Solar power is something of the everyday person's darling of renewable energy: it is easy to see and conceptualize, and (along with wind turbines) sort of defines renewable energy for most people. Unfortunately, there is not very much knowledge among the average citizen about solar energy systems beyond that they are renewable. Our solar page gives a basic introduction to solar energy -- which for small-scale purposes can be subdivided between solar thermal system for hot water/heat and photovoltaic (PV) system for electricity.
Researchers at UCLA have developed a new polymer solar cell (PSC) that boasts 70 percent transparency—a big leap ahead of earlier solar cells, which were only about 10 percent transparent to the human eye. The new PSCs work by using a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into electricity while allowing other forms of light to pass through it. According to UCLA’s materials science and engineering professor Yang Yang, the flexible new transparent solar cells could lead to a wide variety of real-world applications: smart windows and other building materials, parts of portable electronics, and even transparent computers.
A forum on solar power gene
Have you ever considered getting solar panels for your home or business? Ever wanted to know more about solar panels in practice, but didn't know anyone with experience with them? If so, you have a chance this Saturday, October 1, to talk with home and business owners in the central Shenandoah Valley who have solar panels. This informal "solar tour" will feature installations of both PV and solar thermal panels in locations ranging from Waynesboro to Harrisonburg to Fincastle. There is no need to sign up, just show up at any of the locations listed here during the availability listed on each location.
These home and business owners will obviously have different levels of knowledge, but all have agreed to be around their homes and answer whatever questions they can about their panels. The sites range from newly installed systems whose history is measured in months to systems that have been in place for over two decades. The event is part of a national effort to increase awareness of solar power as a clean and available source of renewable energy. Hopefully, the more people are able to see installed systems and ask questions about them, the more they will consider solar systems for their own homes. Also, if you have a solar installation and want to be added to the list, details for getting involved are here.
Largest solar-photovoltaic facility on public lands to create over 600 jobs, inject $336 million into local economy
WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today approved the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, a 550-megawatt (MW) solar power project to be built in the California desert east of Palm Springs. The solar-photovoltaic facility will create more than 630 jobs at peak construction and infuse an estimated $336 million into the local economy. When built, Desert Sunlight will generate enough energy to power over 165,000 homes.
This project will conduct a feasibility assessment of the adoption and diffusion of solar energy in the residential sector of the Shenandoah Valley. The feasibility analysis will use formal technology assessment techniques to evaluate the opportunities and barriers to adoption of three solar energy technologies: (1) solar photovoltaic, (2) solar thermal for domestic hot water, and (3) solar thermal space heating systems. Four specific categories of opportunities and barriers will be addressed in depth: technical, economic, social, and public policy.