Solar Technologies

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Background of technology, including the basic science foundation

"The sun is the most reliable, plentiful source of renewable energy we have. In fact, more energy from the sun hits the Earth in one hour than humans use in an entire year. If we can find cheap and efficient ways to tap just a fraction of its power, we will go a long way toward finding a clean, affordable, and reliable energy source for the future." - Bill Gates[1]

Solar power uses some of the vast amounts of sustainable power radiated from the Sun. The key points to consider with energy supplied by the Sun is that it is:

  • clean [no pollution]
  • abundant [radiates orders of magnitude more energy than we need], and
  • it is sustainable [lasting for at least another billion years].

This is the only energy source that adequately meets those criteria (on such a scale): clean, abundant, and sustainable[2].

The atmosphere absorbs, diffuses and reflects some of this energy and so the concentration at the Earth's surface is less than in space. About half the incoming solar energy reaches the Earth's surface. The Earth receives 174,000 terawatts (TW) of incoming solar radiation at the upper atmosphere[3]. (Our average global power consumption is estimated at approximately 12 TW [4]. This could increase by about 30 percent between 2020 and 2040 [5].)

However, there are significant variations. The differences in average monthly insolation can vary from 25 percent close to the equator to a factor of 10 in very northern and southern areas. The ratio of diffuse to total annual insolation can range from 10 percent for bright sunny areas to 60 percent or more for areas with a moderate climate, such as Western Europe. The actual ratio largely determines the type of solar energy technology that can be used (non-concentrating or concentrating). The average power density of solar radiation is 100–300 watts a square metre. The net conversion efficiency of solar electric power systems (sunlight to electricity) is typically 10–15 percent. So substantial areas are required to capture and convert significant amounts of solar energy to fulfil energy needs (especially in industrialised countries, relative to today’s energy consumption). For instance, at a plant efficiency of 10 percent, an area of 3–10 square kilometres is required to generate an average of 100 megawatts of electricity—0.9 terawatt-hours of electricity or 3.2 petajoules of electricity a year—using a photovoltaic (or solar thermal electricity) system. [6]

Relatively large areas are needed to capture the energy that we need. Energy can be collect by large scale solar plants, and/or distributed small scale solar collectors such as panels on the rooftops of buildings. On a global scale, only a small fraction of desert would be required to meet our entire global needs. So there is adequate unused space on Earth for this. [7] [8]

Further increases in the efficiency of solar technologies mean that less surface area will be required. On earth there is a limit to the total energy collectable, which is orders of magnitude more than we currently use, as shown above. Using the space based solutions described below, we could in theory exceed this limit. However, it might be unwise to do so, as that could contribute to global warming, because much of our energy expenditure ends up as waste heat.

The Sun emits energy across the electromagnetic spectrum: radio, microwaves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and X-rays. A large portion of that energy is in the infrared and visible, and this is what most solar powered devices focus on.

Currently, there are two main approaches to harvesting this power:

  • thermal
  • photo-voltaic (PV)

There is also increasing interest in using solar energy to create fuel, in particular hydrogen fuel (a clean fuel).

Thermal solar power

In the past thermal solar panels were used on buildings to heat water, and they are still used in some places today.

Large scale plants have been built [often in deserts] with many mirrors that track the daily movement of the Sun and focus its rays onto a central receptor. This produces high temperatures that can be used to generate steam and turn generators to produce electricity [as is done in virtually all traditional power stations today].

This process has been modified to heat molten metal (sodium) [or a salt] which acts as a daily heat store. This means that the energy can be harvested and turned into electricity even after the Sun has set.

The efficiency of various parabolic designs has been compared, including oil versus molten salt.[9]

It has recently been claimed that an efficiency of 97 percent has been achieved: Solar dish sets steamy thermal energy efficiency record[10]. The IEEE Spectrum wrote this piece titled A Tower of Molten Salt Will Deliver Solar Power After Sunset - For the first time, solar thermal can compete with natural gas during nighttime peak demand.

The following paper investigates an innovative open thermochemical system dedicated to high density and long term (seasonal) storage purposes. It involves a hydrate/water reactive pair and operates with moist air. [11] The following references consider thermal energy storage. [12] [13]

Photo-voltaic

Most of the solar panels we see today on houses tend to be photo-voltaic cells. These convert the Sun's photons into electricity. Typically, these are made of light sensing diodes made of semiconductor material.

Australian engineers have taken us closer than ever before to the theoretical limits of sunlight-to-electricity conversion, by building photo-voltaic cells that can harvest an unheard of 34.5 percent of the Sun's energy without concentrators - setting a new world record[14].

Although the typical efficiency is relatively low today they are being continually improved by a range of approaches. These include improvements to the actual materials that convert photons into electricity, the addition of special surfaces[15], and the use of nanotechnologies.

Graphene may improve solar panels in the future[16].

Quantum dots can be used to tune materials to specific frequencies of light and increase the efficiency at which light is converted to electricity. One example[17] achieved an efficiency of 12 percent. Similarly for silicon nanowires. [18]

Organo-metallic compounds also shown promise as solar cells.[19]

One of the most promising new classes of material for producing photo-voltaic cells is Perovskites [20]. Perovskite solar cells offer several advantages over silicon cells including low cost materials, simple low temperature production processes, and the ability for it to be layered on flexible substrates. The main drawbacks to the technology are concerns about its lack of durability when exposed to moisture, and its shorter lifetime. Nevertheless, perovskite cell efficiency has rapidly progressed to ~22%, close to silicon cell levels, and in a remarkably short period of time. If the durability and lifetime issues can be improved, perovskite solar cells could find application in many solar power scenarios where rigid silicon cells are not as attractive.

Solar Updraft Tower

Another method studied for capturing low grade atmospheric solar heating is the Solar Updraft Tower[21]. The principle of concentrating rising heated air and using the subsequent air flow to drive turbine electric generators can apply for other sources of low grade heat beyond solar. For example, researchers developing a solution using the principle have called their approach an Atmospheric Vortex Engine, and pointed out how waste heat from existing power plants could power the generator[22]. By introducing a vortex flow in the rising air column, like an artificial dust devil or small tornado, they realized significant cost savings could be introduced with a lower physical tower height and a well constrained column of rising air[23]. The USA government recently completed a $3.7M ARPA-e project in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology to study the principles, naming their approach The Solar Vortex[24][25][26]. A researcher from the University of Split in Croatia has also studied the utilization of what he termed convective vortices for carbon free electricity production[27].

Solar power in nature

Many years before humans came on the scene plants (and algae) had mastered solar power: photosynthesis. This means there are many indirect solar derived energy sources in the biological world. Using these as an energy source, or fuel, is covered by the term bio-fuel. You'll see a number of references to bio-fuels on this page (e.g. waste to fuel, and the use of algae). They should not be underestimated, as they have the ability to be abundant in the future. However, controversy does exist with bio-fuels - where bio-fuel crops are grown on agricultural land that was used to produce food. It can be argued that it is better to grow food rather than fuel - when food is a scarcity. There is plenty of opportunity to grow bio-fuels elsewhere: by turning deserts green and utilising the oceans. Similarly, some biological processes can extract hydrogen from seawater[28].

An unusual approach uses a bio-fuel cell, two types of bacteria, organic feed, and solar energy to produce electricity. [29]

Collecting solar power in Space

[This title was changed from Harvesting to Collecting because harvesting is used to refer to very low power applications.]

