Becoming Resilient

Brakethroughs in Solar Technology: Solar Airplanes, Cars, Roads And Windows

Snow Melting Roadways
Filed under Consumer, Environment, Government, Promo no comments
By John Vlahakis

As a third of the country recovers from this last blizzard and ice storm, there may be a future technological breakthrough on how we clear our roads from snow.  The Federal Highway Administration has awarded contracts to two separate companies that are building snow melting road technology.  Solar Roadways in Boise, Idaho recently built a solar road panel prototype that is made out of solar panels encased in strong and durable glass with the traction of asphalt and that it won’t cause glare. Each encased panel generates 7.6 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, and can be connected to smart grids to power homes and business. Wireless LED lights embedded in the glass create road signs and weight-sensitive crosswalks. They also contain heating elements that can melt snow and ice.The technology to make snow plowing obsolete is similar to what’s already used in automobile windshields. Heating elements in the glass melt existing snow or ice and prevent accumulation from developing. The new highway panels would end the need for plowing and salting roadways, and reduce the yearly operational expense for snow and ice removal.  No word on how much this would cost us, but it’s a breakthrough anyone in the snow-belt would welcome.

Spray-on film turns windows into solar panels

By Ben Coxworth
20:11 August 17, 2010

Imagine if all the windows of a building, and perhaps even all its exterior walls, could be put to use as solar collectors. Soon, you may not have to imagine it, as the Norweigan solar power company EnSol has patented a thin film solar cell technology designed to be sprayed on to just such surfaces. Unlike traditional silicon-based solar cells, the film is composed of metal nanoparticles embedded in a transparent composite matrix, and operates on a different principle. EnSol is now developing the product with help from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“One of the key advantages is that it is a transparent thin film that can be coated onto window glass so that windows in buildings can also become power generators,” said Chris Binns, Professor of Nanotechnology at Leicester. “Obviously some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power but the windows would just have a slight tinting (though a transmission of only 8-10% is common place for windows in the ‘sun belt’ areas of the world). Conversely the structural material of the building can also be coated with a higher degree of absorption. This could be side panels of the building itself, or even in the form of ‘clip-together’ solar roof tiles.”

For the time being, the research partners are developing prototype squares of the material, measuring 16 square centimeters each. The researchers say that, due to nanotech research that has already been performed at Leicester, the institution is uniquely suited for production of the film. Ultimately, EnSol hopes to achieve a cell efficiency of at least 20 percent, and have its product ready for the commercial market by 2016.

This development is reminiscent of Sphelar cells – solidified silicon drop-based solar cells recently developed by Kyosemi Corporation. Although the technology is different, they are also intended to be used in solar panels that double as windows.

Breakthrough solar technology a step towards cheap full-spectrum panels

Filed in: Energy , Environment , Science
By Raggy Jin, February 01, 2011 @ 6:28pm

The solar age is now a day closer thanks to Wladek Walukiewicz and Kin Man Yu at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who have developed a new full-spectrum solar cell that uses common production methods.

Cheap, common solar panels in production now typically only use a small percentage of the light hitting their surface, as the semiconductor materials in them only respond to certain segments of the solar spectrum. Though highly efficient solar panels that respond to the full spectrum of light have been created in the past, they’ve been unfit for mass production as they’re too complex and expensive to manufacture.

As each semiconductor reacts to a different light wavelength, efficient solar cells use several materials stacked atop one another and wired in a series, each semiconductor taking a portion of the light spectrum. In 2002, Walukiewicz and Man Yu tweaked indium gallium nitrate cells until they were capable of reacting to everything from infrared to ultraviolet — the full light spectrum. The resulting cells, however, were too difficult and costly to manufacture on a large scale.

Two years later, the pair created an alloy of zinc, manganese and tellurium doped with oxygen, creating an entirely different, highly efficient full-spectrum solar panel. But again, it was one unfit for production.

But now they’ve created a new multiband semiconductor alloy, gallium arsenide nitride, which uses the industry’s most common semiconductor fabrication method: metalorganic chemical vapor deposition. Their tests show that the prototype cell based on this new semiconductor reacts strongly with every segment of the solar spectrum.

The results of the breakthrough may not be instant, but this is a large step towards cheap, highly-efficient solar panels and their wide-spread application. Beyond, you know, death rays and such.

Solar Cars

What is a Solar Powered Car?

Solar Powered Cars traditionally are defined as cars which run on energy from the sun. They got their first recognition as a possible transportation method through the series of annual races across Australia.

This definition however is changing, in recent years of the green movement, solar power explosion now allows people to charge plugin electric vehicles (PEVs) through solar panels installed on their homes and in recent history solar panels installed on the roof of the car itself.

There is a very bright future for solar energy to power our transportation needs and we’re just scratching the surface of the possibilities.

