Sunday, November 29, 2020

Solar Panels for Your Home - How to Choose The Best


Solar panels are the most essential components of the solar power system. To choose the best solar panels (also called solar modules) is the most important thing for every homeowner who has decided to go solar. In this post, you will find some directions on how to choose the best solar panels for your home.

First of all, you have to choose the type and the brand of solar panels. There are four key technical specifications you have to consider: panel efficiency, temperature coefficient, the materials warranty, and the performance warranty. 

There are two main types to choose from when it comes to solar photovoltaic panels: monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline solar panels (black color) are more efficient because they are manufacture from the purest silicone. Each solar cell here is cut from a single, continuous piece of silicon crystal. Monocrystalline solar panels are also more expensive. They cost between $300-700 USD per panel. Monocrystalline solar panels produce the most waste when they're manufactured. 

Polycrystalline solar panels (dark blue color) are considered to be less efficient and this is due to the method of production. Manufacturers melt multiple silicon fragments together to produce the wafers for this type of solar panel. They are the most commonly purchased solar panels, simply because they are the most affordable option. Polycrystalline solar panels usually cost between $200-500 USD per panel. They are an environmentally-friendly option because they utilize all of the silicon material they are manufacture. 

There is also another type of solar panel - thin-film solar panels. Thin-film panels are cost-efficient and most sustainable to produce and they are least expensive. However, they are also the least efficient (commercially available generally have efficiency in the 10–13% range) and degrade faster. Thin-film panels need more space, even twice as much room as a mono- or polycrystalline solar panel with the same energy output. These types of solar panels usually cost between $175-300 USD per panel. It is rare to see thin-film panels on the roof. Thin-film photovoltaic cells are used for large and small PV application such as a calculator, solar-powered charger for smartphones, solar-powered purse, solar-powered backpack, curved surfaces on buildings and cars, even on clothing to charge small electronic devices. They are also used to power traffic and street lights, and for commercial and industrial projects (solar farms).

You may have heard about bifacial solar panels, which can absorb light on both the front and the back of the panel. They have higher rates of power output and higher efficiency than traditional solar panels. But these types of solar panels aren’t typically used for residential solar installations. They are more expensive and they are more suitable for large ground-mounted projects.

The second thing to consider is the brand. Some of the best quality and most reliable panel manufacturers are LG, SunPower, REC, Solaria, Panasonic, and QCells. You can see the list of the best manufacture at Top 10 Solar Panels - Latest Technology 2020 — Clean Energy Reviews. Another review of solar panels you can find at Best Solar Panels in 2020 [Complete List] | EnergySage. The best brands of solar panels have the best solar panel efficiency and temperature coefficient.

Solar panel efficiency means the percentage of sunlight that hits the surface of solar panels converted into electricity for your home. Currently, most solar panels have an efficiency between 15% to 22%. The average efficiency of solar panels is between the 17% to 19% efficiency range. The higher the efficiency rating, the more sunlight your solar system can turn into electricity to power your home. SunPower’s A-Series Residential Solar Panels are 22.8% efficient at their maximum and they are the best solar panels available on the market today. Keep in mind, however, that efficiency also depends on factors like placement, orientation, shading, time of year, dust and dirt, weather conditions, etc. If you have enough roof space you may choose less efficient and not so expensive solar panels.

The temperature coefficient tells you how well your solar panels will work on hot summer days. Solar panels operate most efficiently when they are kept cool (ideally around 25° C or 77° F panel’s temperature). The temperature coefficient usually ranges between -0.3% and -0.5 %/°C. Solar panels are tested according to international technical standards at 25°C, and that is why this is used as the reference point. For every degree above that temperature, your solar panel’s electricity production will decrease by the temperature coefficient. If the temperature coefficient is -0,3% and your solar panel’s temperature increases by one degree Celsius (from 25° C to 26° C), its electricity production will fall by 0.3%. If the temperature increases ten degrees Celsius to 35° C (or 95° F), the panel will produce 3% less electricity. So, a lower temperature coefficient is better. The temperature of the panels depends on your location, roof material (some absorb more heat than others), and the installation of the panels (if they are angled or mounted flat on the roof). In many instances, a solar panel’s surface can get as hot as 50° - 65°C. If the installation is a typical rack-type, you will have a gap of greater than 150mm between the roof surface and the panels. It will allow airflow to have a cooling effect on the panels.

Thin-film solar panels have a lower temperature coefficient than traditional monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels. Their temperature coefficients are closer to -0.2% / °C.

Another important thing is a solar panel’s materials warranty which protects against failure due to manufacturing defects. Solar PV manufacturers provide a minimum 10 - 12 years product warranty but many solar panel manufacturers offer 15, 20, and even 25-year product warranties. This means the manufacturer must either replace or give you a refund for solar panels that fail within the product warranty period.

The performance warranty is different from the solar panel’s materials warranty. The performance warranty is called also the 'power output warranty' and it ensures that the solar panel still produces a minimum power output after a specific amount of time. The common industry standard is 80-83% power output after 25 years. Some top manufacturers such as SunPower and LG guarantee 88-92% power output on most modules after 25 years of use.

