We delve into six new solar technologies set to take off
The solar industry is young and enthusiastic. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies and universities actively researching, developing, and testing new solar technology and new products every day. Some are tweaking our existing silicon solar panels to make them more attractive or more efficient. Others are devising entirely new ways to produce electricity with sunlight.
When you think about it, all this innovation makes sense. We often naturally group the solar industry with companies that provide electricity (i.e. utilities) but really solar is a technology, not a service. Instead, we should be boxing solar companies together with other technology companies, like Apple, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic. (Actually, LG and Panasonic make solar panels!)
And, as with any company in the technology industry, solar manufacturers and researchers are always trying to create the next great product that is cheaper, more beautiful, easier to install, or produces more energy.
Let’s take a look at six of these new technologies, focusing on products that either came on the market in 2017 or enjoyed major steps to commercialization this year. Not all of these products are available yet, but they are all quite exciting, with each one representing a path that the solar industry could one day trod down.
Frameless stick-on solar panels (Lumeta Solar)
Why we’re excited: These solar panels are easier and faster to install than conventional silicon solar panels. They’re more discrete and require no holes in your roof.
We’ve been watching Lumeta Solar for a few years now and it appears they’re finally ready for commercialization.
Lumeta makes frameless solar panels with extra-strong butyl adhesive (commonly used for roofing work) on the back. Installers simply peel away the adhesive backing paper and stick the panels directly onto your roof. This is about as simple an installation as you can get. What takes 2-3 days with conventional solar panels now takes just hours.
There’s no mounting hardware, no railings, no grounding, and no roof penetrations. Need to remove them for roof repair? Just put a heat blanket over each panel and it will peel off the roof. Afterwards, you can reinstall the panels.
Without mounting hardware, the panels sit lower on the roof, giving a more discrete appearance. Without any roof penetrations for mounting, you don’t have to worry about leaks in later years.
Lumeta produces solar panels for asphalt shingles as well as clay tiles. The panels weigh about 26 pounds – compared to conventional solar panels’ 35 to 45 pounds – and enjoy a healthy 18% efficiency with a power output of 300 watts, making them a premium panel option.
Lumeta is taking pre-orders in the 4th quarter of 2017.
Tip: We wrote about stick-on solar back in 2016. There have been updates since then, but the article provides a deeper dive into how stick-on solar works and the benefits of the product.
Why we’re excited: This one should be pretty self-explanatory!
Solar windows are exactly what you’re thinking they are: windows that also produce solar electricity. How they work is actually pretty fascinating. Quantum dots float around in the windows and absorb non-visible light (ultraviolet, for example). The dots then release that light near the window frame, where a solar panel integrated into the side of the window takes it and turns it into electricity.
There’s currently only one or two manufacturers that actually sell solar windows, but a handful of others are currently testing products as well.
Looking out your window while it produces electricity is certainly an uber-cool prospect, and we’re excited to see where this goes, but don’t get too excited just yet. Solar windows are currently hampered by low efficiency and high cost. With such low efficiency, solar windows today lend themselves well to commercial buildings, since they require a large number of panels to produce any useful amount of electricity.
As more and more companies test and develop their products, solar windows will come closer to commercial viability. Hopefully, this will be something we can all install in our own homes at some point in the future!
Don’t your old windows seem so boring now?
Tip: For more info on cost and manufacturers, read our article How Much Do Solar Windows Cost? Are They Worth It?