To date, most solar power is collected on Earth. However, we shouldn't forget that solar panels are currently used on spacecraft throughout the solar system: satellites in Earth orbit, rovers on other planets, and interplanetary probes. For producing abundant, clean, sustainable energy for our use on Earth (and our activities in space) we should be open to the possibility of large scale structures in space that are able to collect solar energy. [30]

Such an approach has been proposed for Japan, whereby orbiting solar panels collect energy and beam it down to Japan: How Japan Plans to Build an Orbital Solar Farm[31].

Over the next few decades there could be thousands of people living in space. These people would have their own energy needs, and some of them may also be providing energy to Earth, which has been captured in space as that is probably more efficient.[32]

Although the largest current solar panels in space might be no bigger than those on the International Space Station, it is possible that larger structures might follow over the next few decades [given the will, and the funding]. For example, a project has been announced to demonstrate the 3D printing of large scale structures, in space: Archinaut, a 3D Printing Robot to Make Big Structures in Space[33].

High Intensity Solar Energy

Space based solar plants in orbit around the Earth could collect all of our current, and foreseeable future, terrestrial energy needs. However, it requires the construction of large structures. An alternative to that approach is to build solar plants closer to the Sun. This means that the energy per unit area increases and so smaller structures can be built.

The energy could be delivered to Earth as a concentrated beam (e.g. a laser, or microwave beam). However, there would be safety issues to consider with such an approach. Alternatively, water could be shipped from (high) Earth orbit to the solar plant where it is turned into hydrogen and oxygen fuel (potential energy), and then shipped back to Earth. The fuel could be used directly or used to generate electricity and beam power down to Earth [as mentioned above: Harvesting solar power in Space].


Wikipedia has a thorough section on space-based solar power.[34]

Solar Wind

A subclass of space-based solar power concepts, is formed by those systems that harvest solar wind, not solar radiation. The solar wind consists of an enormous number of charged particles, emitted by the sun at very high speeds. In principle, these particles can be used to generate electricity by using an enormous solar sail and a charged wire, a so-called Dyson-Harrop satellite[35], which generates energy from the solar wind passing along it. The solar wind is a hot and fast flow of magnetized gas that streams away from the sun's upper atmosphere. It is made of hydrogen and helium ions with a sprinkling of heavier elements.  Researchers liken it to the steam from a pot of water boiling on a stove; the sun is literally boiling itself away[36]. According to scientist from Washington State University[37], the amount of power you can generate is essentially limitless, constrained only by the size of the solar sail you deploy[38].

  • 300 meters of copper wire, attached to a two meter wide receiver and a 10 meter sail could generate sufficient electricity for 1,000 households.
  • A satellite with a 1,000 meter of cable, and a sail 8,400km wide, could generate one billion billion gigawatt’s of power.[39]

Solar Flares

Although erratic, solar flares emit huge amounts of energy![40][41] If just a portion of this energy could be captured (and stored) then this might represent a significant new source of energy.

Troposphere

One idea to help resolve the disadvantages of both ground based and space based solar panels is to put photo voltaic panels on a high altitude aerostat platform in the troposphere, above clouds and weather. Such platforms could be modular, produced in volume for low cost, and support sizeable solar farms at average utilization values three to four times above those available on the ground in most places[42]. Some ideas have included energy storage schemes, such as gravity storage in weights hung from the underside of the aerostat along tethers [43], or hydrogen production[44]. Several projects evaluated what could be achieved with tether technology and propose the ability to tether the aerostats at between 6 km and 20 km altitude, with station keeping and power connection provided by the tethers in all but the worst weather, falling back on the ability to winch the aerostats down if necessary in rare cases[45]. It is possible a portion of the captured energy could be used for motor driven station keeping, with power either passed down a power tether or microwave beamed to ground stations[46]

Fuel from solar

There are a number of mechanisms that could be used to generate fuel from solar power.[47] [48]

It has been claimed that a highly manufacturable and inexpensive method for personal solar energy storage has been discovered by using chemical reactions: HY (Y = halide or OH−) splitting is a fuel-forming reaction of sufficient energy density for large-scale solar storage.[49]

There is a novel two-step SnO2/SnO water-splitting cycle for solar thermo-chemical production of hydrogen. [50]

See also Solar Power in Nature [above], whereby bio-fuels are used to provide energy.

One group active in this field is professor Nate Lewis's team at CalTech.[51]

Transitioning global transport forms one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in an effort to decarbonise future energy systems. [52] So the availability of solar derived fuels for transport might help to solve this.

See also: solar derived Alternative Fuels on the Other Technologies page.

An unusual approach uses a bio-fuel cell, two types of bacteria, organic feed, and solar energy to produce electricity. [29]

An high intensity solar simulation facility has been developed to investigate technologies that turn sunlight into hydrogen fuel. [53]

Solar fuel from the atmosphere

This one copies nature's photosynthesis. Hard to believe until you see it, but small scale prototypes exist that use focused solar energy to turn the water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into fuel! This sounds great because it is free energy (from the Sun) and it is extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Of course, when burnt the carbon dioxide returns to the atmosphere; but it is a sustainable process (unlike fossil fuels). [54] [55]

When shown on the TV [BBC] the inventors claimed that a large satellite dish type structure could produce enough fuel for the typical daily car journey [can't find a link]. Alternatively, there might be better alternatives to fuel from air. [56]

And why not put that fuel back underground (where the oil originally came from) to permanently extract carbon dioxide and counteract climate change. [57]

World's first tactile watch powered with Solar Energy

Tissot 1853 T-TOUCH Expert Solar, released in 2014

Flights with Solar Energy, 2 Different Valuable ~The Firsts~ Projects

Aquila Facebook Solar Plane

*Solar Plane for Connecting People, for facilitating the Internet Connections Everywhere; it is like a drone plane, can fly for 2 weeks with Solar Energy

Aquila's First Fly, 28 June 2016, a valuable video

Solar Impulse, a Swiss Project

*Solar Impulse, a Swiss Project, the First Plane that made Round The World Solar Flight

In 2016, The Flight over Atlantic was in 71h with Solar Energy

Solar Impulse, a valuable video Best on the round the world

Current state of the technology

Solar is a well established sector with over 30,000 companies worldwide.

In 2016 the world doubled its solar power capacity, and large scale solar farms and energy storage facilities continue to be added. [58] Alternatively, it is reported that power generated by new solar panel installations surged 50 percent in 2016, reaching 76 gigawatts compared to the growth of 50 gigawatts in 2015. [59] The graph of growth in solar shows that it is expected to double this year, and it looks like an exponential growth graph! [60]

As an example of the type of progress we get from exponential growth, consider an energy technology that currently provides just one percent of total demand. See how quickly it grows year on year:

Exponential Growth: The ability to rapidly meet demand
Year 0 Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7
Percentage of total demand 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128

(These claims of year over year exponential growth rates being applied to solar usage is grossly unfounded, please cite your growth rate, as there is no known Exponential Growth that describes solar growth uptake...)