Besides the top solar panel brands, many manufacturers are offering a wide range of quality, affordable panels. The most well known of these manufacturers are Jinko Solar, Canadian Solar, and Trina Solar. See other brands at Choosing a quality Solar Panel - Reliability, warranty and efficiency — Clean Energy Reviews

And finally, to determine the number of solar panels you need to do some calculations regarding current energy consumption in your home, and how it will change in the future.

When you choose your solar panels it is important to know, that a solar power system is a complex system of several components and the overall performance depends not only on solar panels. All components should be compatible with each other (solar panels, solar inverter, battery storage, charge controller). Also, the homeowners should carefully consider their unique house and household circumstances and maybe even seek the advice of an expert before choosing the right solar panels for their home. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Solar Energy Interesting Facts (30 Solar Facts)


Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
In this post, I’m going to represent some interesting facts about solar energy and how it is being used.

1. Solar energy is created through nuclear fusion reaction at the Sun’s core. Hydrogen atoms fuse to create helium.

2. The distance between the Sun and the Earth is about 150 million km (93 million miles). The average time it takes for the Sun’s rays to reach the Earth is 8 minutes and 20 seconds.

3. About 29 percent of the solar energy that arrives at the top of the atmosphere is reflected back to space. About 23 percent of incoming solar energy is absorbed in the atmosphere, and 48 percent passes through the atmosphere and is absorbed by the Earth’s surface. 

4. On average, the total rate of energy from the sun that hits the earth is around 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) or 173,000,000,000,000,000 watts. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

5. Sunlight that strikes the Earth for one hour is enough to power the entire planet for one year. Sunlight Striking Earth’s Surface... - EcoWatch

6. Solar energy is the most abundant renewable source of energy in the world. About Solar Energy | SEIA

7. Solar energy is the most sustainable and cleanest resource available. There are no carbon emissions and noise pollution. 

8. Solar energy has been used by ancient people. For example, the Greeks and Romans used magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun and burn the sails of enemy ships. The ancient people also used passive solar energy designs to warm their homes.

9. In 1447, Leonardo Da Vinci predicted there would be industrial solar use. He designed a solar power system to heat water for Florence. 

10. The photovoltaic effect, which converts sunlight into electricity, was first observed by physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in1839. 

11. Albert Einstein published his paper on the photoelectric effect In 1904. In 1921 Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his theories explaining the photoelectric effect. Photovoltaic History - Key Milestones in the 1900s (Timeline) | Solar Energy - Green Lifestyle for You

12. The space industry was the first market for photovoltaics. In the 1950s, the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. Vanguard 1 is the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells. The International Space Station is entirely solar-powered.

13. The first solar-powered automobile was demonstrated in Chicago in 1955. It was a 15-inch Sunmobile built by William G. Cobb of the General Motors Corporation.

14. The first solar-powered calculators were invented in 1978. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

15. Solar energy and solar power are not interchangeably terms. Solar energy includes solar power and solar power means electricity created from the sunlight. It is generated in two ways: using solar (photovoltaic) panels or using concentrating solar power systems.

16. Solar panels work even on cloudy days. They just produce less energy than on sunny days (around 10-25%). Also, solar panels function better at cooler temperatures than the very hot climate.

17. China is the world’s leader in the field of solar energy. By early 2020, China was the leading country for solar power with 208 GW, accounting for one-third of global installed solar capacity. Solar power by country - Wikipedia

18. The United States, Japan, Germany, India are countries that follow China in solar electricity generation. Top 10 Countries in the Solar Electricity Generation All over the World in 2019 | Solar Edition

19. China has a plan to build an orbital power station that would capture solar energy in space and beam it back to Earth. According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, they are already testing the technology and they intend to build the station by 2050.

20. Many US states allow solar owners to sell back excess power generated by the sun to the grid, which is called solar net metering.

21. Since 2008, the price of the solar system has dropped by 80%, and it is expected to keep falling. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

22. By 2024, the world’s solar capacity will grow by 600 GW, almost double the installed total electricity capacity of Japan. Another prediction state that the US will double its solar installations to four million by 2023. The Growth of Renewable Energy: What Does the Future Hold? | Earth.Org - Past | Present | Future

23. Australia has the highest average solar radiation than any other continent in the world. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

24. India's Cochin International Airport, the seventh busiest in the country, is the first airport in the world powered entirely by solar energy. In 2015 the airport built a 12-megawatt solar plant that has more than 46,000 solar panels. The solar plant provides all the power the airport needs, and even generates surplus for the state electrical grid, according to the BBC.

25. The world's largest solar power park is the Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka, India. The solar park becomes entirely operational in January 2020. World's largest solar park in Karnataka is now fully operational

26. The world’s first 100% solar-powered five-star resort Finolhu Villas is situated in the Maldives. Designed by New York-based architects Yuji Yamazaki Architecture, the resort was opened in 2016. Tour the World's First Completely Solar-Powered 5-Star Resort | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel |

27. The Walt Disney Company built a 50-megawatt solar facility shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head. The solar park has more than a half-million solar panels and produces enough solar energy to fully power two of its four parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida. 

