< Back

Technological Advancements in Solar Power Generation by Samyukhta Kannan

Bell Laboratories created the first silicon solar cell in 1954. This breakthrough sparked a flurry of new discoveries in the field of solar energy. Solar energy is the radiant light and heat from the Sun that is captured and used in a variety of methods. The technological advancements since have shown the growing potential to use this as a reliable energy source.

INTRODUCTION


Solar energy is the radiant light and heat from the Sun that is captured and used in a variety of methods, including solar power to create electricity, solar thermal energy, including solar water heating, and solar architecture. It is an important source of renewable energy, and its methods are roughly classified as either passive solar or active solar, depending on how they capture, distribute, or convert solar radiation into solar power.


The meaning of active and passive solar power generation becomes very important. To harness the energy, active solar techniques such as photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power, and solar water heating are used. Orienting a structure to the Sun, selecting materials with favourable thermal mass or light-dispersing qualities, and designing rooms that naturally circulate air are all examples of passive solar techniques. Bell Laboratories created the first silicon solar cell in 1954. This breakthrough sparked a flurry of new discoveries in the field of solar energy. In the 1960s, the space industry was the first to use solar technology to create electricity for spacecraft. The first artificial earth satellite, Vanguard 1, was powered by solar cells. It was the oldest instance of a man-made satellite in orbit, clocking in at a massive 6 billion miles.


TECHNOLOGIES


Photovoltaic

The photovoltaic effect is depicted on a band diagram. In the depletion or quasi-neutral areas, photons transfer their energy to electrons. These transition from the valence to the conduction bands. Electrons and holes are propelled by a drift electric field Edrift, which produces generation photocurrent, or by a scattering electric field Escatt, which produces scattering photocurrent, depending on their location.


Alexandre deciphered the photovoltaic effect, or how to generate an electric current in a conductor exposed to direct sunshine. Later, scientists conducted more advanced research in order to use PV technology, which can directly produce power. Electricity can now be used, stored, or converted for long-distance transmission. PV devices are capable of converting sunlight into electrical energy. A "cell" is a single PV device. PV cells are often constructed from various types of silicon. A single PV cell is typically tiny and can provide roughly 1 or 2 watts of power. To boost the output of PV cells, they are linked together in chains to form bigger units known as "modules" or "panels." Modules and panels can be used separately or in groups to construct arrays. To complete a PV system, one or more arrays are connected to the electricity grid. Solar PV is primarily installed on rooftops of homes and businesses nowadays, and it directly creates electricity from solar energy. Solar thermal technologies turn the sun's energy into heat, which is then converted into electricity.

Floatovoltaics

Floating solar or floating photovoltaics (FPV), also known as floatovoltaics, is the installation of solar panels atop a structure that floats on a body of water, generally a reservoir or a lake. Silicon panels are becoming less expensive and more efficient by the day. Photovoltaic panels put on reservoirs and other bodies of water, according to experts, provide even more efficiency as well as a slew of other advantages. The fundamental advantage of floating PV plants is that they do not require any land, except for the little areas required for the electric cabinet and grid connections. Their cost is equivalent to that of land-based plants, yet they give an excellent option to prevent land consumption.

Floating PV plants are more compact than land-based plants, have simpler administration, and are easier to build and decommission. The major aspect is that there are no fixed structures, such as the foundations needed for a land-based plant, therefore their installation is completely reversible. Another advantage is that the partial covering of basins can minimise water evaporation. This outcome is determined by the climate and the fraction of the covered surface. This is a significant advantage in dry climates such as portions of India since it saves around 30% of the evaporation of the covered surface. This may be bigger in Australia, and it is a highly desirable quality if the basin is utilised for irrigation. There are several other advantages to the new floatovoltaic technology. A big floating platform may be readily manoeuvred and can also do vertical tracking. This can be done without wasting energy or without a sophisticated mechanical equipment as in land-based PV plants. The cost of outfitting a floating PV plant with a monitoring system is minimal, and the energy increase can vary from 15 to 25 percent.


Installed capacity worldwide in MV.:

Floating solar farms can help with water management in addition to providing clean solar energy. They prevent water loss due to evaporation by restricting air movement and blocking sunlight from the water's surface. Furthermore, floating solar farms reduce the generation of harmful algae, cutting water treatment expenses. Furthermore, the water beneath the solar panels keeps them clean and reduces energy waste. The presence of water naturally indicates the use of gravity energy storage, particularly in conjunction with hydroelectric basins. Other methods, however, have been investigated, with compressed-air energy storage devices being proposed in particular.

However, there are certain challenges that are associated with this technology. Electrical safety and the long-term dependability of system components is in question. Operating on water for its full-service life, the system must have greatly higher corrosion resistance, especially when built over salt water. The floating PV system must be able to endure wind and high waves, particularly in off-shore or near-shore deployments. Maintenance complexity is also to be considered. In general, operations and maintenance tasks on water are more difficult to conduct than on land.


