A 'clear path' to solar power

A 'clear path' to solar power
Modern society is very much defined by its access to electricity. What if researchers could advance sustainable energy technologies to the point where everyone around the world had access to clean, cheap energy sources? Richard Smalley, 1996 Nobel Prize winning chemist, called it the greatest challenge facing the world in the 21st century and coined the phrase 'terawatt challenge.' Researchers at the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Center, headquartered at Arizona State University, are hoping to meet much of the terawatt challenge with solar technology alone by vastly improving the performance of photovoltaic cells. And they're looking to make solar cells cheaper and cheaper. QESST is an engineering research center supported by NSF and the Department of Energy. Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation

Solar cells integrated into new construction, particularly skyscrapers, are an enticing energy option. However, this effort can be hampered by the cost and architectural considerations sometimes needed to mount traditional photovoltaic (PV) cells.

What if engineers could make it easier with a lightweight, clear and flexible solar cell? Traditional solar panels, such as silicon, soak up much of the sun's light, including , and convert it to energy. A transparent panel allows visible light to shine through, by making the light we can't see with our eyes—such as ultraviolet and infrared—do the work.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Michigan State University materials scientist and chemical engineer Richard Lunt and his team are developing transparent solar panels that could be retrofit to cover existing windows instead of replacing them. With the square footage of glass that's on skyscrapers and other buildings, the tremendous potential for energy and is clear!

Credit: National Science Foundation
A 'clear path' to solar power
More energy from our sun hits the Earth in one hour than is consumed on the planet in a whole year! But, the burning question is--how can we put all that sunshine to work making usable fuel? California Institute of Technology (Caltech) chemical engineer Sossina Haile and University of Minnesota mechanical engineer Jane Davidson are working to expand the nation's renewable energy storage capacity. Their mission is to put the heat of the sun to work creating renewable fuels from sources that don't need to be drilled out of the ground. They're collecting enough sunlight to create high temperatures and then use that to drive chemical reactions, breaking apart the water molecule or the carbon dioxide molecule to make a fuel like hydrogen. They call it sun-gas. Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation

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Nov 10, 2015
The Deniers are working to make windows out of coal.

Nov 12, 2015
The Deniers are working to make windows out of coal.

Meanwhile, the "Believers" are ignoring the practical realities of renewable energy:


Solar Energy Firms Leave Waste Behind in China

... the byproduct of polysilicon production -- silicon tetrachloride -- is a highly toxic substance that poses environmental hazards.

"The land where you dump or bury it will be infertile. No grass or trees will grow in the place -- it is poisonous, it is polluting. Human beings can never touch it," said Ren Bingyan, a professor at the School of Material Sciences at Hebei Industrial University.

companies in the developed world recycle the compound

... the high investment costs and time, not to mention the enormous energy consumption required for heating the substance to more than 1800 degrees F for the recycling, have discouraged many factories in China from doing the same.

Nov 12, 2015
For each ton of polysilicon produced, the process generates at least four tons of silicon tetrachloride liquid waste.

And it's simply being dumped in the ground because it costs more to dispose of it properly.

The recent drop in prices of solar panels has been mostly due to cheap Chinese companies entering the market by the dozens and taking up over half the market share, and they're cheap largely due to shenanigans like this: dumping waste in the ground, using cheap coal power to run the factories, artifical state export subsidies...

So it's a bit too soon to call for a "death to fossil fuels", when a large part of the "progress" in renewables is running on willfull ignorance, pollution and fossil fuels.

Nov 12, 2015
I think Eikka has never seen a drilling rig and the nasty, filthy damage they do. Look it up.

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