Imagine being off-grid without standard solar panels. What?! That could be possible in the very near future. The technology for clear solar collectors is on the horizon. Transparent luminescent solar concentrators are being developed at Michigan State University.
Without getting too technological, non-visible light wavelengths hit these collectors and send a charge to a series of photovoltaic cells along the edges. Because we can’t see these wavelengths, the plastic collector appears transparent.
Solar collectors that can be put anywhere
These collectors can be put anywhere you would normally have a clear surface. From skyscraper windows to smart phone screens, we can be generating electricity as locally as you can get it.
Just think! The sunniest windows in your off-grid home could be generating power while you enjoy your rural views. Off-grid won’t even have to be rural.
Traditional solar panels might be dinosaurs in the next 50 years or so. Problems like views being blocked and birds and insects dying from CSPs would be all but non-existent. Less energy would be lost in transmission. Manufacture and transport would relay into reduced CO2 emissions, and there would be fewer materials needed for installations.
Utilities need to get involved
The cost of solar keeps going down making panels more and more accessible to the general public. Utilities are nervous about this – many more solar installations could put them in jeopardy.
Instead of seeing solar as a threat, they should get on board and start to finance the research and production to make solar more efficient. Sort of like the old saying, “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.”
If utility companies help develop solar and provide it to their customers, high-tech transparent luminescent solar concentrator production could boom. What a great business venture to make solar as innocuous as possible while reducing everyone’s bills and sparing the environment from coal plants!
Widespread benefits of solar
Even here in Taos, the solar scene is about to change. The demand is there, but our electric co-op is only allowed to generate 5% of its energy from renewables. We are almost at that point, too.
Co-ops throughout the state might be able to cancel their contracts (this all came about over another battle about price increases), and consequently determine their own solar generation needs.
Solar manufacturing plants could revive cities destroyed by the economy, such as Detroit, and consequently boost demand and production.
Batteries for power storage are getting more efficient and affordable, too. Tesla is expanding to produce batteries for residential, commercial and industrial use that will be smaller, more powerful and less expensive.
All these little bits and pieces are coming together to bring solar to the forefront of power generation. All the R&D in the world won’t matter if utilities don’t help with financial backing and distribution, and if there are limits on how much solar power utilities can use for generation. Mass production will drive prices down further, but consumers (YOU!) must demand solar, and utilities and banks need to get involved to create momentum.