28. An 80-story, 1,273-foot rotating skyscraper powered by wind and sun is being built in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. When it is completed, It will be the first rotating skyscraper the world has ever seen.

29. Wind energy is a form of solar energy. It is created by the movement of air relative to Earth’s surface. This form of energy is generated by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun and modified by Earth's rotation and surface topography. Wind energy | form of solar energy | Britannica

30. An interesting fact is that in 1979 the American President Jimmy Carter installed solar heating panels on the roof of the White House West Wing. It was more as an effort to set an example for the nation during the second US oil crisis.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

5 Partially Solar-Powered Cars You Can Buy


                        Video Credit: DPC cars &

The creation of a solar-powered car is an ambitious project that many enthusiasts were trying to bring to reality. Unfortunately, so far are created only partially solar-powered cars, and in this post, I’m going to describe 5 of them you can buy.

1. Lightyear One is a long-rage, solar-powered electric car that has five square meters of small solar tiles, which cover the whole futuristic vehicle, from front to back, across a curved roof. The solar car has a 60kWh battery and charges at a rate of 12 km (7.5 miles) per hour while driving. It can also use electric vehicle charging stations, which provide up to 725 km (450 miles) of range on a single charge. The solar cells are 20 percent more efficient than traditional models and can add 50 - 65 km (30 - 40 miles) of range per day. The solar cells are encased in safety glass to protect them from damage. The company says that the Lightyear One is the most aerodynamic car in the world, with a drag coefficient below 0.20, although it is still in the prototype stage. 

Lightyear is the Dutch car company founded in 2016 by ex-members of Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a team of engineering students who won the solar-powered World Solar Challenge race in 2013, 2015, and 2017. The Lightyear One car is expected to cost about €150,000 when it goes on sale in 2021.

2. A German full electric car Sono Sion developed by Sono Motors is another example of a partially solar-powered car. Thanks to its battery charge it can run 155 miles (250km). The car also has 248 solar cells spread across its body, which provide it an additional 21 miles (34km) of solar range. With a completely new manufacturing process, the solar modules are perfectly adapted to the shape of the vehicle. You can find it on the market at 25,500 EUR. The Sono Sion uses a bidirectional onboard-charger to share its power to recharge other electric vehicles.

3. The Korean car manufacture Hyundai also created a partially solar-powered car. A new version of its hybrid car Sonata (gas-electric sedan) offers built-in solar panels on its roof. The solar roof gives the car an extra 2 miles (about 3.5 km) of driving range per day, charging a car’s battery for 6 hours - both while driving and when parked in the sun. They say that between 30 and 60 percent of the car’s battery can be recharged by its solar panels. Hyundai underlines that its solar roof has a “supporting role" to its hybrid engine but for a year, it can add up to around 700 miles (1,300 km) of driving range from solar power.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited is the first of its kind available in the United States. The Toyota Prius Prime has a solar roof available in some overseas markets, but not in the U.S. The as-tested price of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited comes to $36,430, which includes Hyundai’s 10-year warranty.

4. Toyota was the first major car manufacturer to offer the option with a solar roof incorporated in its Prius hybrid plug-in model in 2010. It generates about 50 watts of power, which is enough to provide energy to a fan which cools the cabin of the Prius when the engine is off. Later, in 2017 Panasonic has developed a solar photovoltaic car roof for the Prius PHEV, upping the wattage from 50 W to 180 W. 

Now Toyota developed their latest model Prius with solar panels, in cooperation with Sharp and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan). It uses such technology that lets the car’s battery charged while in the motion, not just when it is parked in a sunny place. The companies are working on attaching to the car's surface 0.03 mm thick solar cells. They can be attached to curved areas on cars like the roof, the hood, or the hatchback. 

The new model is still in the testing period, but it promises 860W at 34 percent efficiency, 44.5km on a full charge, and 56.3km if it's recharging while driving. The companies are hoping that by using the best solar panels and the most efficient batteries available on the market, besides experience with car-manufacturing, they can create a vehicle that might run forever. "The solar car's advantage is that, while it can't drive for a long-range, it's independent of charging facilities," said project manager at Toyota, Koji Makino.

5. California’s company Aptera Motors developed the first solar-powered electric (3-wheel, 2-passenger) vehicle that will never require charging. Besides, the car has an option to drive autonomous. The solar panels integrated into the car’s body harness the sun’s rays and provide owners with a substantial amount of free solar power. You can drive 43 miles of range per day of free solar power with a total 700W: 3 square meter/180 solar cell array. This is in addition to a 1,000-mile range battery pack, which you can charge at any time. And if there is excess power you can run electrical appliances in your home. Another option that Aptera includes is to upgrade and replace the existing solar panels on the vehicle.

The Aptera solar-powered car will cost roughly between $34,000-$59,000. The Aptera is still in the prototype stage but the company claims 10,000 vehicles will be made by 2022, and they will soon be open to taking pre-orders.

Finally, out of the list, because it is not for sale, I’m going to present an impressive model of a partially solar-powered car - Stella Era.