Actual Growth: U.S. Year Over Year Solar Growth Rate Since 2000
Year 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
U.S. Solar Usage Quadrillion Btu 0.596 0.427 0.316 0.225 0.157 0.111 0.09 0.078 0.074 0.065 0.061 0.058 0.058 0.058 0.06 0.062 0.063
1 Year U.S. Solar Growth Rate 39% 35% 40% 43% 41% 23% 15% 5% 14% 7% 5% 0% 0% -3% -3% -2%

If the current trend(CITATION NEEDED) identified for growth in solar power continues then within one decade solar would meet all of today's demand, plus an extra amount to meet some of our growth in demand. In short, don't overlook the potential of solar power to quickly meet our needs - given the right attitude and support. (Note also that over this decade we can expect significant improvements in the efficiency of solar technology.) Not all sources suggest a doubling annually, so the rate of progress (without a breakthrough innovation) might be slower than the above table. [61]

However, we still need an XPRIZE to reduce the cost of energy for all, and to allow its widespread adoption throughout the developing world. This doesn't just mean providing typical urban power, it means providing much more power so that deserts can be irrigated and food can be grown. It will allow nations across the world to combat the effects of drought and prevent famine.

Solar power and electric cars are predicted to halt the growth in oil and coal by 2020[62]. Emerging technology, such as printable solar photovoltaics which generate electricity, could bring down costs and boost take-up even more than currently predicted. "Electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates. Further innovation could make our scenarios look conservative in five years’ time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more." However, currently forecast solar technologies will not meet all of our demands. Solar panels could supply 23% of global power generation by 2040 and 29% by 2050.

There are a range of well established technologies, with efficiency percentages typically in the range 10 to 15 for PV; and a breakthrough at 34.5 percent. Many PV solar panels have been deployed and it demonstrates that the technology is robust and effective. Claims of higher efficiency ratings have been made for some solar thermal plants.

The rate of deployment is perhaps slower than required, but this is because on non-technical factors that are also associated with other renewable technologies (e.g. development and deployment costs, investment, policies, and slow manual deployment).

The space based solutions are less developed: they're still on the drawing board, with a few exceptions. However, the relatively low cost of nano-satellites / CubeSats [63] might make the demonstration of a prototype ecosystem viable within the time-frame of an energy challenge. NASA is already looking at the development of a 200W Deep Space CubeSat Composite Beam Roll-Up Solar Array[64], and the 3D printing of large structures in space [covered above in space collection].

NexWafe uses the Kerfless Wafer [/www.nexwafe.com/#technology Technology] for the [/www.nexwafe.com/#production production] of monocrystalline silicon wafers. Our EpiWafers are a [/www.nexwafe.com/#product drop-in replacement] for Cz wafers in solar cell production. "We will supply them at an unprecedented price."[65]Colad

Solar still provides less than 1% of Annual U.S. Energy Consumed

Year 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1995 1990
U.S. Solar Usage Quadrillion Btu 0.596* 0.427 0.316 0.225 0.157 0.111 0.09 0.078 0.074 0.065 0.061 0.058 0.058 0.058 0.06 0.062 0.063 0.068 0.059
Total U.S. Energy Usage 76.9 80.8 79.8 81.7 79.1 77.9 74.7 72.6 73.2 71.4 70.7 69.4 70.2 69.9 70.7 71.7 71.3 71.2 70.7
Solar's as a Pct of Total U.S. Energy Supply 0.77% 0.53% 0.40% 0.28% 0.20% 0.14% 0.12% 0.11% 0.10% 0.09% 0.09% 0.08% 0.08% 0.08% 0.08% 0.09% 0.09% 0.10% 0.08%

*Assumes .0496 quadrillion Btu in December 2016 (average of 11 prior months) since this data wasn't available at the time of this report.[66]

Required inputs for energy generation

The inputs for any energy generation process can be represented as shown in the System Representation. [67] The efficiency of the system is represented by the output energy divided by the input energy. In this case the input energy is an external "free" source of energy, the Sun: the most sustainable energy source in our solar system. The higher the efficiency of energy conversion the smaller the area required to produce a given amount of power.

From an environmental impact perspective, energy will be input during the manufacture and deployment of the solar facilities (and during their decommissioning).

Organizations/researchers working with this technology

There are many working in the solar power sector:

  • Solar Power Europe members [68]
  • Scottish Renewable Energy directory (solar) [69]
  • ENF Industry Directory [70]
  • World Directory of Renewable, Alternative Energy, and Energy Efficiency Organisations (solar) [71]
  • Web Directory: Science:Energy:Alternative Energy:Solar Energy [72]
  • Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA): Members [73]
  • Top50-Solar: Gateway to the world of renewable energies [74]
  • Solar Energy Directory [75]
  • Tesla Solar [76]
  • Energy Research at the University of Cambridge: Photovoltaics [77]
  • Oxford Energy [78]
  • Oxford University: Physics [79]
  • Imperial researchers collaborate on project to supply solar power to UK trains [80]
  • Centre for Solar Energy Research (CSER) [81]
  • Manchester University: Energy [82]
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory [83]
  • MIT Energy Initiative [84]
  • Solar cell research and researchers [85]

The ENF Industry Directory claims that their database has over 30,500 photovoltaic companies!

Reasons why the science and technology has not moved forward

Solar technologies and the deployment of solar power solutions is racing ahead, at an exponential rate according to some sources [61], but perhaps the rate is no longer exponential in the US [86].

Solar power policy

It is not just a good technology that makes things happen, but also the appropriate support[87] and clearance of political and business based obstacles. It might be that solar power has the ability to not only make a significant impact but to also become the major source of power.

For example, Will Fossil Fuels And Conventional Cars Be Obsolete By 2030?[88] argues that solar power (and storage) has great potential, if the right policies and investment opportunities are created.

The overall context from a policy making point of view can contribute to the pace at which solar (or other renewable sources) proceed. Setting ambitious, but achievable, targets drives innovation and entrepreneurial activities. For example, when States Lead the Way Toward 100% Renewable Energy [89] significant things might happen. Conversely, the continuation of policy supports might be necessary for several decades to maintain and enhance the growth of solar energy in both developed and developing countries[90].

Costs of facilities, production, now and projected future costs with improvements

Operational costs might need to be included as soiling is a commonly overlooked or underestimated issue that can be a showstopper for the viability of a solar installation. The referenced paper provides a comprehensive overview of soiling problems, primarily those associated with “dust” (sand) and combined dust–moisture conditions that are inherent to many of the most solar-rich geographic locations worldwide. [91]

Intellectual Property surrounding technology

Solar blackbody waveguide for high pressure and high temperature applications [92] It uses sunlight to heat a thermal heat transfer fluid. One or more systems of optical mirrors provided on each tower captures and concentrates the sunlight. Each system of optical mirrors is movably mounted on its tower to track the daily movement of the sun and to maintain the proper angle with the horizon throughout the year.

Arrays of Ultrathin Silicon Solar Microcells [93] Provided are solar cells, photovoltaics and related methods for making solar cells, wherein the solar cell is made of ultrathin solar grade or low quality silicon. In an aspect, the invention is a method of making a solar cell by providing a solar cell substrate having a receiving surface and assembling a printable semiconductor element on the receiving surface of the substrate via contact printing. The semiconductor element has a thickness that is less than or equal to 100 μm and, for example, is made from low grade Si.

Solar blackbody waveguide for efficient and effective conversion of solar flux to heat energy [94] A solar blackbody waveguide that captures and uses sunlight to heat a thermal working or heat transfer fluid. Solar cell arrays capture the sunlight. The arrays are movably mounted on solar towers to track the daily movement of the sun and to maintain the proper angle with the horizon throughout the year.

Adaptive, full-spectrum solar energy system [95] An adaptive full spectrum solar energy system having at least one hybrid solar concentrator, at least one hybrid luminaire, at least one hybrid photobioreactor, and a light distribution system operably connected to each hybrid solar concentrator, each hybrid luminaire, and each hybrid photobioreactor. A lighting control system operates each component.

