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The Most Important Solar Power Trends 2010

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So what's big in solar power right now? Do you know? Below we'll present the most interestin solar news and trends during 2010. The common (and cool) denominator among these tends is that they are all making solar energy more within reach for consumers. Maybe not right now, but the trends are all pointing in the same direction.

Best Of New Technology Awards

In May 2010 the Sole Power Tile, developed by SRS Energy, was awarded the Gold prize in the Industrial Design category of the 2010 Edison Best New Product Awards. Prior to that Popular Science gave its 2009 "Best of What's New" award in the Home Technology category to SRS Energy for the same product. The Sole Power Tile is the first ever curved building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) power tile. What makes this roofing tile different is its curve shape which was specially designed for use with mission style roofing systems made out of clay. The big selling point: aesthetic design. Solar roofing no longer has to look ugly.

Concentrated Solar Power Debuting In 2010

Other important solar news for 2010 have to do with more efficient use of concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar thermal technologies have two basic operational traits in common:
  • they concentrate energy from the sun and convert it to heat using mirrors or lenses
  • the heat is used to drive an engine (generator) to produce electrical power.
2010 is bringing to market the most efficient solar power technology yet with the debut of the Maricopa Solar project in Arizona consisting of 60 solar dishes. This new solar thermal system uses Tessera Solar's SunCatcher concentrating solar technology with a motor. The system employs mirrors attached to a parabolic dish. The mirrors concentrate the sun's energy onto a high efficiency engine manufactured by Stirling. Each dish has the capacity to generate up to 25,000 watts of power.

An important advantage of this technology is that the system uses no water for heating or cooling and only a minimal amount of water is required to wash the mirrors. The water component is particularly helpful with mounting concerns about global water supplies.

This technology holds great promise as a means of providing renewable energy on a larger scale because it can be used in utility-scale power plants (100 MW or greater). With higher efficiency conversion rates it makes renewable energy a little more cost competitive with energy generated by fossil fuels.

Can this technology be applied to residential solar? Yes. A Silicon Valley start-up company SUNRGI claims that its "concentrated photovoltaic" system which employs lens technology will be a significantly more powerful and inexpensive solar option once the product reaches the marketplace. Solar electricity may be available for as little as 5 cents per kilowatt hour (wholesale price), or about the same cost as generating electricity with fossil fuels like coal. Although it was suggested these panels might be available sometime already in 2009 we have not yet seen the first commercial production of these panels from Sunrgi. The company now communicates that their product will be available during 2011. Normally getting a product to market takes several years so we can expect to see more concentrated solar power systems hitting the market during the next several years.

Debuting In Europe 2011 - The Blue Car

A new electric car will be unveiled in Europe. Pininfarina, an Italian car designer and the French battery manufacturer Bollore have announced that a five door Blue Car hatchback is ready for production. This vehicle is a fully-electric vehicle with solar panels installed on the rooftop. The vehicle is small but it sports a 50kW electric motor that provides a top speed of 80mph and acceleration from 0-60 in about 6 seconds.

The solar panels on the roof are designed to provide partial power to the vehicle's systems. It comes with regenerative brakes and a Lithium Metal Polymer battery. The vehicle has a driving range of 155 miles before requiring a charge. All the materials used in the manufacturing of the car have been sourced to be as environmentally friendly as possible according to information provided by the manufacturer.

Production, earlier said to start in 2010, will begin in 2011. Pininfarina is reporting over 8,000 pre-ordered vehicles, but has announced that only 2,000 of these will be filled during 2011. But production is meant to ramp up quickly The compan's target is to deliver 60,000 Blue Cars per year by 2016.

Spray On Solar Cells Continue To Gain

Spray on solar cells will continue to grow in popularity during the coming years. The nano ink process may one day replace the current method of manufacturing solar cells. Current solar cell production relies on very high temperatures and it is a costly process.

The solar cell ink technology consists of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) - sunlight-absorbing nanoparticles which are used to make a solution that can be sprayed or rolled onto a substrate material. This technology is currently being used to convert regular window glass, clothes and other materials into solar power generating items. More and more applications are being found where these spray on or rolled on solar cells can be utilized. The major drawback remains the low electricity conversion rates but as the technology continues to develop we are likely to see incremental improvements in the conversion rates. The process is relatively inexpensive as opposed to other solar technologies which makes it an attractive alternative to standard solar processing.

These were the most important solar news and trends at present. We'll update as new breakthrough solar news occur. Stay tuned!

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