Solar Panel Efficiency Gains

North Carolina based Semprius has set a new standard for solar panel efficiency at 33.9 percent!  While only a small gain over the previous record of 32%, it’s nice to see this trend continue, as improved efficiency helps increase solar’s competitiveness in the marketplace.  They accomplish this through the use of lenses and mirrors to focus the incoming light, a technique known as concentrated photovoltaics (CPV).  They’re expecting production of this technology to begin in the second half of 2012, though it’s targeted more towards utility-scale installations, not residential owners.

Hyperion Solar Updraft Tower

Hyperion Energy is looking to build a gigantic, kilometer tall tower in Australia.  Where it really gets interesting is the ‘why’.  The base of the two has holes in it.  The land around it, for almost fourteen square miles, would be covered, creating an air gap between the ground and the cover.  The sun would heat up the air under the cover, and hot air would rise up through the tower, drawing in cool air from the perimeter of the cover.  Turbines installed in the base of the tower would be turned by the rising hot air, thus generating electricity.  Perhaps the best part is since this operates on a temperature DIFFERENCE between the ground air and the air at the top of the tower, when night falls this will continue to generate electricity as the ground will retain heat while the air above the tower cools down.  Natural power storage.  So, not only is this clean, renewable energy, but…the plant pictured here would produce about as much electricity as as small nuclear reactor (200MW)!  Awesome!  They’re hoping to get this build and operational by 2014.


Hyperion Energy from Hyperion Energy on Vimeo.

Community Solar Garden

SunShare is doing something cool in Colorado Springs…they’re making it really easy for individual homeowners to reap the benefits of solar panels, without having to install solar panels on their own homes.  SunShare is building a ‘solar garden’, where individuals can lease a minimum of two solar panels.  The electricity from those panels is fed into the city’s power grid, and the leases then get a credit on their electric bill corresponding to how much power their panels produced.  You can read more about how it works here.

There’s something similar in Sacramento, CA, with SolarShares.  The big difference I can see is that instead of committing to output from a specific number of panels, it’s a less specific monthly fee that you pay the company.