This year, the race regulations are a clear sign of how rapidly solar technology is changing. Teams have to use a smaller solar collector than before: cars in the Challenger class can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race, in 2015. That’s half the area allowed on cars from the original 1987 race. In other words, technology is advanced enough now (both in solar cells and the underlying vehicle designs) that you don’t need a sea of panels to keep a car running.
Globally, the price of solar panels has fallen 50% between 2016 and 2017, they write. And in countries with favorable wind conditions, the costs associated with wind power “can be as low as one-half to one-third that of coal- or natural gas-fired power plants.” Innovations in wind-turbine design are allowing for ever-longer wind blades; that boost in efficiency will also increase power output from the wind sector, according to Morgan Stanley.
Floating solar farms are becoming increasingly popular around the world because their unique design addresses multiple efficiency and city planning issues. These floating apparatuses free up land in more populated areas and also reduce water evaporation. The cooler air at the surface also helps to minimize the risk of solar cell performance atrophy, which is often related to long-term exposure to warmer temperatures.
This is the first big project from Tesla and SolarCity since the acquisition. Both companies believe this station is the biggest combination solar panel and storage facility in the world. With approximately 55,000 solar cells spread over about 45 acres, it’ll be tough to find anything larger.
CSP uses either lenses or parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun’s light onto a small point where water or another substance is heated.
The heat is used to create steam, which runs a turbine that produces electricity. In the Noor CSP, concave mirrors focus on molten salt, heating it anywhere from 300 degrees to 660 degrees Fahrenheit.
Currently, the Noor CSP can generate 160 megawatts (MW). But as additional phases are completed, in two years it’s expected to generate more than 500MW — enough power to meet the needs of 1.1 million Moroccans.
Solar power projects intended to turn solar heat into steam to generate electricity have struggled to compete amid tumbling prices for solar energy from solid-state photovoltaic (PV) panels. But the first commercial-scale implementation of an innovative solar thermal design could turn the tide. Engineered from the ground up to store some of its solar energy, the 110-megawatt plant is nearing completion in the Crescent Dunes near Tonopah, Nev. It aims to simultaneously produce the cheapest solar thermal power and to dispatch that power for up to 10 hours after the setting sun has idled photovoltaics.
At the utility scale, it may actually be even more disruptive. Tesla appears to be selling the utility scale models at < $250 / kwh. Multiple utility studies suggest that such a price should replace natural gas peakers and drive gigantic grid-level deployments.
Tentative Conclusion: The battery is right on the verge of being cost effective to buy across most of the US for day/night arbitrage. And it’s even more valuable if outages come at a high economic cost.
“We’re almost at a 1 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight into isopropanol,” Nocera said. “There have been 2.6 billion years of evolution, and Pam and I working together a year and a half have already achieved the efficiency of photosynthesis.”
Mayfield told CBS News that the exact same thing – turning electrons into biomass – has already been done many a times previously by using the same bacteria.
In a parabolic trough plant like Solana, the mirrors are curved inward, with a glass tube running along the deepest point, or trough, of each mirror. The tube is full of synthetic oil (also known as heat transfer fluid, or HTF). The concave mirrors concentrate light onto this HTF, heating it to 740 degrees Fahrenheit. The system is extremely efficient in collecting heat and concentrating it to a blistering level; when I asked what would happen if I touched the tube, the reply was a curt “Trust me, you definitely don’t want to do that.”
Once the oil is up to temperature, about 270 miles of pipe transport it to the power block, where the HTF takes one of two pathways, depending on Solana’s current needs.
If you want hydrogen to power an engine or a fuel cell, it’s far cheaper to get it from natural gas than to make it by splitting water. Solar power, however, could compete with natural gas as a way to make hydrogen if the solar process were somewhere between 15 and 25 percent efficient, says the U.S. Department of Energy. While that’s more than twice as efficient as current approaches, researchers at Stanford University have recently developed materials that could make it possible to hit that goal. The work is described in the journal Science.