Monday, 15 December 2014

A Breakthrough in Solar Energy Has Been Announced By the Australian Scientists

Researchers in Australia have developed a new way of configuring commercial solar panels, which has broken records for conversion of sunlight into electricity – at costs which may be affordable.

The new PV system is created by the researchers of UNSW (University of New South Wales). It converts over forty percent solar energy into electrical energy, which represents a fifteen percent increase over other top panels.

The lab tests have proved that the solar cell process can convert up to forty-six percent of the energy of the sun into electricity. The new method works with the regular commercial PV cells stacked to absorb different wavelengths. This breakthrough could makesolar plants more competitive with low cost sources of energy including coal.

Martin Green, the professor of UNSW said, “This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity. We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry."

Green also said that the production of traditional solar energy only makes use of one solar cell, whichrestricts the conversion of sunlight to electricity to about thirty-three percent. But the new technology that has been developed by UNSW distributes sunlight into four various cells, therefore increasing conversion levels.

The advancement involved two important steps-3 solar panels were stacked for capturing the energy from sunlight of various wavelengths and then excess light from cells were reflected by filters and mirrors and directed to the 4th PV panel. Hence, earlier unused sunlight was used and contributes to the increased level of efficiency.

Solar researchers of UNSW have made many advancements in solar energy in past 40 years, including the first PV system for achieving a conversion rate of more than twenty percent in 1989. However, the latest development doubles that achievement.

This new technology can be used with PV power towers, which make use of sun tracking mirrors for focusing the sunlight on a tall collector building. Green however, hopes to use this technology on domestic solar panels on homeowner’s roofs in the future. Domestic solar panels presently have only fifteen to eighteen percent efficiency. “The panels that you have on the roof of your home, at the moment they just have a single cell but eventually they'll have several different cells... and they'll be able to improve their efficiency to this kind of level,” Green said.

ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) is providing funding to solar energy researchers at UNSW. Ivor Frischknecht, the CEO of the agency said in a statement, “We hope to see this home grown innovation take the next steps from prototyping to pilot scale demonstrations. Ultimately, more efficient commercial solar plants will make renewable energy cheaper, increasing its competitiveness."

ARENA is an independent Commonwealth authority, supporting the innovations, which increase the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and improve the renewable energy supply in Australia.  ARENA has narrowly escaped abolition thanks to the intervention of the Palmer United Party whole leader made a public pledge alongside climate hero Al Gore.

For installation of solar PV on homes and businesses, the Australian Renewable Energy Target (RET) is still in place, offering 15 year ‘deeming’ for projects below 100kW.   Businesses in Australia wanting to benefit from a solar installation are pushing ahead to have their solar feasibility confirmed and purchase and install systems before mid 2015, which is likely to be the earliest date the Coalition government could reduce the RET scheme.

For energy efficiency projects, there are various financial support programs presently available in NSW and Victoria, including rebates, energy efficiency grants in Victoria and subsidies that support energy audit services such as Future Proofing Geelong.

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