A U of T Engineering innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Dr. Hairen Tan and his team have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.
“Economies of scale have greatly reduced the cost of silicon manufacturing,” said Professor Ted Sargent, an expert in emerging solar technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. “Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes.”
Hi, Alex. I just saw your post concerning climate change. Id like to start by saying that I agree with your points. Do you think green energy is as accessible as it should be? And if so, what can people do to utilize it?
This is definitely a complicated question. I’m going to focus on solar energy as an example, but this can be broadly applied to other renewable energies.
I think, yes, green energy and renewables are accessible. I think more people can (and SHOULD) afford them than we’re led to believe. All the rhetoric we hear about how expensive solar installations are to individual consumers (i.e. solar panels) is largely a scare tactic. People who are undecided – and in some cases, already oppose renewables – are told that the “upfront cost” is not worth the long-term payoff. We’re given numbers like $25,000 for an installation with 20 years until you make back your money. Long-term numbers scare people. Individual homeowners want quick turnarounds.
The economics of solar power aren’t about getting off the grid and generating income – not exactly, at least. The long-term goal is to create an energy grid where individual homes and businesses in solar-abundant regions generate more power than they use, stored, and delivered to solar-lacking regions. That is to say, if a lot of homes in Arizona and Nevada are collecting and storing solar energy year-round, that energy can be transferred to homes in, say, the Pacific Northwest, where solar is only abundantly available for a few months out of the year.
It’s the key point that people often miss, and the point that opponents of renewable energy intentionally misconstrue: renewable energy isn’t all about generating energy, but about storing energy. In recent years, we’ve been seeing entire countries have a stretch of days, even MONTHS, where they received all their energy from renewables. Denmark. Chile. The American Samoa. Now Germany. And in Southern Australia, which last year suffered massive winds that effectively destroyed the power grid and to this day is causing unpredictable, widespread blackouts, there is now a race to provide what could become the most efficient energy generation and storage installations in the world, after Elon Musk (CEO, Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink) offered to install Tesla Powerwalls to solve the energy crisis there in 100 days or less – or it’s free.
Energy storage is the important part of renewables. Long-term savings, and as the tech becomes more efficient and widely used, personal financial gain, are the benefits of installing renewables now. Every installation is a step forward. “But the tech isn’t good enough yet!” Yes, it is. The most advanced solar panels being developed in the United States today are upwards of 27% efficient – that is, 27% of the energy that hits the panel from the sun is converted into electricity, and the rest is either converted into heat, or reflected back into the atmosphere. There’s a whole other discussion we could have that talks about how better solar panels will even reduce the heat captured by Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Less reflected light and heat = more electricity and less energy stuck in the atmosphere, which is good for the current rate of human-accelerated climate change.
That 27% number might seem low, but consider this: all of the sunlight that hits the Earth in ONE HOUR (source, page 10) is enough to power the entire world for more than a year. And with improving tech and infrastructure, that figure is growing.
A lot of people call solar panels ugly and complicated. Well, those complaints are about to come to an end, thanks to the latest developments in solar panel tech: solar shingles. Although they have been in the market for several years, they weren’t made popular until, of course, Elon Musk spoke. So for anyone worried about aesthetics, worry no more.
Here’s a good run-down of what a solar roof might cost. Some estimates put the installation cost close to the cost of installing a new roof on your house – so if you’re in need of a new roof, everyone is saying the same thing: GO SOLAR. You’ll save money in the long-term. You’ll have one of the most durable roofs on the market. You’ll be contributing to the acceleration of renewable energy. And it looks friggin sexy as hell.
Here are two good reports about the costs of solar roofs:
So hopefully this answers your question. Yes, renewable technology is accessible, some of it more than others. The responsibility comes down to the individual consumer: they must educate themselves on the benefits and downfalls of installing new systems, and they must also financially prepare ahead of time – while keeping in mind the long-term 20-30 year payoff could be worth more than they invest upfront.
The transition to renewable energy is a game of future outlooks. Not everyone cares how the world will look in 30 years. A lot of people just say “I’ll be dead anyway.” We need to change that mindset for the betterment of future generations. The world (hopefully) isn’t coming to an end any time soon, so it will always be up to the current generations to prepare a better future for the next generations to enjoy. Whether that be economically, technologically, or politically, our choices now forever determine the quality of life people will have in the future. That mindset is what drives these industries, and it’s also the mindset that will put an end to others.
And there’s one country that can claim a huge share of the credit for it.
Solar power is becoming the world’s cheapest form of new electricity generation, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggests.
According to Bloomberg’s analysis, the cost of solar power in China, India, Brazil and 55 other emerging market economies has dropped to about one third of its price in 2010. This means solar now pips wind as the cheapest form of renewable energy—but is also outperforming coal and gas.
In a note to clients this week, BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said that solar power had entered “the era of undercutting” fossil fuels.
