While solar has come a long way economically, with installation costs falling dramatically over the last decade, solar technology has also considerably advanced in recent years. With recent research, new technology revolving around solar cell efficiency and storage capabilities has shed light on solar's many possibilities.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a low-cost, low-temperature, ultra-thin solar cell solution made from perovskites. Previously, perovskites were viewed as a less promising candidate for new solar technology due to their inability to produce as much or more energy than conventional silicon panels. Around 15 researchers at MIT were able to match and exceed the efficiency of typical silicon cells, which ranges between a 20-22% efficiency rate, meaning the solar cell can convert 20-22% of given sunlight into energy. Researchers were able to increase efficiency by up to 25.2% using a newly modified perovskite formula. With this further advancement in solar cell efficiency, industry leaders can expect continued research to increase efficiency and lower material costs.
The new focus for energy storage technology is about improving grid capabilities on a macro scale. Many companies, including Energy Vault, FlexGen Power Systems, and EnerVenue, are making strides toward resolving many of the energy storage challenges associated with renewable energy. Energy Vault employs a tower-like system in conjunction with A.I. autonomous software. When excess power is generated, bricks are raised; when energy is required, bricks are lowered. FlexGen employs small-grid energy storage units that are integrated with sophisticated management software. The management software releases and stores energy based on relative peak hours. Finally, EnerVenue uses nickel-hydrogen batteries, which allows storing energy in extremely hot or cold temperatures and is less expensive than traditional lithium-ion batteries. While nickel-hydrogen batteries are significantly heavier than lithium-ion batteries, the value is that these batteries can be used in residential and commercial buildings and can be assembled into a macro grid-scale storage system.
With new advancements in solar technology, the focus is on obtaining low-cost scalable solutions to continue trends in the renewable energy space. With current research, it appears that the solar industry is getting closer to finding cheaper, scalable material options.