The Stella Era is a solar-powered, autonomous 5-person family car, developed by the Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a multidisciplinary group of students from the Technical University Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The Stella Era has a range of 1200 km (including 300 km solar) and the ability to autonomously drive to a sunny parking spot when it is parked in the parking lot. The team also says that the Stella Era isn't just a solar-powered car, it is "a charging station on wheels”. Thankfully the innovations in charging (specifically bidirectional charging), the car can store energy and transfer it to other cars, to the grid, and into battery packs in self-sustainable homes.

So, although there is no entirely solar-powered car yet, the partially solar-powered, eco-friendly models above show that the key steps have been made and the sunny futuristic future is already here :) (Toyota), (Aptera)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Solar Morrocan Village - the First Village Powered by the Sun in Africa


Image credit: Cluster Solaire

Thirty-two solar photovoltaic panels were installed to harness the sunlight and power the small village of Id Mjahdi, in Morocco. The village is situated on the sunny Atlantic coast, near the coastal city of Essaouira (around 190km to the west of Marrakesh), and it became the first entirely solar-powered village in Africa.

This news was reported by CNN in December last year but I found this inspiring and decided to write a post about it now. I think that solar energy can help millions of people in Africa to get access to cheap and reliable electricity and to improve their lives in all aspects.

According to the International Energy Agency, solar power may become one of Africa's top energy sources. Of all solar power that is used globally, less than 1% currently comes from the continent Africa. Morocco already has 35 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources (solar, wind, and hydroelectric power), and its goal is to increase the use of renewable energy to 52 percent by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). "Morocco is unquestionably a leader in sustainable energy," says Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA.

Marocco already has the world's largest solar concentrated farm, the Noor-Ouarzazate complex. The solar farm is built on an area of more than 3,000 hectares. The size of the farm corresponds to 3,500 football fields and produces enough electricity to power a city such as Prague, or twice the size of Marrakesh.

And now, Id Mjahdi was chosen for this pilot solar project to demonstrate how remote villages, which are expensive to connect to the power grid of the National Office for Electricity, could be powered with solar energy. The author of this project is Moroccan solar power company Cleanergy. Their idea was to electrify remote communities, and Id Mjahdi was chosen because they needed everything, according to the company's founder, Mohamed Lasry.

The people in Id Mjahdi relied on candles for light, and they usually used them only around an hour for working or studying in the evenings. They used tree bark for heating and cooking, and Id Mjahdi did not even have a nearby source of water. The girls often missed school days to walk several miles to a well. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century still have such places.

The first step of the project was to build a water tower for the community. The next step was to install 32 solar photovoltaic panels, which generate 8.32 kilowatts of electricity for distribution via a mini-grid. Around 20 homes in the village are connected to the solar mini-grid, serving more than 50 people. Each family was given a water heater, fridge, television, and oven. Each house was provided with an outlet to charge electric appliances. The solar network has also a battery, to store electricity for later use at night. The street lights in the village are also solar. 

The solar project was supported financially by the Moroccan ministry of energy, Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), Essaouira’s local authorities, Moroccan non-profit group Cluster Solaire, the French supermarket chain Intermarché, and the soaps company Le Petit Olivier. The cost of the entire project was $188,000.

In October 2019, Cleanergy opened several solar-powered buildings - a hammam (public baths), a workshop providing jobs for women to produce argan oil, and an educational center for children between the ages of three to six, which gives the opportunity their mothers to work. The chance to have a job is another major benefit for the community. 

The educational center comprises two classrooms, a sports field, and a playground. For adults are offered also, basic literacy classes. 

At the village was created an association like a cooperative, and it owns the whole production. The association takes a small fee from the argan oil sales to maintain the solar network. Cleanergy trained the men and women in the village how to manage it.

Now Cluster Solaire is seeking funding to build more solar villages. There are 800 villages without electricity in Morocco alone, and the World Bank estimates that 840 million people lack access to electricity worldwide. 

Id Mjahdi could be a model for other remote community which still lack access to electricity. Around 650 million people will lack access to electricity in 2030, according to the World Bank. It says that mini-grids could be the most cost-effective solution for remote areas, and have the potential to provide electricity to as many as 500 million people by 2030. With about $220 billion of investment, it is possible to build around 210,000 mini-grids. And they also help to save our planet: 210,000 solar mini-grids would help avoid 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions globally.

Sources: & Internet

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Foldable Solar Roof For Parking Lots


A foldable solar roof for parking lots is something new in solar technologies.

Today, solar energy is used all over the world. There are many improvements in already existing solar technologies. Entirely new technologies and innovative solar devices are emerging. More and more people have solar-powered homes. Back in 1956, the cost of solar used to cost around $300 per watt. Now, in the US, you can get rooftop solar for $1.49/watt from Tesla and a similar price from others.

