Week in review: Solar goes viral, PV breaks 2 efficiency records

Among other things solar is doing is going viral, at least in neighborhoods across the U.S., according to a new study. That’s good news for solar, as are the two new efficiency records broken last week by different solar technologies. However, facing lowered costs and oversupply, solar companies could see 180 or more manufacturers go out of...

BIPV-type solar installationAmong other things solar is doing is going viral, at least in neighborhoods across the U.S., according to a new study. That’s good news for solar, as are the two new efficiency records broken last week by different solar technologies. However, facing lowered costs and oversupply, solar companies could see 180 or more manufacturers go out of business.

If a neighbor has solar then it’s more likely other people in the neighborhood will go solar too. That’s according to a new study from Yale University and New York University.  The study found that having homes with solar in a neighborhood can more than double the amount of homes with solar in the locality. The report found that when neighbors see their neighbors with solar, it makes them more likely to go solar as well.

That’s particularly true in California where even Habit for Humanity is building solar-powered homes. For instance, the East Bay Silicon Valley Habit for Humanity has already completed 100 solar-powered energy efficient homes and is already building it’s next one as part of a 12 home project there.

Last week also saw some efficiency breakthroughs. Topping the charts in terms of overall efficiency was Solar Junction, which reached 44 percent efficiency with its multi-junction PV cells. The technology is the type used in high concentrating photovoltaics (HCPV). It’s making the most efficient PV cells around and the company has plans to make PV cells up to 50 percent efficient.

Meanwhile nanomaterials are being used to develop the next generation of photovoltaics. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) used nanomanufacturing processes to create cells that are 18.2 percent efficient.  The researchers used a nano-etching process to develop the structures within the top-layer of silicon PV cells to create what’s known as black silicon which is highly anti-reflective. The nano-etched surface can help reduce the need for expensive anti-reflective coatings and the weight they add to a solar panel.

With solar’s mercurial price drops, competition is getting even more fierce for manufacturers. A new report from GTM Research found that roughly 180 solar manufacturers could stop production or be bought by other manufacturers as early as 2015. Chief among the reasons the report cited were the “China factor.” The report anticipated that the majority of manufacturing would be in lower-cost places like China and manufacturing in higher-cost places like the U.S. and Europe will be reduced.

The U.S. is still working on developing new ways to make solar less expensive. For instance, states in the U.S. midwest are offering more than $300,000 in as part of its 2013 Clean Energy Challenge. The contest is sponsored by The Clean Energy Trust and its partners. It’s challenging both start-up companies and students to come up with new innovations for solar and other renewable energy technologies.

Puerto Rico got into the solar game. The islands just got their first utility-scale solar project, a 20-megawatt array. The project was built by GPtech, a Spanish company. The facility was commissioned earlier in October and its just one of many that are planned for U.S. territory. The islands recently passed a renewable portfolio standard under which it will source 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2035.

 

 

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