The future is powered by renewables, and the more sources of electricity we have the more resilient our power grid will be. Researches at Michigan State University have created a solar film that can be applied to existing windows to generate electricity from the sun. The system is not as efficient as a standalone solar cell, but the benefits of putting the film on existing windows outweighs the inefficiency. The film is see through which means the windows look like normal windows. Imagine every window in a skyscraper generating a little amount of power or the windows on every electric car.
Back in 2017 MSU profiled Lunt’s work and explained that he and his team “pioneered the development ofa transparent luminescent solar concentratorthat when placed on a window creates solar energy without disrupting the view. The thin, plastic-like material can be used on buildings, car windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface.”
“The solar-harvesting system uses organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. The researchers can ‘tune’ these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then convert this energy into electricity,” MSU adds.
In Italy your next cup of coffee may come from a solar roaster instead of an unsustainable source. Climate change is threatening the ability of coffee plants to survive, as a result the entire industry may not exist by the end of the century. This has got smaller players in the industry (not the mega corporations) to explore new ways to process coffee from plant to cup.
A roasters the size of a tennis court can roast coffee using only the rays of the sun, making it incredibly efficient. The only high tech aspect of the whole operation are a few microchips and servos to move the mirrors
The process isn’t only environmentally friendly and economically convenient. According to Durbe and Tummei, it also better preserves the coffee’s aroma, giving it a richer flavor. Unlike conventional hot air ovens, which are typically gas-powered, the concentrated sunlight roasts the coffee without heating the air around it — by penetrating the grains in a more uniform way and without burning the exterior.
Solar panels are getting more efficient and the cost to produce them are decreasing by the day, already solar is cheaper than coal. Yet, due to previous policies and outdated economic models the real value of solar is underappreciated. While people wake up to the reality around the economics of solar the rest of us can call attention to the non-economic benefits of switching to sustainable power generation. Things like grid resiliency, if every home has solar panels then blackouts will become a thing of the past.
“Anyone who puts up solar is being a great citizen for their neighbors and for their local utility,” Pearce said, noting that when someone puts up grid-tied solar panels, they are essentially investing in the grid itself. “Customers with solar distributed generation are making it so utility companies don’t have to make as many infrastructure investments, while at the same time solar shaves down peak demands when electricity is the most expensive.”
Pearce and Koami Soulemane Hayibo, graduate student in the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab, found that grid-tied PV-owning utility customers are undercompensated in most of the U.S., as the “value of solar” eclipses both the net metering and two-tiered rates that utilities pay for solar electricity. Their results are published online now and will be printed in the March issue of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
The rise of renewable energy is even more impressive given the massive subsidies given to fossil fuel industries. Despite the bailouts for companies operating in the tar sands, the car subsidies, and other related government handouts, renewable energy just gets cheaper and cheaper.
This past month the International Energy Agency declared solar to be the cheapest source of electricity in history. Cheaper than coal!
Now, the IEA has reviewed the evidence internationally and finds that for solar, the cost of capital is much lower, at 2.6-5.0% in Europe and the US, 4.4-5.5% in China and 8.8-10.0% in India, largely as a result of policies designed to reduce the risk of renewable investments.
In the best locations and with access to the most favourable policy support and finance, the IEA says the solar can now generate electricity â€œat or belowâ€ $20 per megawatt hour (MWh). It says:
â€œFor projects with low-cost financing that tap high-quality resources, solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.â€
The IEA says that new utility-scale solar projects now cost $30-60/MWh in Europe and the US and just $20-40/MWh in China and India, where â€œrevenue support mechanismsâ€ such as guaranteed prices are in place.
Without a doubt all business have been negatively impacted by the pandemic with some being hit more than others. The dirty and climate-destroying fossil fuel industry has really been hit hard (unfortunately it’s the workers who have been hurt by this and not the lying executives) and the industry isn’t even benefiting from reduced gas prices at the pump. On the other hand renewable energy companies are doing fine with only a slow down and not an industry-stopping problem. Renewable energy growth is expected this year with more utilities investing in renewable instead of fossil fuel because renewable are still cheaper than carbon-intensive alternatives.
Even the decline in electricity use in recent weeks as businesses halted operations could help renewables, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates. Thatâ€™s because utilities, as revenue suffers, will try to get more electricity from wind and solar farms, which cost little to operate, and less from power plants fueled by fossil fuels.
â€œRenewables are on a growth trajectory today that I think isnâ€™t going to be set back long term,â€ said Dan Reicher, the founding executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University and an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration. â€œThis will be a bump in the road.â€