France’s solar roadway experiment has failed

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 After nearly three years of use, Normandy’s photovoltaic highway is delivering disappointing results

Solar power highways are hitting a roadblock. Nearly three years after France built a 0.6-mile stretch of photovoltaic road in Normandy, the government is deeming it a disappointing experiment.

In 2016, France announced its bold plan to “pave” 1,000 kilometers (around 620 miles) with photovoltaic panels, which would generate 790kWh per day. When completed, the road was supposed to power up to 5 million homes. But that first 0.6-mile stretch, which engineers had originally estimated would power up to 5,000 homes, hasn’t lived up to expectations.

After installation, it was clear that the panels produced by the manufacturer Wattway couldn’t hold up under the wear and tear of highway traffic. According to Global Construction Review, “the 2,800 square meters of solar panels have degraded, peeled away and splintered, and 100m of them have been removed after being declared too damaged to repair.”

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This solar-powered device produces energy and cleans water at the same time

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UNDER THE SUN Solar panels with water purification devices mounted on their backs (illustrated) could produce freshwater and electricity simultaneously.

 Still a prototype, the machine could one day help curb electricity and freshwater shortages

By mounting a water distillation system on the back of a solar cell, engineers have constructed a device that doubles as an energy generator and water purifier.

While the solar cell harvests sunlight for electricity, heat from the solar panel drives evaporation in the water distiller below. That vapor wafts through a porous polystyrene membrane that filters out salt and other contaminants, allowing clean water to condense on the other side. “It doesn’t affect the electricity production by the [solar cell]. And at the same time, it gives you bonus freshwater,” says study coauthor Peng Wang, an engineer at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.

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Solar power system that works at night a renewable energy game-changer

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An innovative thermal battery being developed by Curtin University researchers will be key to a solar power system capable of producing electricity overnight, rivaling fossil fuels as a viable source of power for commercial and heavy industries around the world, including mining operations.

Curtin is collaborating with international renewable energy companies United Sun Systems and ITP Thermal on the potentially game-changing project, which is being led by Professor Craig Buckley from Curtin’s School of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences.

Professor Craig Buckley said the thermal battery was part of the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) system being developed by United Sun Systems, which requires a battery to store and release energy to enable non-stop solar power generation.

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Cooling/heating window film captures and releases solar energy

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The MOST window film keeps rooms from heating up during the day, but warms them at night(Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology )

A couple of years ago we heard about the MOlecular Solar Thermal (MOST) system, in which solar energy is stored in a liquid medium, then later released as heat. Now, the technology has been applied to a clear film that could be applied to the inside of windows in energy-efficient buildings.

Developed at Sweden’s Chalmers University, the MOST film incorporates a norbornadiene–quadricyclane molecule. This causes the transparent polymer film to take on an orangey-yellow color when not being directly exposed to sunlight.

Once the sun rises in the morning and its rays strike the material, however, much of the sunlight’s solar energy is absorbed by the molecule. More specifically, the molecule captures some of the incoming photons, causing it to isomerize – this means that it temporarily becomes another type of molecule, with exactly the same atoms but in a different arrangement.

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Siemens Gamesa unveils world first electrothermal energy storage system

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Spanish renewable energy giant and offshore wind energy leader Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy last week inaugurated operations of its electrothermal energy storage system which can store up to 130 megawatt-hours of electricity for a week in volcanic rock.

Siemens Gamesa, a company known more famously for its offshore wind turbines, is nevertheless a large-scale renewable energy technology manufacturer, with its hands in various renewable technology pots. One of these pots is energy storage, and last week the company announced the beginning of operations of its electric thermal energy storage system (ETES), claimed by the company as a world first. The opening ceremony for the pilot plant in Hamburg-Altenwerder was held last week to celebrate the beginning of operations.

The newly-opened electric thermal energy storage system is billed by Siemens Gamesa as “The Future Energy Solution” and as costing “significantly” less than classic energy storage solutions. Specifically, according to the company, even at the gigawatt-hour (GWh) pilot scale, ETES “would be highly competitive compared to other available storage technologies.”

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Britain generating more electricity from zero carbon than fossil fuels for first time since industrial revolution

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Wind turbines on the west coast of cumbria near workington, Cumbria, Uk, with a flock of Herring Gulls flying past.