Solar photovoltaic module to solar collector hybrid retrofit [96] The present invention discloses a system for a retrofitting a photovoltaic energy collector, by coupling a thermal energy absorbing working fluid casing for flowing heat out to a heat sink The solar module is cooled by the working fluid transferring unproductive heat away from the photovoltaic array and into an exterior heat sink via the cooling fluid circuit, thus making the photovoltaic array more efficient, while adding another energy source. The retrofitting can be done at the consumers convenience, discretion and site, overcoming the current requirement forcing the consumer to decide on one solar technology over another with competing needs.

Solar photovoltaic collector hybrid [97] The present invention discloses a system for a hybrid solar energy collector comprising a CIGS photovoltaic energy collector, the photovoltaic energy collector being thermally coupled to an energy absorbing working fluid casing for flowing heat out to heat sink The solar radiation is trapped in the photovoltaic collector, generating electrical power from the CIGS photovoltaic array, The array is cooled by the working fluid transferring unproductive heat away from the photovoltaic array and into an exterior heat sink via the cooling fluid circuit, thus making the photovoltaic array more efficient, while adding another energy source. Where thermal collection is not beneficial, a floating platform supported CIGS PV array may be cost effectively cooled to increase efficiency, by harnessing wave energy from a wave power device to flow cooling or evaporative spray water over the panel.

Solar augmented geothermal energy [98] An apparatus and a method is disclosed for storage of solar energy in a subsurface geologic reservoir. The method includes transferring concentrated solar thermal energy to a fluid, thereby generating a supercritical fluid. The supercritical fluid is then injected into the subsurface geologic reservoir through at least one injection well. The subsurface geologic reservoir may be a highly permeable and porous sedimentary strata, a depleted hydrocarbon field, a depleting hydrocarbon field, a depleted oil field, a depleting oil field, a depleted gas field, or a depleting gas field. Once charged with the supercritical fluid, the subsurface geologic formation forms a synthetic geothermal reservoir. [Energy Storage]

Solar powered generating apparatus and methods [99] Methods and apparatus for generation of thermoelectric power. In one embodiment, thermoelectric power is generated via a solar power collector; a solar power receiver; and a power conversion unit. The solar power collector focuses energy from the sun onto the receiver. A phase change material adapted to store the radiant energy from the sun in the form of thermal energy is provided to the receiver. Stored energy is converted, at the power conversion unit, into electricity.

Template for three-dimensional thin-film solar cell manufacturing and methods of use [100] A template 100 for three-dimensional thin-film solar cell substrate formation for use in three-dimensional thin-film solar cells. The template 100 comprises a substrate which comprises a plurality of posts 102 and a plurality of trenches 104 between said plurality of posts 102. The template 100 forms an environment for three-dimensional thin-film solar cell substrate formation.

Pyramidal three-dimensional thin-film solar cells [101] A pyramidal three-dimensional thin-film solar cell, comprising a pyramidal three-dimensional thin-film solar cell substrate comprising a plurality of pyramid-shaped unit cells with emitter junction regions and doped base regions, emitter metallization regions and base metallization regions. Optionally, the pyramidal three-dimensional thin-film solar cell may be mounted on a rear mirror for improved light trapping and conversion efficiency.

Solar module structures and assembly methods for three-dimensional thin-film solar cells [102]

Concentrated solar system [103] A concentrating solar collector in the shape of an inverted truncated pyramid (collector) with light reflective surfaces on the inside. The collector includes a large top opening which is pointed towards the sun collecting the sun rays. A high-concentration photovoltaic solar cell is placed at the narrow end of the collector. The light is concentrated onto the solar cell, which generates electricity from the concentrated solar light. The collector is made of, but not limited to, an inflatable lightweight reflective film, balloon filled with helium, glass, plastic or metal. The reflective surface inside the collector is obtained using inexpensive mirror coating which is applied to clear glass or plastic. A cooling system is used for keeping the concentrated photovoltaic solar cell at or close to a fixed temperature to maintain the cell at its highest operating efficiency of power generation.

Electric generation facility and method employing solar technology [104]

Organic devices, organic electroluminescent devices and organic solar cells [105]

System and Method for Creating a Networked Infrastructure Distribution Platform of Solar Energy Gathering Devices [106] A roadway system for solar energy generation and distribution is presented. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the roadway system comprises a plurality of solar energy generating devices, one or more roads, and a roadway system electricity grid.

Ultra and very-high efficiency solar cells [107] The present invention is an apparatus and method for the realization of a photovoltaic solar cell that is able to achieve greater than 50% efficiency and can be manufactured at low cost on a large scale. The apparatus of the present invention is an integrated optical and solar cell design that allows a much broader choice of materials, enabling high efficiency, the removal of many existing cost drivers, and the inclusion of multiple other innovations.

Nanoparticle sensitized nanostructured solar cells [108] In general, the invention relates to the field of photovoltaics or solar cells. More particularly the invention relates to photovoltaic devices using metal oxide nanostructures in connection with photoactive nanoparticles including nanoparticles of different size and composition to form a photovoltaic device.

Polar mounting arrangement for a solar concentrator [109] A solar collector can be rotated and tilted about a polar mount. The solar collector can be designed such that the center of gravity of the collector is aligned with the axis of the polar mount facilitating the use of smaller positioning devices. The collector can be placed in a position to prevent damage by inclement weather and allow easy access for maintenance and installation.

Shadow Mask Methods For Manufacturing Three-Dimensional Thin-Film Solar Cells [110] Methods for manufacturing three-dimensional thin-film solar cells using a template. The template comprises a template substrate comprising a plurality of three-dimensional surface features. The three-dimensional thin-film solar cell substrate is formed by forming a sacrificial layer on the template, subsequently depositing a semiconductor layer, selectively etching the sacrificial layer, and releasing the semiconductor layer from the template. Select portions of the three-dimensional thin-film solar cell substrate are then doped with a first dopant, while other select portions are doped with a second dopant. Next, selective emitter and base metallization regions are formed using a PECVD shadow mask process.

Wireless mesh networking of solar tracking devices [111]

Carbon Nanotubes As Charge Carriers In Organic and Hybrid Solar Cells [112] Organic and organic/inorganic hybrid bulk heterojunction photovoltaic devices with improved efficiencies are disclosed. The organic photovoltaic device comprises a photoactive polymer:fullerene C60-carbon nanotube (polymer:C60-CNT) composite as a component of the active layer. Under light irradiation, photoinduced charge separation at the polymer:C60 interface is followed by electron transfer from C60 onto CNTs for efficient electron transport towards an electrode. The organic/inorganic hybrid photovoltaic device comprises quantum dots and carbon nanotubes. Power conversion efficiency enhancement methods of polymer-CNT based photovoltaics are also provided.

Nanostructured material comprising semiconductor nanocrystal complexes for use in solar cell and method of making a solar cell comprising nanostructured material [113] A solar cell includes a semiconductor base layer, a semiconductor nanocrystal complex over the semiconductor base layer, and a semiconductor emitter layer formed over the semiconductor nanocrystal complex. The semiconductor nanocrystal complex includes nanocrystal cores dispersed in an inorganic matrix material. A corresponding method is also disclosed.

Solar array resembling natural foliage including means for wireless transmission of electric power [114]

Truncated pyramid structures for see-through solar cells [115] The present disclosure presents a partially-transparent (see-through) three-dimensional thin film solar cell (3-D TFSC) substrate. The substrate includes a plurality of unit cells. Each unit cell structure has the shape of a truncated pyramid, and its parameters may be varied to allow a desired portion of sunlight to pass through.