Learn more about solar cars by clicking here

Toyota Prius goes Solar

The ‘Prius’ is Latin for ‘(to go…) before’. Quite fittingly it heralds a new era of hip cars which have moved away from Henry Ford’s vision. Today, they are petrol powered environmental ogres. Necessary ‘evils’, for cars have been the harbingers of human advancement by taking the wheel much forward. They may be Hollywood’s latest fad…Leonardo DiCaprio owns one, but they also are truly one of the most practical environmentally cars on the roads today. The 2008 Prius was tagged as the best fuel efficient car in The United States by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The Prius is what is called an electric hybrid. More technically looked at as a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle). It is powered by an internal combustion engine (1.5L) as all gasoline driven cars are. In synergy with this engine are various other technologies based around an electric motor running on NiMH batteries. The computer program used in the Prius monitors and controls fuel consumption by using the engine, electric motor, or both to power the car and recharge the battery. The working together of two disparate units leads to greater fuel efficiency. The 2008 Prius gives 48 miles per US gallon in city driving, 45 miles per US gallon on highways. With over one million units sold by mid 2008, Toyota says that the Prius owners have stopped 4.5 million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. That’s 535,500,000 gallons of fuel or at current prices $2.01 Billion Dollars saved. Even without Leo’s endorsement, the Prius should be on every green minded guy’s Christmas list.

The latest models of Prius can now go even greener. The grapevine has it that Toyota is looking at the option of solar panels on the roof of the car. Reports state that the panels could be an option on the high end versions of the car. And no they won’t add a third dimension to the electric-hybrid combo but mainly would serve to cool the car when it is parked and idle. The panels are to be outfitted by Kyocera, a Japanese company known for its ceramics manufacture. We can expect to see the specially fitted out cars by the spring of 2009. There are no details currently on the website regarding this development. As officially Toyota does not elaborate on future product plans, details are vague on the exact picture of the modifications. Industry watchers though say that though adding solar cells would add ‘just a tinge’ of ‘green’ to the car, the cost of solar cells could jack up the price. The benefits could be little as some independent experiments have shown that the power output of the solar cells alone is close to just 160 – 250 watts. Not enough to power the AC but can add something economy of operation. Will the perceived utility warrant the cost on option?

But the great thing is the innovation itself. Toyota’s forward vision resulted in the Prius making an electric hybrid uber cool and with the solar panels it will be another first for the Japanese car giant. By 2009, the car enjoying an upsurge in popularity is expected to go through a substantial makeover. Solar panels are just one part of it.

Meanwhile, a company called SEV – Solar Electric Vehicles has already experimented with a solar rooftop on the Prius. The website quotes –

With the SEV solar system, the Toyota Prius can operate up to 20 miles per day in electric mode thus improving fuel economy by up to 29% (depending on driving habits and conditions).

There system available as a kit sets back the user by $2000 – $4000, but expectedly the amount can be recovered in 2-3 years through fuel savings.

As gas prices start to defy gravity, even a small shaving off the fuel bill could be a bonus for both the user and the planet.

Make sure you check out our Solar Powered Car section of our site for much more information about solar powered cars.

Solar plane completes historic 24-hour flight – click to read the entire article
Aircraft could stay in the air indefinitely, charging batteries from sun’s rays

By Eliane Engeler
7/8/2010 5:51:38 AM ET

PAYERNE, Switzerland — An experimental solar-powered plane landed safely Thursday after completing its first 24-hour test flight, proving that the aircraft can collect enough energy from the sun during the day to stay aloft all night.

Pilot Andre Borschberg eased the Solar Impulse onto the runway at Payerne airfield about 30 miles southwest of the Swiss capital Bern at exactly 9 a.m. (3 a.m. EDT) Thursday.  Helpers rushed to stabilize the pioneering plane as it touched down, ensuring that its massive 207-foot wingspan didn’t scrape the ground and topple the craft.  The record feat completes seven years of planning and brings the Swiss-led project one step closer to its goal of circling the globe using only energy from the sun.

Learn about Solar Powered Aircraft here

Breakthrough Solar Technology Could Double Cell Efficiency
Tuesday, August 3rd 2010 3:43 PM
By GetSolar Staff.
Beating efficiency limits and overheating have long been the holy grail of solar panel research and development. Now, California’s solar scientists think they may have found a way to solve both problems with a single, elegant solution.

Researchers at Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project and the Stanford Institute for Materials Energy Systems say that they have conclusively proven that a process called “photon enhanced thermionic emission” (PETE) works to improve the efficiency of solar modules as they heat up.

Typically, solar panels lose efficiency as they heat, which is problematic for a device designed to bake in the hot sun all day. Cooling systems use power and waste energy, and energy conversion efficiency rarely exceeds 20 percent.

PETE uses cesium-coated gallium nitride semiconductors – chosen to resist heat levels in excess of 200 degrees centigrade – to convert both heat and light into electricity. The California researchers think that the technology would be best deployed in solar concentrators and big, utility-scale solar farms.

In theory, though, they could be deployed alongside any solar installation. Rather than engineering an entirely new infrastructure for the PETE system, the team thinks that it would be better to create a bolt-on augmentation for existing systems.

With a theoretical energy conversion efficiency of as much as 50 or 60 percent, PETE represents a truly exciting quantum leap in state-of-the-art solar panel technology.


About Kim Martindale

Mother of two, wife of one, home manager, gardener, student of health and wellness, world traveler, nature lover, researcher, Jesus follower, community builder. I'm seeking to become resilient and to live sustainably. I desire to give back and share what I'm learning with others.


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