Bloomberg reports that 2016 has seen remarkable falls in the price of electricity from solar sources, citing a $64 per megawatt-hour contract in India at the tart of the year, and a $29.10 per megawatt-hour deal struck in Chile in August—about 50% the price of electricity produced from coal.
Ethan Zindler, head of U.S. policy analysis at BNEF, attributed much of the downward pressure to China’s massive deployment of solar, and the assistance it had provided to other countries financing their own solar projects.
“Solar investment has gone from nothing—literally nothing—like five years ago to quite a lot,” Zindler said.
When the numbers come in at the end of 2016 the generating capacity of newly installed solar photovoltaics is expected to exceed that of wind for the first time: at 70 gigawatts and 59 gigawatts respectively, according to BNEF projections.
I remember seeing some posts in the solarpunk tag about how, while steampunk uses Victorian style because it’s an alternative history, the art nouveau aesthetic of solarpunk was arbitrarily chosen because it’s pretty and thus doesn’t really make sense. While it’s true that person who started the solarpunk idea chose art nouveau due to its organic elements and emphasis on nature, I argue that it also completely makes sense from an alternative history perspective.
The first solar-powered engine was invented by Augustin Mouchot. He received a government grant to deploy several solar engines in French Algeria. His engine was also displayed at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878, where he wowed audiences by making ice using the power of the sun. However, his lost his funding when the French government decided that solar energy was too cost-prohibitive compared to coal.
Let’s instead imagine that history decided to move towards solar energy instead. By the 1890s, solar technology would be much more advanced; even without the shift away from coal, a number of advances in solar technology happened in the decade following Mouchot’s invention. And do you know what art style becomes popular in the 1890s? Art nouveau. And while the idea of “green” and “sustainable” living didn’t really pop up until we realized how much we’ve screwed up the environment with coal and oil, it’s not to much of a stretch to imagine that the emphasis on nature in art nouveau coupled with the availability of solar energy creates a society that defaults to those values anyway. If that reasoning is not good enough, you can have a storyline where a group of people in a steampunk society realize how much the burning of coal is harming the environment and decide to split off and form a solarpunk society (the art nouveau movement starts at the tail end of the Victorian era, so that would work as well).
Not that any of this HAS to make sense; solarpunk doesn’t have any need for “historical accuracy” because it’s a genre for fiction. Neither does steampunk for that matter. I just wanted to show how solarpunk, with its art nouveau aesthetic, totally works as an alternate history in addition to speculative futures.
Filtering gallons and gallons of ocean water for people in need sounds like fool-proof kindness, so what’s the hold up? Let’s give drinkable water to the world! Unfortunately, traditional methods of desalination, the process of removing toxins, come at a high financial cost. But solar energy could be the answer that breaks open the clean water floodgates. New solar generator prototypes from IBM Research and Airlight Energy are in the works to convert sunlight into heat that can boil ocean water to pass through desalination filters, resulting in pure, drinkable water. That omniscient sun who watches 2.5 billion people without access to proper sanitation is like, finally it’s about time they put me to work.
Cosa dovrei pensare? Io sono del sud e ODIO con tutto me stesso chi giudica il sud come uno schifo ecc.ecc. Il sud è stupendo, la gente è più solare, ci sono coste assurde, il mare è una meraviglia, i paesaggi pure. Purtroppo a volte viene rovinato tutto e messe in evidenza azioni brutte, violente e mafiose; ma non dimentichiamoci che ci sono in TUTTO il mondo. Anche il Nord è pieno ma ovviamente le persone del sud sono più “cattive”, ormai è un pensiero socievole che ha influenzato gran parte della popolazione italiana. Si dovrebbe andare un po’ più in là con i pensieri e guardare tutto quanto da una prospettiva diversa.
Valdaya- V: You are my sunshine. I love you so much I will wait until the end of time for you. Z: I love you too, ditto on everything. V: Do you want the sun baby? The moon, the stars? I’ll get it for you. Z: N-No, Val. Its ok. V: *on the phone to Nasa* How much does the Solar System cost?
Maksdaya- M: I’m Pretty sure I am the only one between me and my bro who’s actually thought of you as a little sister the entire time. I’m surprised he’s risking it, you are so young. Z: ….Maks you dated Kate Upton. M: Ok dated is loose term and.. shut up keep my baby bro happy. I love you.
Zalex- A: You make my bro happy. I’m happy. You are Happy. I love you so much for making the russian army happy. Z: I love you too Alex, you are such a great big brother too. A: If Val ever fucks up I’ll kick his ass. Z: Noted. A: Also I’d steal you away and make ginger mocha swirled babies with you. Z: Oh my goodness
Ruedaya: R: You are so pretty! Z: No you’re so pretty! R: Your body tho! Z: Your body tho! R: I would totally be your gf! Z: ME TOO. *continues on for 1000 yrs)
Petadaya: P: I can’t wait until we are actually sisters in law. Z: Same, but I’ve got a few more years. :( Val can’t wait to be an uncle tho. P: Neither can Maks….. Z…. does Noon count?