Photovoltaic noise barrier

In 1989, Switzerland showed an effective method of noise reduction using solar modules. Later, the solution was implemented in a number of additional European nations. Different solar noise barriers may be developed based on highway characteristics, barrier structure, barrier height, and other factors (environment etc.). Modules are attached to the main barrier (wood or solid barrier) in a variety of methods, including vertical, inclined fixed as a zigzag construction, and so on.


Perovskite solar cell

The mineral calcium titanium oxide, which was the first perovskite crystal found, has the same structural structure as perovskite. A perovskite solar cell (PSC) is a form of solar cell in which the active layer is a perovskite-structured substance, often a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material. Perovskite materials like methylammonium lead halides and all-inorganic cesium lead halides are cheap and simple to make.

Perovskites are a type of material with a similar structure that exhibits a number of intriguing features such as superconductivity, magnetoresistance, and others. Because of their unusual structure, which makes them perfect for allowing low-cost, effective photovoltaics, these readily produced materials are viewed as the future of solar cells. They will also be used in next-generation electric car batteries, sensors, lasers, and other applications. A perovskite solar cell is a form of solar cell in which the light-harvesting active layer is a perovskite structured compound, most typically a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material.


Advantages

Metal halide perovskites have unique features that make them appropriate for use in solar cells. Perovskite materials may be employed not only as a light-absorbing layer but also as an electron/hole transport layer due to its high extinction coefficient, high charge mobility, long carrier lifetime, and long carrier diffusion distance. Raw materials and production technologies (such as different printing techniques) are both affordable. Ultrathin sheets as thin as 500 nm may absorb the whole visible sun spectrum due to their high absorption coefficient. Using this compositional flexibility, scientists may create perovskite crystals with a wide range of physical, optical, and electrical characteristics. Ultrasound machines, memory chips, and, most recently, solar cells all use perovskite crystals.


When these properties are combined, low-cost, high-efficiency, thin, lightweight, and flexible solar modules may be created. Perovskite solar cells are being employed to power low-power wireless circuits used in ambient powered internet of things applications. While perovskite solar cells have grown extremely efficient in a relatively short amount of time, they still face a number of obstacles before becoming a viable commercial technology.

However, State-of-the-art PSC technology has a long way to go before it is commercially viable. PSCs are weak and durable, in addition to having a low electrical conversion efficiency. Furthermore, they contain trace levels of lead, which is harmful to the environment.


BIPV solar technology

Traditionally, solar is installed on the roof of a building, which is known as building-applied PV. However, more architects are learning how to integrate solar cells and modules into items such as curtain walls, roof tiles, and railings. BIPV stands for building-integrated photovoltaics. BIPV is an exciting new technique in solar energy generation. The concept is to naturally combine solar power plants with building design. These integrated solar systems may minimise the consumption of fossil fuels, save money on materials and power, and add architectural flair to a structure.


The elements utilised in BIPV construction can not only generate power, but also protect the building from rain and wind, as well as increase thermal and acoustic insulation. They may also be utilised for a variety of purposes such as facades, rooftop canopies, and balconies. They can aid in GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment), India's green building rating, by minimising solar heat gain on a building and thereby lowering the temperature of the building, resulting in decreased air conditioner demand. Because industrial buildings and organisations are reported to consume over 40% of all energy, BIPV might turn out to be a sustainable option that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the potential applications for BIPV technology in buildings include:

  • Tile: Photovoltaic modules can be used to replace cement or clay tile on a building's roof. Solar radiation can flow through electric tiles, although they are virtually indistinguishable from regular roof tiles.

  • Roofing Roll Coverage: A thin-film laminate that combines the qualities of bitumen covering and the solar battery is the ideal soft tile or roofing coverage substitute.

  • Wall Panels: Instead of traditional wall panels, modern architects are increasingly employing solar batteries as façade panels.

  • Windows (Glazing): "Solar Windows" are transparent thin-film solar batteries that can be adhered to glass, however their poor productivity is an issue. However, efforts are presently being made to integrate photo-electric components directly into the glass itself.


All of these BIPV modules may be simply installed as rooftops, facades, curtain walls, carports, and parking lots in residential, commercial, and industrial structures. BIPV systems can either be connected to the utility grid or intended to operate independently.Many BIPV module manufacturers in India can provide BIPV modules that can replace conventional construction materials while also delivering utility-grade power.

Semi-transparent BIPV modules manufactured by HHV Solar have created new landscapes in green construction. Other firms, such as Navitas Solar and Maglare, specialise in the glass panels of BIPV modules that can replace glazing parts of the building, while Novergy Solar, a BIPV solar panel expert, provides a wide selection of BIPV solar panels that can be integrated with the design of the structure. This game-changing technology elevates solar power and sustainable living to new heights. It enables architects, designers, and clients to incorporate hi-tech features into traditional building designs, transforming the structure into an appealing energy-generating structure.