According to the latest news, a company in Switzerland and its partner, Kronberg and St. Gallish-Appenzellische Kraftwerke (SAK), have created something unique in the field of the solar technologies - a foldable solar roof, that comes out only when the sun is shining. It is not a typical roof designed for residential use. This solar roof is meant for parking lots and generates power for on-site consumption, including for electric vehicles charging (there are two charging stations). It also provides shadow to keep vehicles cooled when the weather is hot.
foldable solar roof for parking lots
                            Image credit:

The companies started this project back in the spring of 2020 when they built the foldable photovoltaic system on the Kronbergbahn’s parking lot. When the sun rises, the solar roof unfolds and soaks up the rays to generate solar power, then when it’s cloudy, raining, or during night time, it folds up. The foldable photovoltaic roof is named Horizon, its size is 43,056 ft2 (4,000 square meters), has a 420 kW generation capacity, and it covers the parking lot for 152 cars. The cost of the entire project is about 1.5 million Swiss francs.   

The foldable solar roof  was manufactured at DHP Technology headquarters in Zizers. It uses mono and polycrystalline solar cells and glass-free laminate tech. “The folding sunroof is lightweight because we use glass-free solar module technology,” said the DHP representative. “The installation is simple and is based on the plug-and-play approach.”

The parking lot has 1,320 solar panels and produces 350,000 kWh per year. Right now, the companies are looking for investors who are interested in sponsoring a system. There are 660 panels available and expected to be licensed soon to interested clients. The license agreement is for 15 years. 330 panels are already used by SAK and Kronbergbahn AG.

Investors will receive five different experience vouchers during their 15-year right of use - the vouchers vary depending on the investment. If you are interested in investing in a panel, you have two options. You can invest in a whole panel or by the quarter:
  1. Entire Panel CHF 800 ($852)
  2. Quarter Panel CHF 200 ($213)
The sources of this news are (you can see a video on their website),, and

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Topher White Saves Rainforests with Solar-Powered Used Smartphones


Image credit : The New York Times

As we all know the forests (including rainforests) are essential for our planet. Millions of people depend on them for their livelihoods and they can help combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, poachers and illegal loggers do not interested in it. So, how to save them? Topher White, a physicist, and engineer have a brilliant idea of how to save the rainforests with the help of solar-powered used smartphones and advanced AI training platform (Google technology called TensorFlow).

The idea came to him in 2011 during a trip to Borneo, Indonesia. He was visiting a gibbon reserve in the heart of the rainforest when he stumbled upon logger illegally cutting a tree. Most surprising for him was that the man was working only a few hundred meters from the rangers' cabin. Covered by the usual noises in the forest as the chirps of birds, the buzz of cicadas, the banter of gibbons, the sound of chainsaws went unnoticed.

After returning to the United States, Topher White developed a solar-powered device and later founded San Francisco-based non-profit Rainforest Connection. The device consists of an old Android smartphone equipped with highly sensitive microphones that record the sounds up to three square kilometers around. When the sound of a chainsaw is detected, the phone sends a real-time alert to the cloud server that sends a notification to the rangers, who can then get the logging stopped. Detecting the sounds is possible thanks to the AI system that can be trained to identify all kinds of sounds, from mechanical sounds like chainsaws to the sounds of specific animal species.

A homemade solar panel system, also made from recycled materials, power the listening device despite the shades in the rainforest. And surprisingly, even in remote forests, you can often get decent cell reception that makes sending the alert possible.

At first, White had an intention to use commercial solar panels, but he hadn’t considered that the diminished sunlight under a canopy of trees could be a problem. Doing research, he found some papers from the 1950s and 1960s that mentioned sunflecks - transient spots of direct sunlight. “It turns out that 80 or 90 percent of the solar radiation that makes it through the canopy comes in the form of sunflecks,” White says.

D2solar, a solar-module prototyping firm in San Jose, Calif., helped White to design special flower-like structure, with the phone in the middle, and small solar panels sprouting as petals. These solar panels generate enough power for the phones, even under the forest canopy. They use discarded strips of monocrystalline panels and cut them into petal-shaped patterns. Each petal consists of three 0.5-volt cells, wired in series, and seven petals are then wired to each device in parallel.

“The idea was to space the petals based on the average diameter of the sunfleck and to distribute them as widely as possible around the device so that at any given time there was a high probability that the sun would be striking all the cells on a petal,” White explains.

“I was surprised that it worked,” says Michael Rowell, who was working at D2solar as an R&D engineer at the time. “If you stick a normal solar panel in the jungle, it won’t work no matter how big it is.” White’s solar flowers generate 1.5 V, which he boosts to 5 V using a simple circuit. And finally, his rainforest protective solar-powered devices were ready to be placed high up in the tree where they will be invisible.

Between 15 and 30 percent of wood traded on the global market is harvested illegally, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol. In key tropical countries, illegal logging accounts for 50 to 90 percent of all forestry products on the market. White says that deforestation is a bigger contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s vehicles combined - cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes.

White overcame many obstacles and complications to bring to the reality his simple solution. He now spends nine months out of the year installing and troubleshooting the “forest guardians”. Today, listening solar-powered devices are saving trees in Indonesia, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. White won the support of the non-profit organizations, tribes, and local communities. And something very important, he’s won the support of environmentalists and forest law-enforcement groups. Randy Hayes, the founder of the Rainforest Action Network, calls White’s system “a powerful tool that could do a lot of good on the planet.”

