The rapid advancement of solar technology over the past couple of decades has been staggering. Increased investment in research and development, alongside more urgent demand for renewable, sustainable energy sources has given the solar sector some real incentives for growth. This growth has marked the solar industry as a key player in the renewable energy sector, making solar power a viable, cost-efficient solution to the energy woes of countless customers across the United States and beyond. Not content to stop there, the solar industry continues to push itself beyond its current boundaries, constantly seeking to develop new technology and new means of supplying energy to the masses. Let’s take a look at some of the newest solar technology set to make an impact in 2019 and beyond.
#1. Frameless Solar Panels
A longstanding criticism, and often a reason for solar reluctance from potential consumers, is the issue of aesthetics. Namely, the framing of the panels is often considered unattractive for some homeowners. Luckily, as panels have developed, this has become less and less of an issue with some very aesthetically pleasing panels available for solar panel installers to use. Now, some big companies like SolarWorld and Candian Solar are going a step further with the production of frameless modules. These new frameless panels look great, but the lack of a frame can make mounting an issue in some cases. Let’s hope we see easily-mounted, frameless solar panels in the near future.
#2. Clear Solar Panels
Another possible solution to the issue of solar panel aesthetics involves the use of clear panels, generally used in conjunction with glass. These innovative panels use a clear film, cased between glass, which then absorbs UV light to generate power, like traditional panels. This ability to seamlessly integrate a renewable energy source into a glass-heavy building without the intrusion of solar mounting or racking seems an ideal solution. In addition to the aesthetic benefits of this clear panel approach, it’s been suggested that these glass-integrated panels are even more durable than a typical silicon cell solar panel.
#3. Bifacial Solar Panels
In simple terms, a bifacial solar panel is a solar panel capable of absorbing light on both sides. That is to say, these double-sided solar panels capture both the direct sunlight coming down from the sky, and the reflected sunlight bouncing off the roof/ground beneath and other nearby surfaces. If implemented correctly, this approach could seriously increase the power output capacity of the panels, potentially allowing a smaller system - in terms of surface area - to out-produce a larger array. Big solar sector players like LG and SolarWorld have been working to develop their own sleek, high-capacity variants of this new technology and we should see bifacial technology making a name for itself very soon.
#4. Tesla Solar Roof Tiles
It’s pretty much impossible to speak about innovation in the renewable energy sector without speaking about Tesla. CEO Elon Musk has made the headlines for a variety of reasons lately, but Tesla’s drive for product innovation cannot be denied. Tesla solar roof tiles offer technological advancement in terms of both aesthetics and durability - two common concerns for solar customers. This solar roof approach offers consumers a sleek way to integrate a photovoltaic system into the roof of their existing property. The materials used by Tesla are designed to blend in with all manner of typical roofs, while also adding significant durability.
#5. Solar Skin
Much like Tesla’s solar tiles, this solar skin product from an MIT startup offers a unique approach to building-photovoltaic integration. The adaptable design of the solar skin allows consumers to either maximize or minimize the appearance of the solar modules on their roof. With a solar skin, you can either blend in, or stand out - it’s up to you.
By Shane Croghan