Concentrator solar photovoltaic array with compact tailored imaging power units [116] Solar panels and assembled arrays thereof include a collection of relatively compact, high-capacity power units. Optical components of each power unit include a front window or surface glazing, a primary mirror, secondary mirror and receiver assembly.

High efficiency solar panel and system [117]

Partially Self-Refueling Low Emissions Vehicle and Stationary Power System [118]

Partially Self-Refueling Zero Emissions System [119]

Process and device for producing a CIS-strip solar cell [120] First step of continuously galvanically coating one side of a pre-cleaned copper strip with indium, a second step of very quickly heating the copper strip coated with indium by a contact method with a heated body of graphite and to bring one side into contact with a heated sulfur or selenium containing carrier gas in a narrow gap, a third step of selectively removing by an etching technique the generated cover layer of copper sulfide or selenide, and a fourth step of providing a p+ conductive transparent collector or planarizing layer of copper oxide/sulfide.

Back contact for thin film solar cells [121] Thin film photovoltaic devices comprising Group II-VI semiconductor layers with a substrate configuration having an interface layer between the back electrode and the absorber layer capable of creating an ohmic contact in the device.

Junctions in substrate solar cells [122] thin film photovoltaic devices comprising Group II-VI semiconductor layers with a substrate configuration having an interface layer between the absorber layer and the window layer to create improved junctions.

Solar cencentration plant for the production of superheated steam [123] Control of the pointing of the field of heliostats towards either of the subsystems (evaporator or superheater) may be carried out, with individual or group pointing of the heliostats, in such a way that they jointly control both the pressure within the drum and the outlet temperature of the superheated steam.

Laminated photovoltaic modules using back-contact solar cells [124]

Optoelectronic device comprising perovskites [125] An optoelectronic device comprising a porous material, which porous material comprises a semiconductor comprising a perovskite.

Low temperature rankine cycle solar power system with low critical temperature hfc or hc working fluid [126] This invention relates to a low temperature solar thermal power system, which combines the solar hot water collectors with the organic Rankine cycle system using the low critical temperature hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) or hydrocarbons (HC) working fluid for converting solar energy to electrical energy. This invention also relates to systems and methodology for conversion of low temperature thermal energy, wherever obtained, to electrical energy using the low critical temperature hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) or hydrocarbons (HC) working fluid for organic Rankine cycle system to drive an electrical generator or do other work in a cost effective way.

Systems for cost-effective concentration and utilization of solar energy [127]

Method for producing a silicon solar cell with a back-etched emitter as well as a corresponding solar cell [128]

Solar Panel Tracking and Mounting System [129]

Solid-state sun tracker [130] This invention deals with the general topic of adaptive non-imaging tracking of the sun. A transmission-mode electro-optical system is presented for solar energy tracking and collection. The scale of the system may range from small portable systems to large-scale industrial power plants used for the production of environmentally benign energy. It maybe integrated directly into buildings and other platforms without the need for heliostats to hold photovoltaic cells or other energy conversion devices above the building or other host platform. It makes solar energy harvesting systems practical by allowing the separation of tracking, collection, concentration, aggregation, distribution, and energy conversion. This novel system is unique and distinct from other sun tracking and energy conversion systems because it allows adaptive solid-state electronics to be used in place of conventional mechanical tracking heliostats. Furthermore, it is highly precise and therefore allows very high levels of concentration to be achieved in an dynamic environment. It is also cost effective because it leverages integrated opto-electronics instead of mechanical devices to perform sun tracking.

Concentrating type solar collection and daylighting system within glazed building envelopes [131] A Fresnel lens including a substantially polygonal focusing portion adapted to focus solar radiation to a area having the same geometry as the focusing portion of the lens. Also a solar module including the Fresnel collecting lens and a substantially polygonal photovoltaic cell. The photovoltaic cell is mounted at distance from the Fresnel collecting lens so that the size of the area substantially matches the size of the photovoltaic cell.

System and method for creating a networked infrastructure distribution platform of fixed hybrid solar wind energy generating devices [132]

Systems for highly efficient solar power [133] Solar power conversion circuitry that can be used to harvest maximum power from a solar source.

Solar thermal power plant with the integration of an aeroderivative turbine [134]

High efficiency inorganic nanorod-enhanced photovoltaic devices [135]

Solar energy reflector array [136]

Apparatus and methods for solar energy conversion using nanoscale cometal structures [137]

Apparatus and methods for solar energy conversion using nanocoax structures [138] An apparatus and method for solar conversion using nanocoax structures are disclosed herein. A nano-optics apparatus for use as a solar cell comprising a plurality of nano-coaxial structures comprising an internal conductor surrounded by a semiconducting material coated with an outer conductor; a film having the plurality of nano-coaxial structures; and a protruding portion of the an internal conductor extending beyond a surface of the film. A method of fabricating a solar cell comprising: coating a substrate with a catalytic material; growing a plurality of carbon nanotubes as internal cores of nanocoax units on the substrate; oxidizing the substrate; coating with a semiconducting film; and filling with a metallic medium that wets the semiconducting film of the nanocoax units.

Thin film solar cells with monolithic integration and backside contact [139] Novel thin film photovoltaic devices with monolithic integration and backside metal contacts and methods of making the devices. The innovative approach described in the present invention allows for devices and methods of construction completely through thin-film processes. Solar cells in accordance with the present invention provide an increased output for large devices due to decreased current loss in the transparent conducting electrode.

Solar cell receiver for concentrated photovoltaic system for III-V semiconductor solar cell [140] A solar cell module comprises an array of lenses, corresponding secondary optical elements and corresponding solar cell receivers. The solar cell receiver includes a solar cell having one or more III-V compound semiconductor layers, a diode coupled in parallel with the solar cell and connector for coupling to other solar cell receivers. The module includes a housing that supports the lenses such that each lens concentrates solar energy onto its respective solar cell.

Solar concentrator plant [141]

Autonomous heliostat for solar power plant [142]

Integrated 3-dimensional and planar metallization structure for thin film solar cells [143] A method operable to produce integrated 3-dimension and planar metallization structure for thin film solar cells is provided. This method involves depositing a thin film on a template mask, the template mask having both substantially flat and textured areas. The thin film is then released from the template mask. Emitters are formed on the thin film. Finally, metallization of the substantially flat areas takes place.

Multi-receiver heliostat system architecture [144] A system architecture for large concentrated solar power applications that increases heliostat utilization efficiency and land utilization efficiency is described. Embodiments of the invention include a large heliostat field in which are distributed a number of receiving locations, and wherein there is the assignment of heliostats to receiving locations is dynamic. Embodiments of the invention include dynamically targeting heliostats to receiving locations wherein the target determination process is performed frequently during operation and wherein such dynamic targeting can be utilized to various ends. Embodiments of the invention include configurations wherein cosine losses associated with heliostat pointing are significantly reduced, wherein heliostats may be closely packed without incurring substantial shadowing and blocking losses thereby significantly increasing land utilization, and wherein other benefits are realized.

Nanoparticle sensitized nanostructured solar cells [145] Photovoltaic devices using metal oxide nanostructures in connection with photoactive nanoparticles including nanoparticles of different size and composition to form a photovoltaic device.

