Over the last few weeks we’ve discussed some of the most popular sources of renewable energy: Wind and Hydro.
Solar power, specifically photovoltaic power, has been key to clean energy in the last 30 years. These thin material systems rank 3rd in global energy capacity, and will continue to contribute in growing renewable efforts.
Rise to Power
Photovoltaic energy is extracted from semiconductors that convert energy from UV rays into electricity. These devices, often referred to as PV devices, can power anything from a cell phone to large businesses.
Alexandre Edmund Becquerel introduced the idea of photovoltaic energy in the 1800s. Increased experimentation carried well into the 20th century and evolved into a viable energy source by the 50s.
Falling only third behind wind and hydro, PV energy is predicted to become the most widely used source of alternative electricity. Since the 90s, photovoltaic systems have been used in small applications. In 2000, Germany piloted its first mass market project roofing 1,000 homes in photovoltaic devices.
Over time, production and installation prices have fallen significantly, making PV systems more attainable to home and business owners alike. Though PV devices only account for less than 5% of global energy sources, considerable growth is imminent.
From new innovations to real-life implementation, photovoltaic systems are leading the way in renewable energy. As this type of solar power grows in mass production, scientists are actively searching for ways to create more effective and inexpensive devices.
Here are some of the latest advancements.
Thin Film Materials
The most popular PV system is a thin film model that’s relatively cheaper to produce. Silicon based materials have dominated the market and experiments for years. Its cost effective appeal has made it a popular choice for larger operations.
A team of physicists at the University of Buffalo recently created a new thin film made of nontoxic barium zirconium sulfide. It's just as cost effective but has a greater energy output potential. This discovery has introduced new possibilities for semiconductor materials and a new wave of PV devices.
Power in Transparency
In 2012, researchers at UCLA developed a double layer photovoltaic device intended for windows, sunroofs, etc. This model was made of crystalline silicon and wasn’t fully transparent, boasting a reddish hue. While not completely practical for its intended applications, it paved the way for further advancements.
In 2019, scientists in Korea modified this experiment by adding perfectly placed holes in the film creating a “transparent” appearance to the naked eye. This model still possessed a slight coloration, but was significantly less than the original material.
Currently, renewable power accounts for almost 45% of Brazil’s primary power. The country uses hydropower to supply approximately 80% of its electricity, and intends to use PV plants to fill the gap.
Brazil’s Sao Goncalo solar PV plant holds the largest photovoltaic system in South America, generating more than 1,200 gigawatts per hour. The system has been running since early 2020, and gives promise to those looking for sustainable energy at large.
Low cost materials and reasonable installation prices make PV systems an ideal technology for renewable energy. Photovoltaic energy will be the growth driver in global renewable energy in the years to come.