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World record in Australia achieves over 40% solar power efficiency

The idea that solar energy can become the world’s primary power source has taken a major step forward after Australian solar technology leader RayGen Resources, along with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), collaborated to produce the highest‐ever efficiency rate for solar energy conversion.

Outdoor testing undertaken in Sydney, Australia by UNSW researchers achieved 40.4% conversion rate for photovoltaic (PV) efficiency, putting it ahead of the most efficient fossil fuels energy conversion systems (coal‐fired power stations in Australia run at 40% system efficiency). The experiment was independently verified at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) outdoor test facility in the USA.

The record was achieved using a system that enables sunlight (that is normally wasted by solar cells) to be converted to electricity, resulting in a higher system than previously demonstrated.

RayGen Resources used similar technology that resides at the heart of the company’s revolutionary Concentrated Solar Photovoltaic (CSPV) solution to provide design and technical support for the prototype. CSPV is capable of producing the world’s lowest-cost source of renewable energy for utility-scale purposes.

RayGen CEO, Bob Cart, said the world‐first conversion result marked an exciting milestone in enabling utility-scale solar power to become a more viable alternative to fossil fuels.

“I can’t overstate the significance of this result because it means we move one step closer to a world where sunlight is our primary form of electricity generation”, said Mr Cart. “In practical terms, we’ll
be looking to apply the outcome of the testing to the work we’re doing with companies like China Intense Solar where addressing the acute air pollution problems of the world’s most populous nation
is a major priority.”

RayGen has fast-tracked the project timeline with China Intense Solar to deliver a 10MW commercial-scale operation in Qinghai province by August 2016, that will be capable of powering thousands of homes.

John Lasich, RayGen Chief Technology Officer and one of the world’s foremost solar technology innovators, said the company was capable of lifting energy conversion levels even higher.

“Looking at the pipeline of solar PV cell advances, we expect to achieve close to 45% system
efficiency in the next few years”, he said

Solar-powered bicycle lane “SolaRoad” unveiled in Netherlands

In Krommenie, Netherlands, officials biked into the future by opening “SolaRoad” along the solar cycle lane while riding on modern e-bikes.

Along one of its two lanes is a bike path made of concrete modules, each measuring 2.5 by 3.5 meters (eight by 11 feet), are embedded with solar panels covered in tempered glass.

To help prevent accidents, the glass has been given a special non-slip surface, to prevent accidents and slips. The solar panels are covered in tempered glass, to prevent breakage.

The solar cells generate electricity back into the national grid, but there are plans to power nearby street and traffic lights in the future.

In addition, the hope is that electric bikes and cars will be able to refuel using contactless charging directly from the bike path or solar road.

Tests will be carried out over the next couple weeks to see how much energy the bike path can generate.

Children biking on SolaRoad in the Netherlands

“The idea is that in the Netherlands we have approximately 140,000 kilometers (87,000 miles) of road which is much bigger than all the rooftops put together. We have 25,000 kilometers of bike paths in the Netherlands. The real potential of this product is unlocked when we apply it not only to bicycle paths, but to other roads used by cars,” said Sten de Wit, a physicist who helped develop the project.

The path has been working for 16 days (as of Nov 12th), and it generated 140 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity.

The aim for the Netherlands is to have a commercially available solar road within the next five years, to correspond with the number of electrically-powered cars and bicycles.

Small town solar farm honored as national leader

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) recently named Farmers Electric Cooperative (Frytown, Iowa) a national solar leader because of its “cumulative solar capacity of more than 1,800 watts per co-op member,” according to the report.

Farmers Electric opened the state’s largest solar farm in July. They have 650-members consisting of 4,900 solar panels across 4 1/2 acres in Kalona, about 25 miles southwest of Iowa City.

SEPA also recognized them for smaller residential projects and other solar farms. They installed solar arrays for public and private entities, including the Iowa Mennonite School and Washington Township Elementary School, as well as the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.

“It’s nice to be recognized for your hard work,” said Warren McKenna, general manager for Farmers Electric Cooperative. “(SEPA is) a big organization, an international organization, so it’s a huge honor.”

Members help expand Farmers’ use of renewable energy through the co-op’s Green Power Program, paying an extra $3 fee on their monthly bills. The co-op has set a target of reducing its use of fossil
fuels 25 percent by 2025, and the money from the Green Power Program is used to buy biodiesel fuel for Farmers’ back-up generators and offset some of the costs of its solar programs.

While the local Amish and Mennonites generally do not use electricity or telephones in their homes, they have allowed the installation of solar-powered phone booths and individual solar modules to help with their work.

There are several solar projects planned in Iowa in the near future, including a far north-central Iowa solar array project, which is expected to surpass Farmers Electric in size.

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Solar Panel Array gift to Penn State from Class of 2015

Students at Penn State voted for the solar panel array gift for the University. The solar panel array construction will be supported by student contributions to the class gift fund. The solar panels were chosen from 3 different proposals.

Penn State recently announced a building energy use goal of 20% reduction in the next 10 years, and has received recognition for it’s environmental sustainability program. The solar panel site will serve as an educational resource for academic departments and campus visitors.

“The solar array will also build awareness of our energy-reduction efforts and proclaim Penn State’s strong commitment to sustainability and a greener future. The solar array will also build awareness of our energy-reduction efforts and proclaim Penn State’s strong commitment to sustainability and a greener future,” said Tara Bendler, Class Gift Campaign executive director.

This is the second year in a row that students have voted for green projects. The class of 2014 voted to expand and improve a green roof terrace.

students support solar panel array project at Penn State


Tired of the standard blue colored solar panels? Try invisible or colored!

Most solar panels you see are dark blue with black lines, but not everyone finds them appealing to look at. However, a Swiss firm Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (SCEM) has developed the world’s first solar panels that come in white (invisible) or colored.

“For decades architects have been asking for a way to customize the colour of solar elements to make them blend into a building’s skin,” the company said in a statement.
The white solar modules have no visible cells or connections. An effective white panel has been difficult to develop because white reflects light rather than absorbs it, which is counter to the function of a solar panel. Traditional black-blue panels maximize solar absorption, which is why that color combination has become the standard.
To solve this aesthetic problem, SCEM focused on solar technology that absorbs light from outside of the visible spectrum, and absorb infrared solar energy. The panels then combine with a special filter that “scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light.” This allows the panels to be manufactured into modules that can blend in with building surfaces of any color, including white. This renders the panels almost “invisible”.
Another benefit is that they can work at temperatures 20 to 30 degrees Celsius below standard models, due to the fact that the visible reflected light will not contribute to heat, which reduces panel efficiency.
“White PV modules can also contribute to increase energy savings in buildings by keeping inner spaces cooler and reducing air conditioning costs,” said the firm’s statement.
The technology could be applied in the future to the consumer electronics industry, for use on the surface of laptops and phones, as well as cars, buses or planes without interrupting the look of the vehicle.


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