Optical systems fabricated by printing-based assembly [146]

Method for preparing selective emitter crystalline silicon solar cell [147]

Method to create high efficiency, low cost polysilicon or microcrystalline solar cell on flexible substrates using multilayer high speed inkjet printing and, rapid annealing and light trapping [148]

Process for making solar cells [149] The invention describes a process and apparatus for making a photovoltaic device in a continuous roll to roll process. The fabrication apparatus in accordance with the present invention is quite novel and non-obvious and provides capital efficiency and advantages in processing for thin film solar cells.

Concentrated Photovoltaic System Modules Using III-V Semiconductor Solar Cells [150] The lens and the at least one optical element may concentrate the light onto the respective solar cell by a factor of 1000 or more to generate in excess of 25 watts of peak power.

Solar Power Generation Assembly and Method for Providing Same [151] A solar power generation assembly and method for providing same involving an array of solar generating modules on a dual-incline structure, which can achieve high energy yields over a wide range of azimuths/orientations. The assembly consists of canopy wings providing for the dual-incline structure, where, depending on specifications, the canopy wings can differ in length, width, angle of inclination, structural material and solar module or other material mounted on the surface.

Photovoltaic cell with patterned contacts [152] Photovoltaic cells and processes that mitigate recombination losses of photogenerated carriers are provided. To reduce recombination losses, diffuse doping layers in active photovoltaic (PV) elements are coated with patterns of dielectric material(s) that reduce contact between metal contacts and the active PV element. Various patterns can be utilized, and one or more surfaces of the PV element can be coated with one or more dielectrics. Vertical Multi-Junction photovoltaic cells can be produced with patterned PV elements, or unit cells. While patterned PV elements can increase series resistance of VMJ photovoltaic cells, and patterning one or more surfaces in the PV element can add complexity to a process utilized to produce VMJ photovoltaic cells, reduction of carrier losses at diffuse doping layers in a PV element increases efficiency of photovoltaic cells, and thus provide with PV operational advantages that outweigh increased manufacturing complexity. System to fabricate the photovoltaic cells is provided.

Growth substrates for inverted metamorphic multijunction solar cells [153] A method of manufacturing a solar cell by providing a gallium arsenide carrier with a prepared bonding surface; providing a sapphire substrate; bonding the gallium arsenide carrier and the sapphire substrate to produce a composite structure; detaching the bulk of the gallium arsenide carrier from the composite structure, leaving a gallium arsenide growth substrate on the sapphire substrate; and depositing a sequence of layers of semiconductor material forming a solar cell on the growth substrate.

Elongated photovoltaic cells in tubular casings [154]

Hermetically sealed cylindrical solar cells [155]

Method and structure for fabricating solar cells using a thick layer transfer process [156]

Solar cell including sputtered reflective layer and method of manufacture thereof [157] An exemplary method may include providing a semiconductor substrate and introducing dopant atoms to a front surface of the substrate. The substrate may be annealed to drive the dopant atoms deeper in the substrate to produce a p-n junction while also forming front and back passivation layers. A reflective surface is sputtered on the back surface of the solar cell. It protects and generates hydrogen to passivate one or more substrate-passivation layer interfaces at the same time as forming an anti-reflective layer on the front surface of the substrate.

Photovoltaic devices including quantum dot down-conversion materials useful for solar cells and materials including quantum dots [158] A photovoltaic device includes a heat transfer material comprising a dispersion of down-conversion quantum dots in a host medium.

Power generation by solar/pneumatic cogeneration in a large, natural or man-made, open pit [159]

Method of manufacturing an amorphous/crystalline silicon heterojunction solar cell [160]

Nanophotovoltaic Device with Improved Quantum Efficiency [161] Photovoltaic devices or solar cells are provided having one or more photoactive layers where at least one of the photoactive layers comprises a sublayer made of photoactive nanoparticles that differ in size, composition or both.

Nanostructure and methods of making the same [162]

Dye-sensitized type solar cell [163] A dye-sensitized solar cell of high safety, of improved ionic conductivity, and excellent cell performance.

Photovoltaic modules on a textile substrate [164] A photovoltaic module having a textile substrate having conductors, an array of functional tiles on the substrate.

Vertical junction pv cells [165] A monolithic semiconductor solar cell including a semiconductor layer including a plurality of pores, wherein walls of the pores are doped, forming vertical junctions between the walls of the pores and a bulk of the semiconductor, the pores each contain a conductor which is in electrical contact with the walls of the pores, and the conductors of the pores are electrically interconnected to provide an output voltage of the solar cell.

Photovoltaic Thin-Film Solar Cell and Method Of Making The Same [166] A photovoltaic device having a front and back orientation and comprising: a crystalline substrate having a resistivity greater than about 0.01 ohm-cm; and an epitaxy thin-film layer in front of said substrate, said thin-film layer contacting said substrate in at least one region to define a p-n junction.

Optically enhanced multi-spectral detector structure [167] An integrated optical system and method employs an optical concentrator, a spectral splitting assembly for splitting incident light into multiple beams of light, each with a different nominal spectral bandwidth; for improved collection efficiencies.

Photovoltaic device containing nanoparticle sensitized carbon nanotubes [168]

Thin Film Photovoltaic Solar Cells [169]

Optical Device [170] An improved optoelectronic device is described, which employs optically responsive nanoparticles and utilises a non-radiative energy transfer mechanism. The nanoparticles are disposed on the sidewalls of one or more cavities, which extend from the surface of the device through the electronic structure and penetrate the energy transfer region. The nanoparticles are located in close spatial proximity to an energy transfer region, whereby energy is transferred non-radiatively to or from the electronic structure through non-contact dipole-dipole interaction. According to the mode of operation, the device can absorb light energy received from the device surface via the cavity and then transfer this non-radiatively or can transfer energy non-radiatively and then emit light energy towards the surface of the device via the cavity. As such, the deice finds application in light emitting devices, photovoltaic (solar) cells, displays, photodetectors, lasers and single photon devices.

Portable solar energy system [171] The portable solar energy system stores electrical energy generated by a solar panel, which is made of an array of photovoltaic cells, in a dc storage battery, and upon demand converts the dc voltage of the battery to an ac output suitable for supplying conventional electrical appliances.

Photovoltaic device with nanostructured layers [172]

Solar rail or railing system [173]

Solar modules with tracking and concentrating features [174] fixed solar-electric modules having arrays of solar concentrator assemblies capable of separately tracking movements through one or two degrees of rotational freedom to follow the movement of the sun daily and/or seasonally. The concentrators can include optical elements to direct and concentrate light onto photovoltaic and/or thermoelectric receivers for generation of electric current.

Low temperature solar energy-biomass energy combined heat and power system [175]

Three-dimensional thin-film semiconductor substrate with through-holes and methods of manufacturing [176]

Solar receiver [177] A lightweight reflector with a load bearing structure based on a tensile spoke-wheel. The spoke structure is especially compatible with dish parabolic mirrors and for non-concentrating thin film solar panels.

Photovoltaic Modules Having a Filling Material [178] A photovoltaic module comprising an elongated substrate in which at least a portion of the elongated substrate is rigid.

High efficiency tandem solar cells on silicon substrates using ultra thin germanium buffer layers [179] A system is disclosed for providing electrical power responsive to solar energy. The system includes a Si cell, an AlGaAs cell, and a Ge cell. The Si cell is for providing electrical power responsive to solar energy within a first frequency range. The AlGaAs cell is coupled to a first side of the Si cell, and is for providing electrical power responsive to solar energy within a second frequency range. The Ge cell is coupled to a second side of the Si cell, and the Ge cell provides electrical power responsive to solar energy within a third frequency range.