Solar Skins

The adage "looks don't matter" is rarely applicable in the solar sector. Solar panels are typically designed to be visually appealing. The finest companies provide panels that are visually appealing and blend nicely with most traditional rooftops. However, when placed on rooftops, as is frequently the case, the majority of solar panels on the market do not integrate well with the majority of rooftops. They make their presence known on roofs in potentially unsightly and distracting ways.


Sistine Solar was developed in 2012 by graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They sought to expand the effect of Industrial and UX Design into the solar technology sector and produce superior product aesthetics, which they claim might lead to increased sales. The fruits of their labour led to the solar skin

When exposed to sunlight, solar skin is a flexible, translucent material that is very thin yet very effective at creating an electrical current. Consider it a thick strip of saran wrap that can be placed to practically any surface—the exterior of a house, a car, a utility pole—almost anything! The applications might be expanded to include consumer electronics as well. Soon, solar skin for your smartphone will be available, and charging it will be as simple as placing it in direct sunshine.


Solar skins are not the same as solar panels. They are very long-lasting graphic film appliqués that are tailored using a proprietary algorithm to aesthetically merge with an existing or new array of solar panels in ways that complement the roof aesthetic without compromising solar panel efficiency and productivity. Solar skin contains billions of small photoelectric particles known as 'Quantum Dots.' When these particles are exposed to photons, which are the primary constituents of sunshine, they get excited. The problem with solar skin up to this point has been its low efficiency. However, researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered a means to increase this efficiency by 25%, resulting in solar skin with an overall efficiency rating of 16.6 percent.


This indicates that 16.6 percent of the potential solar energy exposed to the solar skin is efficiently transformed into electricity. High-efficiency solar panels, on the other hand, are around 19-22 percent efficient. This implies that solar skin is rapidly reaching "prime time" for commercial and residential applications.


Solar fabric

When exposed to light, photovoltaic (PV) cells embedded in solar cell fabric create energy. Traditional silicon-based solar cells are costly to produce, inflexible, and brittle. Thin-film cells and organic polymer-based cells, while less efficient, may be made fast and cheaply. They are also malleable and may be sewn onto cloth.


According to a New Scientist article, researchers created a small cylindrical cell by building a PV cell in the layers around a fibre. Solar gathering is no longer restricted to rooftops and poles; it may now operate quietly and unobtrusively from ordinary things. Humanitarian help can benefit from flexible solar cells. The PowerShade, a temporary shelter invented by PowerFilm, Inc., can generate one kilowatt of power. This might be useful for powering emergency equipment in remote locations on short notice.


Konarka Technologies makes a thin film polymer-based PV cell that is sewn into a cloth. Further research on nanocrystal PV cells will be required to make these cells even smaller. In principle, nanotechnology might allow cells to gather a wider range of photons, boosting efficiency while shrinking. Konarka is collaborating with other institutions on this.


Photovoltaic noise barriers (PVNBs)

Photovoltaic noise barriers (PVNBs) are a hybrid of noise barrier and photovoltaic (PV) systems. Noise barriers are physical barriers that are used to reduce noise levels between noise sources and sensitive receptors such as hospitals, schools, and residential areas.

Solar cells are used in photovoltaic systems to convert light energy directly into electricity. PVNBs, which were first used in Switzerland in 1989, are now seen in a number of nations where transportation authorities have tried to reduce noise while also producing renewable energy. The research on PVNBs, the most of which is many years old, largely agrees that there is tremendous potential to create solar electricity using both current and proposed new noise barriers.


A highway noise barrier is a physical barrier built between the highway noise source and the noise sensitive receptor(s) that reduces noise levels near the receptor in decibels (dB). Noise barriers include stand-alone walls, berms, and combined berm/wall systems made of various materials such as soil, wood, concrete, and metal. They dampen noise by reflecting it back across the roadway or requiring it to take a longer route over and around the barrier. Although they do not fully eliminate noise, noise barriers often lower total noise levels by 5 to 10 dB, essentially cutting traffic noise in half.


The photovoltaic noise barrier (PVNB), also known as the solar noise barrier, is a mix of noise barrier systems and photovoltaic (PV) systems that employ solar cells to directly convert light energy into electricity. PVNBs can be either retrofitted into existing noise barriers with PV modules (i.e., solar panels) or integrated into the construction of new noise barriers. The noise barrier acts as a substructure for PV modules in both scenarios. The most typical PVNB solution is top-mounted, retrofit designs that provide extra area to an existing noise barrier structure.


SOLAR: A PROMISING FUTURE


Previously, solar energy was solely generated by ground-mounted or rooftop panels. However, as a result of the developments outlined above, solar will become lighter, more flexible, and applicable everywhere. Imagine you had all of this technology and you go to another city. You can buy food from a solar-powered food cart, eat it while driving down a solar-powered highway, and charge your phone with solar-powered clothing. This is how the near future seems! In fact, many additional revolutionary household solar solutions are in the works or will be available in 2022. Perovskite solar cells, which might soon be used to make solar paint, are one of the most promising new technologies.