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Gel Makes Solar Panels “Sweat” to Cool Themselves


Image credit:

Last month I read something interesting in the news concerning solar panels and I decided to write a post about it in my blog. It is something new in solar power technology - gel-like material makes standard solar panels “sweet” to cool themselves. Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park says: “it’s a simple, elegant, and effective way to retrofit existing solar cell panels for an instant efficiency boost.”

Typical silicon solar panels convert approximately 20% of the sun’s light into electricity. Much of the rest turns into heat, which can warm the solar panels by as much as 40°C/104°F. As we know, the heating of the panels is one of the most serious problems - solar panels are much less efficient when overheated. In fact, with every degree of temperature above 25°C/77°F, the efficiency of the solar panel drops. 

In recent years, researchers have devised materials that can suck water vapor from the air and condense it into liquid water for drinking. Among them are researchers at the University of Texas who have created a new gel-like material. Initially, the gel was created to produce clean drinking water. It proves its effectiveness and has the potential to provide a clean, sustainable water source for millions.

The gel-like material is a mix of carbon nanotubes in polymers with a water-attracting calcium chloride salt. This substance absorbs water vapor at night when the air is cold, and humidity is high. Then it causes the water vapor to condense into droplets that the gel holds. When the heat rises during the day, the gel releases water vapor. If covered by clear plastic, the released vapor is trapped, condenses back into liquid water, and flows into a storage container.

Peng Wang, an environmental engineer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and his colleagues figure out another use for the condensed water: coolant for solar panels. So, the researchers applied a 1-centimeter thick sheet of the gel against the underside of a standard silicon solar panel. Their idea was that during the day, the gel would pull the heat from the solar panel. It initiates an evaporation process for the water it pulled out of the air the previous night, releasing it through the bottom of the gel layer. Thus the gel-like material can make solar panels “sweat" and cool - just like sweating cools the human body. The amount of gel needed per panel depends on its size and the temperature and humidity in your location. In a desert environment with 35% humidity, a 1-square-meter solar panel required 1 kilogram of gel to cool it. In a muggy area with 80% humidity, only 0.3 kg of the gel is needed per square meter solar panel.

The temperature of these solar panels can drop to 10°C/50°F, and the electricity output of the panels can increase by 15% to 19%. In the area of solar technology, this is considerable. “In a field where engineers struggle for every 0.1% boost in power conversion efficiency, even a 1% gain would be an economic boom,” says Jun Zhou, a materials scientist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

One disadvantage of this solution is that rain could dissolve the calcium chloride salt in the gel, sapping its water-attracting performance. Peng Wang acknowledged this as a possible problem, despite the hydrogel sitting beneath the solar panel, and being somewhat shielded from the rain. He said he and his colleagues were working on a second-generation gel that would not degrade, even when wet.

The team is also looking at another design option that could trap and re-condense water after it had evaporated from the gel - and potentially using the collected water to clean solar panels from the dust.

Currently, over 600 gigawatts of solar power exist worldwide, providing 3% of global electricity demand. This number may increase by about five times over the next decade.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

SmartFlower Solar Power System - an Alternative to Solar Panels


SmartFlower solar power system
Image credit:

SmartFlower solar power system comes from Austria. It is an innovative and unique solar panel system that can be mount on the ground in your backyard. This high-tech “smart” solar power system is an alternative to rooftop mounted solar power systems.

When you install a conventional solar panel system you have some limitation like roof type and space availability while with the SmartFlower solar power system you only need to choose the place which has sufficient exposure to sunlight. Another advantage is that this portable solar panel system shaped like a flower, can follow the sun throughout the day and this is a far more efficient way of harnessing solar energy. The photovoltaic device does all of this autonomously through algorithm-based dual-axis tracking. Thus, SmartFlower can produce up to 40% more solar energy than a conventional solar panel system.

SmartFlower solar power system has a stunning design and some cool high-tech features. Its height is 16.4ft (5 meters), weighs around 650 kg, and it rotates throughout the day in the same way as sunflower petals do. The “smart” photovoltaic system occupies 194 square feet. It consists of 12 “petals” covered with solar cells, which open up every morning when the sun rises. The SmartFlower moves toward the sun at a 90-degree angle and produces approximately 2.5kW of electricity in peak sunlight conditions. When the sun goes down the petals close. 

The SmartFlower gathers information about weather conditions and takes it into account when decides whether it should be open or fold together for protection. In winds 29 mph+ the SmartFlower solar petals automatically move to a horizontal position. At 39 mph+, the solar petals will completely fold down. Also, the solar petals clean themselves through the anti-microbial brushes that are attached on the back of each petal.

The upgraded model of the SmartFlower is named SmartFlower +Plus. SmartFlower +Plus is the same as the main version but includes battery storage to store solar energy. The stored excess solar energy can cover cloudy days and peeks in consumption. SmartFlower +Plus can work on-grid and off-grid - completely independent from the grid. This model is available in two versions –one with a storage capacity of 4.6 kWh and the other with 13.8kWh storage capacity. In addition, there is another model of the SmartFlower that lets you charge electric cars. 