Low-temperature doping processes for silicon wafer devices [180] The resultant silicon substrate and doped layer (or thin film) can be used in solar cell manufacturing.

Manufacturing methods and structures for large-area thin-film solar cells and other semiconductor devices [181]

Methods of interconnecting thin film solar cells [182]

Abnormality Detection Architecture and Methods For Photovoltaic Systems [183]

Hover Installed Renewable Energy Tower [184] The tower supports wind and solar power.

Cylindrical solar energy collector [185]

Thick Crystalline Silicon Film On Large Substrates for Solar Applications [186]

Novel Solar Panel String Converter Topology [187] The inventive technology, in certain embodiments, may be generally described as a solar power generation system with a converter, which may potentially include two or more sub-converters, established intermediately of one or more strings of solar panels. Particular embodiments may involve sweet spot operation in order to achieve improvements in efficiency, and bucking of open circuit voltages by the converter in order that more panels may be placed on an individual string or substring, reducing the number of strings required for a given design, and achieving overall system and array manufacture savings.

Stacked wavelength-selective opto-electronic device [188] A device comprising a number of different wavelength-selective active layers (12) arranged in a vertical stack on a substrate such that the incident light is caused to travel through layers with monotonically decreasing band-gaps. Photons of different energies are selectively absorbed in or emitted by the active layers. [This could increase the efficiency of solar cells, by harnessing more of the spectrum.]

Combined solar thermal power generation and a power station therefore [189] A power generation apparatus comprising: a photovoltaic power generation unit; a coolant system for the photovoltaic power generation unit, configured to provide coolant over the photovoltaic power generation unit and to extract coolant after use; and a turbine power generation unit, configured for operation by fluid at least partly heated by a first heat exchanger using said extracted coolant.

Elongated Photovoltaic Devices in Casings [190]

Method and system for integrated solar cell using a plurality of photovoltaic regions [191]

Thin film solar cell [192] Optimal structures for high efficiency thin film silicon solar energy conversion devices and systems are disclosed. Thin film silicon active layer photoelectron conversion structures using ion implantation are disclosed. Thin film semiconductor devices optimized for exploiting the high energy and ultraviolet portion of the solar spectrum at the earths surface are also disclosed. Solar cell fabrication using high oxygen concentration single crystal silicon substrates formed using in preference the CZ method are used advantageously. Furthermore, the present invention discloses optical coatings for advantageous coupling of solar radiation into thin film solar cell devices via the use of rare-earth metal oxide (REOx), rare-earth metal oxynitride (REOxNy) and rare-earth metal oxy-phosphide (REOxPy) glasses and or crystalline material. The rare-earth metal is chosen from the group commonly known in the periodic table of elements as the lanthanide series.

Apparatus and method for enhanced solar power generation and maximum power point tracking [193] An apparatus and methodology for generating operating power for various desired applications using solar energy. A solar array is formed using a small number of solar cells connected in series to form a string of solar cells and then connecting multiple strings in parallel. Unlike conventional solar arrays, no bypass diodes are incorporated into the array. A power converter is coupled to the array to boost output voltage to a level sufficient to operate the desired application.

Electrode for use in electro-optical devices [194]

Method and system for continuous large-area scanning implantation process [195] This can be applied to the manufacture of solar cells.

Novel, semiconductor-based, large-area, flexible, electronic devices [196]

Optoelectronic device (with perovskite semiconductor) [197]

Nanowire array structures for sensing, solar cell and other applications [198]

Ability to be scaled

The energy source, the Sun, is not a limiting factor: it provides much more energy than we will use in the foreseeable future. Similarly, even the amount of solar energy falling on Earth is orders of magnitude more than we currently use.

These technologies are growing incrementally via the deployment of rooftop solar panels and arrays of solar panels in solar farms. There are also some very large scale solar farms and solar concentration plants, and more are being deployed.

However, it might be that the limitations to scaling solar power up (to become the abundant source of energy) fall into the following categories:

  • the pace of deployment is too linear, and too slow (US scenario [86])
  • not all locations on Earth are ideally suited to solar power.

The development of solar power is not proceeding slowly and linearly, it is proceeding at an exponential rate, according to some metrics. [61]

In the US, the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 60% over the last 10 years, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide. [86]

Continued progress is predicted in the cost of solar technologies and the extent to which they will be deployed. [199]

An innovation that helps to improve deployment would be useful, so that large scale solar farms can be deployed quickly and cheaply.

Breakthroughs to the rescue

The breakthrough technologies that might make the deployment of solar power even faster are:

  • the innovative construction of large scale solar facilities very quickly and cheaply, and
  • innovations in energy storage and distribution (to deliver the generated power to remote locations)

The first point hints at rapid automated construction. [For example, we now have solar paint, 3D printers, and robots. How might that help?]

The second point might involve the production of hydrogen fuel (or perhaps a temporary hydrocarbon that can be easily shipped and converted to hydrogen) being shipped to countries that have fewer opportunities for solar because of their geographic attributes. Solar generated electricity might also be distributed nationally and beyond via super-grids [an innovation in ambient temperature superconductors would be helpful here].

Similarly, the ability for small communities to quickly and cheaply deploy their own solar facilities would bring benefits, particularly for those in the developing world.

Space

Space based solutions offer the potential for breakthroughs that lead to an increased pace in the deployment of solar power across the globe. It can be envisaged that solar satellites could send energy to large ground station facilities; and portable facilities used by small communities in any location.

Environmental impact

All energy technologies have an environmental impact, including solar.[200] Land use and resources (including energy) needed to produce the solar installations are key parameters.

For any space-based systems there's a significant additional component with regard to logistics: bringing material up into outer space costs a lot of energy. So one would need to make sure that the actual energy delivered over the lifetime of the space-based installation is higher than the energy needed to manufacture and install the system in the first place (Energy Return on Energy Invested).[201]

Energy technologies can be broadly categorised using the Sustainability Scale.[202] This takes into account all aspects of the technologies life-cycle, including its dependencies.

Risks associated with a prize in this space

Risks are associated with all radical innovations, and that can be due to several factors. A good technology might not succeed in the marketplace due to poor marketing and promotion. The perceived safety and environmental impact of a technology is also important to successful adoption. [203] [204] [205] Fortunately, solar power seems to be relatively well accepted, except for some concerns over land use [206] [207] [208] and where it displaces agriculture.

Poor implementation of a technology can also prevent successful adoption of a good technology. These are risks that come into effect after the awarding of an energy technology prize, but perhaps the associated challenge can provide post award support to ensure that these risks are reduced. In this case the following practical guidance for deploying solar farms may be useful. [209]

In addition, of course, there can be risks associated with the technical efficacy of the technology itself, and the logistics surrounding its development, operation and decommissioning.

Technical risks

The terrestrial based solar technologies are relatively low risk. Their operational aspects and efficiency can be easily tested and measured. The raw materials used in their construction will be known, and their environmental impact and cost can be estimated. Similarly for their decommissioning and disposal (or rather recycling). As mentioned above, the (cost) impact of soiling and cleaning also needs to be factored in.

The space based solar technologies have a higher risk. There are more uncertainties, and the ecosystem is more complex. Testing such an ecosystem is more challenging. Attention needs to be paid to safety, base station location and identification, and satellite control. Maintenance also needs to be factored in for satellite repairs [which could be automated]. No doubt there would be a number of regulatory (and perhaps political) hurdles to overcome before such a system achieved widespread acceptance - but it could be rolled out country by country.

