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Powered by dropping costs, increasing system efficiency and installation incentives, the use of solar is growing steadily. Photovoltaic panels are not the same silicon rooftop systems you’re used to. NOT AT ALL!!! They’re popping up in new places and may soon be made of new materials.

1.     Solar with storage is growing.

Adding energy storage systems to solar installations is becoming more common. The storage systems allow you to save up some energy when it’s cheap. For instance, the renewables generate it for you. Then the stored energy is used when grid power is more expensive, like during peak usage periods.

For building managers who are looking to reduce costs and add more resilient forms of power, storage is the best answer. According to experts, solar with storage provides a lower cost of energy than commercial buildings can get from their utility. increased electricity demand taxing the grid, Storage enables buildings to maintain power in blackouts and outages in times of weather events and also at times when increased electricity demand taxing the grid.

The most common commercial storage solution is the Lithium-based batteries. They’re relatively compact. The actual footprint and the number of solar panels to pair with them, will vary depending on how much you’re hoping to generate with your solar panels.

When and if net metering is an option in your area, you might want to install even more solar and storage. This definitely will be an advantage because of the credit you could receive by sending unused solar energy back into the grid.

2. Perovskite solar panels may soon hit the market

Perovskite Solar
Figure 1: Perovskite Solar (Department of energy, n.d.,)

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been researching the capabilities of solar panels made from perovskite. This is an extremely efficient crystal structure. It has the potential to replace the traditional silicon-based panels that dominate the market right now in the near future.

People are excited about perovskite mainly because they are extremely cheap to make. This is due to the fact that they are made from low-cost materials. They can be printed according to Lance M. Wheeler, a research scientist in chemistry and nanoscience for NREL. “The same way you make a newspaper, you can make a perovskite solar cell. They’re also extremely efficient—they’re close to surpassing silicon right now, which is the incumbent technology you find everywhere.”

According to NREL, Perovskite cells are made of layers of material sandwiched together. The top layer and the bottom layer help convert sunlight to electricity. NREL’s current research mainly focuses on increasing the cells’ efficiency and durability. Once the cells are durable enough and can be arranged on a large scale without losing efficiency, they’ll be ready for the peak. According to Wheeler this could be as soon as three to five years from now.

You think of solar as a panel you attach to the rooftop in a large-scale deployment. Because of the flexibility of perovskites, they can be merged anywhere. Having a printable, high-efficiency technology like perovskite enables any surface that sees the sun to be electrified.

3. New installations are putting PV everywhere

Figure 2: Flexible & Lightweight Solar (inhabitat, 2010)

Solar has started to climb down from the roof now. Various companies have started to go beyond their limits  of where solar can go. They are putting solar panels in new places, like the solar-powered fabric that Pvilion creates. This fabric can generate about 10-15W per square foot. It is used to create solar sails, canopies and tents that provide shade, shelter and power for charging devices or powering up equipment.

The explosion of outdoor dining during COVID-19 has created a boom in demand for sunshades and canopies that can also charge diners’ phones, said Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey. In one such recent project they installd eight of the canopies at the New York Botanical Gardens. Seven of them feed energy back into the grid, and the other one is tied to a bank of batteries with the purpose of storing power for future use.

With the demand for people to be sitting outside, eating, drinking and relaxing with family and friends, the desire is to have power in more places. On the other hand,  it’s also borne out of everyone’s need for continuous power the whole time. That trend is growing significantly, and when you combine that with outdoor dining and people’s desire to be outside more, the intersection is quite obvious.

Conveniences like solar canopies are part of a growing trend of micro-distributed solar generation. Solar is generated very locally and it is used in the same place. The new trend is in not thinking of solar as something that’s tied to the utility grid, but something off the grid that you can utilise.

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