolarGaps can be installed over a window at home or in the office to maximize solar power consumption. Designed by an LA-based team, the traditionally styled smart blinds automatically adjust to the angle of the sun to generate solar electricity.

The smart blinds are ideal for renters who can’t easily reap the benefits of renewable energy by installing solar panels on their roof. SolarGaps are covered with photovoltaic modules and can produce up to 100 to 150 watts of energy per 10 square feet of a window — enough to power three MacBooks.

Photo: SolarGaps

SolarGaps includes a dock that allows users to charge and power their devices with the generated energy. If extra energy is collected from the smart blinds, it can be stored by battery and used for later consumption. By using SolarGaps, the company claims users can save up to 70 percent on their electricity bills.

The smart blinds aren’t just a cool piece of solar power tech, they actually do provide shade and could also reduce air conditioning costs by 40 percent.

With the SolarGaps app, users can control their blinds from anywhere in the world. Users can lower or raise the blinds, change the angle and view how much energy is being generated. The app also provides weather forecasts and updates so users can maximize solar power consumption.

SolarGaps comes with DIY instructions for installation. It’s recommended the blinds are mounted outside, over a window, because if installed inside, less power is generated. So far, SolarGaps has raised $15,570 USD on Kickstarter and has a month left in its campaign. The first shipment of SolarGaps is anticipated for December 2017.