Organisational risk

Unlike most other technologies with a dedicated page on this wiki, solar represents a mainstream technology. Whereas for other technologies a key risk could be a lack of candidates, with solar the reverse could be true : an abundance of clean energy innovators.

If there are indeed over 30,000 companies working in this space, and perhaps many more scientists at research institutions, there is potentially a very large pool of XPrize candidates. If not managed efficiently, there might be a risk of solar eclipsing other technologies or simply overloading the operational capacity of XPrize. A clear selection mechanism and/or definition of "abundant clean energy" would seem imperative to keep the number of participants manageable.

The Background page defines abundant as follows: Abundant means accessible, reliable, and wide-spread. Abundant also means limitless and inexhaustible for all practical purposes. Finally, abundant means inexpensive.

Interestingly, the definition seems to rule out most solutions with the limitless and inexhaustible phrase. It is suggested that we quantify this aspect, so that proposed solutions can be compared with each other, by using the Sustainability Scale.

Positive energy tests to evaluate this technology

This is especially crucial for technologies that are as yet untested, or have not yet generated large amounts of verifiable performance data. What conditions would need to be met for this technology to be considered unequivocally “verified” or “validated”?

Solar is not a controversial technology; no one doubts that PV (or other systems) work. Therefore the focus for solar technologies, if they were part of the XPrize, would likely shift to energy or power density, expressed in W/m2 , efficiency, W/kg or, ultimately, kW(h)/$.

For space-based systems, testing net energy generation from a prototype might be significantly more challenging...

Testing the efficiency of a solar cell is relatively simple. [210] [211]

There are many laboratories that should be able to determine the net efficiency of this solar technology - see Laboratories.

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  106. System and Method for Creating a Networked Infrastructure Distribution Platform of Solar Energy Gathering Devices
  107. Ultra and very-high efficiency solar cells
  108. Nanoparticle sensitized nanostructured solar cells
  109. Polar mounting arrangement for a solar concentrator
  110. Shadow Mask Methods For Manufacturing Three-Dimensional Thin-Film Solar Cells
  111. Wireless mesh networking of solar tracking devices
  112. Carbon Nanotubes As Charge Carriers In Organic and Hybrid Solar Cells
  113. Nanostructured material comprising semiconductor nanocrystal complexes for use in solar cell and method of making a solar cell comprising nanostructured material
  114. Solar array resembling natural foliage including means for wireless transmission of electric power
  115. Truncated pyramid structures for see-through solar cells
  116. Concentrator solar photovoltaic array with compact tailored imaging power units
  117. High efficiency solar panel and system
  118. Partially Self-Refueling Low Emissions Vehicle and Stationary Power System
  119. Partially Self-Refueling Zero Emissions System
  120. Process and device for producing a CIS-strip solar cell
  121. Back contact for thin film solar cells
  122. Junctions in substrate solar cells
  123. Solar cencentration plant for the production of superheated steam
  124. Laminated photovoltaic modules using back-contact solar cells
  125. Optoelectronic device comprising perovskites
  126. Low temperature rankine cycle solar power system with low critical temperature hfc or hc working fluid
  127. Systems for cost-effective concentration and utilization of solar energy
  128. Method for producing a silicon solar cell with a back-etched emitter as well as a corresponding solar cell
  129. Solar Panel Tracking and Mounting System
  130. Solid-state sun tracker
  131. Concentrating type solar collection and daylighting system within glazed building envelopes
  132. System and method for creating a networked infrastructure distribution platform of fixed hybrid solar wind energy generating devices
  133. Systems for highly efficient solar power
  134. Solar thermal power plant with the integration of an aeroderivative turbine
  135. High efficiency inorganic nanorod-enhanced photovoltaic devices
  136. Solar energy reflector array
  137. Apparatus and methods for solar energy conversion using nanoscale cometal structures
  138. Apparatus and methods for solar energy conversion using nanocoax structures
  139. Thin film solar cells with monolithic integration and backside contact
  140. Solar cell receiver for concentrated photovoltaic system for III-V semiconductor solar cell
  141. Solar concentrator plant
  142. Autonomous heliostat for solar power plant
  143. Integrated 3-dimensional and planar metallization structure for thin film solar cells
  144. Multi-receiver heliostat system architecture
  145. Nanoparticle sensitized nanostructured solar cells
  146. Optical systems fabricated by printing-based assembly
  147. Method for preparing selective emitter crystalline silicon solar cell
  148. Method to create high efficiency, low cost polysilicon or microcrystalline solar cell on flexible substrates using multilayer high speed inkjet printing and, rapid annealing and light trapping
  149. Process for making solar cells
  150. Concentrated Photovoltaic System Modules Using III-V Semiconductor Solar Cells
  151. Solar Power Generation Assembly and Method for Providing Same
  152. Photovoltaic cell with patterned contacts
  153. Growth substrates for inverted metamorphic multijunction solar cells
  154. Elongated photovoltaic cells in tubular casings
  155. Hermetically sealed cylindrical solar cells
  156. Method and structure for fabricating solar cells using a thick layer transfer process
  157. Solar cell including sputtered reflective layer and method of manufacture thereof
  158. Photovoltaic devices including quantum dot down-conversion materials useful for solar cells and materials including quantum dots
  159. Power generation by solar/pneumatic cogeneration in a large, natural or man-made, open pit
  160. Method of manufacturing an amorphous/crystalline silicon heterojunction solar cell
  161. Nanophotovoltaic Device with Improved Quantum Efficiency
  162. Nanostructure and methods of making the same
  163. Dye-sensitized type solar cell
  164. Photovoltaic modules on a textile substrate
  165. Vertical junction pv cells
  166. Photovoltaic Thin-Film Solar Cell and Method Of Making The Same
  167. Optically enhanced multi-spectral detector structure
  168. Photovoltaic device containing nanoparticle sensitized carbon nanotubes
  169. Thin Film Photovoltaic Solar Cells
  170. Optical Device
  171. Portable solar energy system
  172. Photovoltaic device with nanostructured layers
  173. Solar rail or railing system
  174. Solar modules with tracking and concentrating features
  175. Low temperature solar energy-biomass energy combined heat and power system
  176. Three-dimensional thin-film semiconductor substrate with through-holes and methods of manufacturing
  177. Solar receiver
  178. Photovoltaic Modules Having a Filling Material
  179. High efficiency tandem solar cells on silicon substrates using ultra thin germanium buffer layers
  180. Low-temperature doping processes for silicon wafer devices
  181. Manufacturing methods and structures for large-area thin-film solar cells and other semiconductor devices
  182. Methods of interconnecting thin film solar cells
  183. Abnormality Detection Architecture and Methods For Photovoltaic Systems
  184. Hover Installed Renewable Energy Tower
  185. Cylindrical solar energy collector
  186. Thick Crystalline Silicon Film On Large Substrates for Solar Applications
  187. Novel Solar Panel String Converter Topology
  188. Stacked wavelength-selective opto-electronic device
  189. Combined solar thermal power generation and a power station therefore
  190. Elongated Photovoltaic Devices in Casings
  191. Method and system for integrated solar cell using a plurality of photovoltaic regions
  192. Thin film solar cell
  193. Apparatus and method for enhanced solar power generation and maximum power point tracking
  194. Electrode for use in electro-optical devices
  195. Method and system for continuous large-area scanning implantation process
  196. Novel, semiconductor-based, large-area, flexible, electronic devices
  197. Optoelectronic device (with perovskite semiconductor)
  198. Nanowire array structures for sensing, solar cell and other applications
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