Home Inspection FYI

Providing Help, Knowledge and Other Useful Information To Home Owners Everywhere

Home Inspection FYI - Providing Help, Knowledge and Other Useful Information To Home Owners Everywhere

Can Solar Panels Work in the Dark?

Low Cost Solar Panels That Can See in the Dark

“Well…it can almost see in the dark. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have just announced that they’ve been able to confirm a new high-efficiency solar cell design that handles pretty much the entire solar spectrum. To ice the solar cake, the new technology can be manufactured using ordinary low-cost processes that are currently in use”. Sounds interesting for solar panels and solar cells.

Read The Article Here From Clean Technica 

How Solar Panels work

Photovoltaic solar modules are composed of multiple, interconnected solar cells, which effectively trap photon energy between layers of silicon wafers. Negatively charged electrons are then knocked loose form their atoms, allowing them to flow freely through the semiconductors. Separate diodes, and P-N junctions prevent reverse currents and reduce loss of power on partially shaded solar panels.

Since the flow of electrical current is going in one direction, like a battery, the electricity generated is called direct current (DC). Sunlight conversion rates are typically in the 5 to 18 percent range, with some laboratory experiments reaching efficiencies as high as 30 percent. Future possibilities include the development of multi-junction solar cells that are capable of harnessing a wider bandwidth of useable light. We are still considered to be in the “early” stages of solar cells technology.

Organic Solar Concentrators

Organic Solar Concentrators and How They Work

Organic Solar concentrator 300x187 Organic Solar Concentrators

Organic Solar Concentrators. As reported in The Economist, Science, and other publications, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a special kind of dye that can transform ordinary glass into  photovoltaic solar panels. Although this technology, known as organic solar concentrators (OSC), is still highly experimental, we may soon find windows doubling as organic solar collectors.

Organic Solar Concentrators utilize windows as collectors or solar panels, directing light energy to solar cells in the window frames. To accomplish this, a special dye is affixed to the surface of a piece of the glass, which is then exposed to a light source. The dye absorbs incoming light and re-emits it inside the glass, where it bounces along until it reaches the edge. There, awaiting the absorbed light, is a thin layer of solar cells, which converts the light into electricity. The bouncing of the light is described by a principle known as “internal refraction,” which is the same phenomenon that keeps light trapped in optic fibers.

This Organic Solar Concentrator design is essentially an evolved form of an idea that was abandoned in the 1970s, known as luminescent solar concentration. These early experiments failed because solar collected light was absorbed before it reached the edges of the glass (or plastic) plates. The MIT team solved this problem by adding a small concentration of dye that collects the absorbed light from its surrounding dye. They also introduced a new class of dye molecules, known as molecular phosphors, which are exceptionally transparent to their own light emission.

This innovation offers a contrasting approach to traditional solar collectors, which use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto solar panels. These devices are large and expensive, which limit their utility. Specifically, they rely on bulky sun-tracking mirrors that aren’t feasible in most residential settings. Organic Solar Concentrators perform the same function as solar concentrators, but they lack the problems that make their predecessors cost-prohibitive and unwieldy for solar panels.

The solar concentrating dye can also be applied to existing solar cells, enhancing their light-capturing ability by as much as 30%. MIT engineer Marc Baldo, said, “We think that, ultimately, this approach will allow us to nearly double the performance of existing solar cells for minimal added cost.”

The team has founded a company called Covalent Solar, which plans to commercialize the Organic Solar technique and market it to homeowners and businesses within the next three years. Of course, the opinions of the researchers may be biased, as they also plan to profit from the sale of the Organic Solar Concentrator technology. But if these dye-based organic solar concentrators can truly replace conventional solar panels, and they become widely distributed, they could revolutionize the role of solar power and solar use in the global energy economy.

For now, the team must deal with technical complications with Organic Solar Concentrators for their solar power, some of which are described below:

  • The dyes would degrade natural lighting by preventing 90% of sunlight from entering the room. Windows dyed in this way would appear as smoked glass, which some may find objectionable.
  • If too much dye is used, some of the light may be re-absorbed before it reaches the organic solar cells and effect solar power.
  • Currently, the devices are not stable for a long enough period to be ready for mass production. Researchers tested one model and found that it was only effective (up to 92% performance) for three months. The next design will incorporate technology developed for organic light-emitting devices to increase longevity and solar power.

FINAL FYI, Organic Solar Concentrators technology may revolutionize the way homes and businesses receive their energy via solar power.

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Solar Energy Is Hot

Solar Panels Solar Energy Is HotSolar Energy and Solar Power

No doubt you’ve heard plenty about solar energy but always thought it was too expensive, aside from minor uses in the now popular garden lighting systems. However, with fuel prices climbing and solar cells becoming more reasonable, solar energy and adding solar power to your home is a great, long term solution to high energy bills.

That isn’t to say solar energy is cheap. Before rebates, it typically takes 12 or more years for a homeowner to make their investment in photovoltaic cells or solar panels back. That’s much longer than the average person is willing to wait while making their own solar energy. However, many states now offer rebates for producing solar energy, so the final cost of the solar panels to the homeowner is much less than it use to be. Solar energy  rebates vary from state to state, so it’s impossible to say how much of an impact they have overall. There may also be federal incentives for adding solar panels for your own solar energy.

Photovoltaic Cells and Solar Energy

Solar panels are also steadily becoming more efficient. Solar panels produce more solar energy than they used to. They require relatively little maintenance, many of which you may be able to do yourself. This helps to make Photovoltaic Cells very cost effective.

Solar energy isn’t just for making electricity. You can use it heat the water for your swimming pool or heat your home. There are many options available for those who are interesting in building an energy efficient home with solar energy without sacrificing comfort.

Solar power is much, much cheaper than it used to be, as prices have fallen by 90% since the 1970s. That doesn’t make it cheap – yet! – to install enough photovoltaic cells to power a house, but in some areas the incentives given to install solar cells cuts the overall cost to the homeowner about in half.

To decide if solar energy is right for you, take some basic figures into consideration.

- Check your energy consumption. You need to know how big a system you will need to power your home. Make sure you consider your highest consumption levels and the possibility that it will grow somewhat.

- Find out how much a photovoltaic system to meet your need will cost you. The size of the photovoltaic cells will depend both on your solar energy need and on the available sunlight (solar resource) in your area.

- Find out what rebates and incentives are available to you to help decrease your costs.

- Consider whether your system will be on the grid or off. On the grid has the advantage that you can sell when you have an excess and buy electricity when you don’t have enough, while with an off the grid system you have a battery to store your excess.

- Consider what the environmental benefits are worth to you. This is a personal factor rather than a direct economic one. It won’t save you money, but knowing that you’re contributing a little less to pollution with solar energy might change how you feel about the expense.

Choosing to use solar energy in your home is an investment you can appreciate on many levels. Over a number of years it will save you money as you generate environmentally friendly solar energy. It’s not cheap to get started, but when you combine the environmental benefits with decreasing your reliance on fuel costs you can certainly appreciate the possibilities of solar energy.
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