Besides tracking the sun and self-cleaning, other “smart” features are self-containing and self-cooling. The SmartFlower solar power system is an all-in-one complete solar energy system, with an inverter, battery storage, battery charger, monitor, and control box, all integrated into a single unit. SmartFlower solar system also has rear ventilation to keep the system up to 18°F cooler than it would be without it. That is good for solar cell efficiency, which means 5-10% more output on average.

The SmartFlower is available in eight colors (berry, ocean, amber, mermaid, pearl, lavender, jungle, and porcelain). It can be fast and easily installed (just plug and play). And by removing four bolts and one cable you can move SmartFlower anywhere you want.

According to the news, the Austrian manufacturer of the SmartFlower began bankruptcy proceedings in Germany in 2017. However, the U.S. division of SmartFlower operates independently from the original Austrian developer. So far, the SmartFlower has been installed at numerous U.S. backyards, in addition to organizations like the Detroit Zoo, Mary Baldwin University, and Virginia Wesleyan University. The United States division of SmartFlower is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts.

SmartFlower solar power system is a real alternative to solar panels. If you want to buy one of the models, you should know that before applying for all incentives and tax credits, the SmartFlower solar panel system ranges from $25,000 to $30,000. SmartFlower can generate between 4000 and 6500 kWh per year. The average home in the United States uses 10,400 kWh annually, so this will cover 40-60% of your energy bill.

You can visit the official SmartFlower website for more information.

Sources: & Internet

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Styles Solar Ice-Cream Van


Styles Solar Ice-Cream Van
                              Image credit:

Britain’s first solar ice-cream van is a concept of David Baker, the owner of Styles Farmhouse Ice-Cream, based in Rodhuish, Somerset. He designed Styles Solar Ice-Cream Van to reduce fumes from diesel engines at festivals. The Styles Solar Van idea came up to him in 2016 after customers, show directors, and event organisers complained about the diesel fumes from its regular vans.

The prototype was ready in 2018 and it consisted of four solar panels. The current model has eight solar panels and was ready in May 2019. Besides solar panels on the top, the van has a big bank of batteries inside. The solar panels and the battery storage power the freezers, ice-cream makers, and coffee machines. “In full sun the van can operate for up to five to six days. On cloudy days it will run for two to three days. The system can be fully recharged using mains electricity in just four hours.”- says Baker

The solar van is built on the Peugeot Boxer Van, though other van types can be used, too. Its latest Euro 6 low emission engine will get you wherever you want but when you are on site selling ice-cream you can rely entirely on solar energy. 

The Style Solar Van has been serving ice-cream to thousands across the UK five months of the year. Baker says that his team has attended around 160 events, including music festivals and agricultural shows. He estimates that solar energy saves him around £4,000, or nearly $5,000 a year. 

Baker’s family has farmed 300-acre land for 119 years. They were growing wheat, barley and oats, and milking cows and sheep. In 1988, Baker decided to diversify his business into making and selling luxury ice-cream in order to get more income. 

Currently, Baker concentrates more on the ice-cream side of the business while other farmers cultivate crops on his land and milk the cows. Styles Farmhouse Ice Cream now has 50 employees and supplies 250 luxury ice-cream shops and works events.

On 3 December, 2019, Styles Solar Ice-Cream Van participated at Somerset County Council’s climate emergency business summit, at Taunton Rugby Club. The van was an example of how local businesses are responding to climate change by reducing their carbon footprint. This summit is part of the county council’s plan to work towards making Somerset carbon-neutral by 2030, by involving local companies in strategies that will help reduce air pollution.

The eco-friendly vehicles officially debuted at the Ice Cream and Artisan Food Show in Harrogate, the United Kingdom which took place between 11-13 February, 2020. Styles Solar Ice-Cream Van is now available commercially and it can be ordered here.


Friday, May 15, 2020

Hybrid Solar Power System - the Best of Grid-Tied and Off-Grid Systems


The hybrid solar power system is a combination of grid-tied and off-grid solar power systems. This system is described also as off-grid solar with utility backup power, or grid-tied solar with battery storage. The hybrid solar power system comes with a special hybrid inverter (sometimes referred to as a multi-mode inverter) that can transmit direct current (DC) power to and from your batteries and provides alternating current (AC) power between the grid and your home when necessary. The hybrid inverter can simultaneously manage inputs from both solar panels and battery storage, charging batteries with either solar electricity or electricity from the grid.

Solar Panels

The hybrid inverter takes advantage of changes in the utility electricity rates throughout the day. You can temporarily store whatever excess electricity your solar panels produce in batteries, and put it on the utility grid when you are paid the most for every kWh. And you can rely upon your battery stored solar electricity while electricity is expensive and switch to the grid when it is cheap. 

The ability to store and use your solar energy when desired is known as self-use or self-consumption. 

In case you have already installed a grid-tied solar panel system you also have a traditional inverter (solar inverter) which converts DC into AC. If you would like to have a hybrid solar power system you should buy battery storage and a separate battery-specific inverter. 

