Monday, September 6, 2010
Solar power innovations
New developments are really starting to pop in the solar power arena. Most businesses and individuals will readily admit that solar power is one of the waves of the future. They have been slightly hesitant to jump on the bandwagon themselves, however. The numbers of businesses installing solar power or heating and its adoption by government agencies in the U.S. has been disappointing. So has the performance of publicly traded solar stocks.
I think we have reached a collective turning point. Whether or not global warming is real has been mostly decided in most minds, regardless if because of natural or man-made causes. European and Chinese adoption of the technology is leading the world and making the U.S. seem like a dimwitted laggard. Large global companies and the military have seen the writing on the wall concerning petroleum-based power production and are making the move to renewable sources of energy. New solar research is revealing many ways to make this energy source both cheaper and much more efficient.
Global Solar of Tucson, Arizona specializes in thin, flexible solar panels that do not need mounting racks like traditional rigid polycrystalline panels. This allows them to be glued to roof surfaces with no penetration. They perform well in areas receiving no direct sunlight. The panels are currently produced in 19-foot-long by 1 ½-foot wide strips. They are now seeking certification for the panels.
A few companies are experimenting with selling small solar panels having built-in micro-inverters. This allows plug&play installation of as many or as few as wanted at the time. More panels for greater power output can be added later. This should be a growing trend allowing companies and individuals to “get their toes wet” before diving in to a full(and still expensive) solar array installation. Green Ray Solar in Westford, MA has received UL certifications for its solar panels containing inverters.
Research at University of California will lead to much more energy-efficient smart-phones and other hand-held devices. This extra efficiency would allow these devices to run on solar power rather than high-powered batteries alone. Think about the extra freedom having solar powered phones, mp3 players, portable GPS units and laptops allows the user. No more worrying about running out of battery power or down-time while recharging the battery.
The National Renewable Energy Lab has discovered a new technique to greatly improve the efficiency of existing solar-panel technology by allowing the absorption and conversion of all wavelengths of light. Acid etching the silicon photovoltaic wafer producing millions of tiny holes in its surface and turns it black. The process is fast and easy to produce. The new process could reduce production costs of solar panels as well as increase their efficiency.
Solar power will continue to evolve rapidly during the coming years. New discoveries in the field will make this energy source continually cheaper and easier to access. This is the reason I actively invest in a number of solar energy stocks and will continue to do so. This industry has not yet lived up to its potential concerning share prices but that day is coming soon and smart investors will be ready when it arrives.
photo courtesy of: freephoto.com