The figures were described as a landmark tipping point.

Britain is generating more of its energy from zero carbon sources than fossil fuels for the first time since the industrial revolution in a landmark tipping point, National Grid has confirmed.

In what was described as an historic milestone, and a watershed moment, the amount of electricity coming from wind, solar, nuclear and hydro power overtook coal and gas by more than one percentage point at the end of May.

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After 40 years of searching, scientists identify the key flaw in solar panel efficiency


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Solar panels are fantastic pieces of technology, but we need to work out how to make them even more efficient – and scientists just solved a 40-year-old mystery around one of the key obstacles to increased efficiency.

A new study outlines a material defect in silicon used to produce solar cells that has previously gone undetected. It could be responsible for the 2 percent efficiency drop that solar cells can see in the first hours of use: Light Induced Degradation (LID).

Multiplied by the increasing number of panels installed at solar farms around the world, that drop equals a significant cost in gigawatts that non-renewable energy sources have to make up for.

In fact, the estimated loss in efficiency worldwide from LID is estimated to equate to more energy than can be generated by the UK’s 15 nuclear power plants. The new discovery could help scientists make up some of that shortfall.

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Inspiring woman invents refugee tents that collect rainwater and store solar energy

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  Since 2011, the Syrian Civil War created one of the most devastating humanitarian disasters in the world, with an estimated number of 13.5 million Syrians internally displaced or are refugees outside Syria, according to the United Nations.

Facing the difficulty of finding basic shelter and a home to live in, award-winning Jordanian-Canadian architect Abeer Seikaly was inspired to come up with a solution to help transform the lives of these refugees.

Named ‘Weaving a Home’, this design uses a unique structural fabric composed of high-strength plastic tubing molded into sine-wave curves that can expand and enclose during different weather conditions, and also be broken down to allow an ease in mobility and transport.

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This desalination device delivers cheap, clean water with just solar power

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In a coastal city in Namibia, a small shipping container near the beach sits surrounded
by solar panels. Inside, new technology uses that solar power
to turn ocean water from the Atlantic into drinking water.

Namibia is in the middle of a prolonged drought. The president recently declared the second state of emergency in three years because the lack of rain is leading to severe food shortages. But if scaled up, this technology could help supply households and agriculture with fresh water. The basic tech that it uses for desalination, called reverse osmosis, isn’t new. But because the system can run on solar power, without the use of batteries, it avoids the large carbon footprint of a typical energy-hungry desalination plant. It’s also significantly cheaper over the lifetime of the system.

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Why new solar installations will reach a breakneck pace by 2025

 

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The rise is set to continue.

Solar power is about to reach an inflection point. A new report released on Thursday claims that installations in the United States will double in just four years’ time, thanks largely to developments in California, which accounted for around half of all installations.

This estimate is from the research group Wood Mackenzie, who along with the Solar Energy Industries Association, found that there are now more than two million photo-voltaic solar installations in the country, just three years after passing the one million mark. The teams expect this pace to increase, reaching three million by 2021 and four million by 2023.

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Researchers make organic solar cells immune to the ravages of water, air and light

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The market for organic solar cells is expected to grow more than 20% between 2017 and 2020, driven by advantages over traditional silicon solar cells: they can be mass produced at scale using roll-to-roll processing; the materials comprising them can be easily found in the earth and could be applied to solar cells through green chemistry; they can be semitransparent and therefore less visually intrusive — meaning they can be mounted on windows or screens and are ideal for mobile devices; they are ultra-flexible and can stretch; and they can be ultra-lightweight.

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These “biosolar panels” suck CO2 from the air to grow edible algae

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In London, scientists are testing the “BioSolar Leaf,” which uses carbon-hungry organisms to help clean the air better than trees can–all while providing an excellent source of protein.

At Imperial College London’s new campus in West London, some rooftops will soon hold bright green “biosolar” panels covered with algae. The plants suck carbon dioxide out of the air and produce fresh oxygen at a rate 100 times faster than trees covering the same amount of land–and then the microscopic organisms can be harvested to be used in food.

“We call it a ‘BioSolar Leaf,’” says Julian Melchiorri, CEO of Arborea, the company that designed the new technology. “It uses solar energy, but instead of converting solar energy into electricity [like a solar panel], we convert solar energy into food.”

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