An option is to buy a hybrid inverter for your grid-tied solar panel system if you are planning soon to add battery storage. Thus you won’t need to purchase a separate battery-based inverter. The hybrid inverter can function as both an inverter for electricity from your solar panels and a solar battery. It combines a solar inverter and battery-specific inverter, so it can charge and discharge battery storage. On the other hand, there are some modern energy storage systems, like the Tesla Powerwall 2, which comes with an inverter already built-in, eliminating the need for a hybrid inverter. 

The hybrid solar panel system is configured in such a way that your home uses solar power first, then stored power in the battery, and then grid power. With a solar hybrid system, you are less reliant on the grid and solar battery storage is used as a back up when solar power is not available. When the stored energy is depleted, the grid is there as a backup, allowing consumers to have the best of grid-tied and off-grid solar systems. And the battery storage is discharged less frequently, which extends its life. It needs to be replaced less often and saves you the cost of purchasing a backup generator. 

The hybrid solar power system is at least half the price of an off-grid system but they are more expensive than an on-grid system – typically double the price of the grid-connected solar power system. The hybrid solar power system is also more complicated for installation and takes more space. 

In summary, the hybrid solar power system has the following advantages: 
  • gives you a continuous uninterrupted power supply 
  • stores solar electricity or low-cost electricity 
  • allows using solar power during the peak times of the electricity grid 
  • solar power is available during a blackout or grid outage 
  • reduces the power consumption from the grid 
  • you are not dependent on the weather conditions 
  • gives you more independence than on-grid solar power system

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Off-Grid Residential Solar Power System


There are three main solar power systems - grid-tied (on-grid, grid-connected), off-grid (stand-alone power system (SAPS), and hybrid solar (battery storage with grid-connection). Since I’ve already written about grid-tied systems, in this post I’ll give some basic information about off-grid residential solar power systems.

An off-grid solar power system is a solar panel system not connected to the grid. This means that you are completely independent of the utility grid and your solar system produces clean electricity for all your energy needs. The system consists of solar panels, an off-grid inverter, charge controller and rechargeable battery storage. An off-grid backup generator is an optional component. 

Before buying and installing an off-grid power system you should know your daily power needs. This will help determine which size system is appropriate for you. You can check out this off-grid system calculator to determine the size of the system for your off-grid home. Your solar panel system can be mounted on the roof or on the ground. 

The off-grid solar power system just like the other solar power systems works by generating electricity from solar panels. That electricity is direct current (DC), so it is converted using an inverter to alternative current (AC) and then it powers your home electronic appliances. AC is the standard form of electricity for anything that “plugs in” to utility power and it is a necessary form for the household appliances to work. 

When solar panels generate excess electricity it charges a solar battery (DC) via a charge controller. The charge controller is an essential component because it regulates the voltage and current that solar battery storage receives, to prevent overcharging and damage. And by saving the solar power in battery storage, it is possible to run your home appliances with energy from the sun, even at night or on cloudy days when solar panels produce less electricity. 

The off-grid solar power systems are much more expensive then on-grind systems due to the high prices of the batteries. It is suitable for one family home if you would like to gain complete energy independence, holiday houses, and especially for houses and farms in remote areas far away from the electricity grid. But although the off-grid solar power system is expensive this is a long-term investment that will save you money and deliver green, reliable power for decades.

See also: Solar Power Calculating Tools Online

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What is a Solar Panel Kit for Home?


Solar panel kit is pre-packed solar equipment that after installation can form an operating solar power system for your home. Almost all solar kits come with everything you need to have a working solar system (complete equipment). For some kits you may need to buy additional items, so you should be careful. 

Solar panel kits can vary in price depending on their build, power generation, size, and components. Therefore, they can cost from a few hundred up to thousands of dollars. Once you choose and buy a solar panel kit, it will be shipped to your home and all you have to do is install it yourself (DIY- do-it-yourself).

Before buying a solar panel kit, you should do some research and calculations regarding current energy consumption in your home, and how it will change in the future. Thus you will know how much solar power and how many panels you will need. You should also decide whether your solar power system will be grid-connected, off-grid or hybrid.

Here are the basic components that you can expect in most solar panel kits: solar panels, solar inverter, batteries (off-grid), charge controller (off-grid), mounting hardware, wiring and connectivity parts. You can choose between two types of solar panels: polycrystalline and monocrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive, more efficient, and more heat resistant.

Solar panel kits are suitable for small homes. There are solar panel kits for large homes but as you go up in size (1,000W and more), solar installations become more complicated. It doesn’t make sense to install a large solar panel system yourself. And If you are not sure about your knowledge it is recommended to seek professional help. Installing your solar panel kit may save you money but keep in mind that it can be time-consuming, challenging, and even risky in terms of safety and how to do it right. Also, if your solar panel kit is grid-tied you have to check whether your utility company allows self-installed solar systems to connect to the grid. 

If you are absolutely beginner to solar electricity it is a good idea to buy a solar starter kit. Starter solar panels kit won’t be able to fully power your home but it is just a few hundred dollars and includes the parts you need to start seeing if solar is right for you. It can power some of your electric appliances and it is usually grid-connected, which means that it will work with the existing grid. Typically solar starter panels ranging from 50W - 400W.

Solar panel kits are a good option for garages, farms, boats, caravans and off-grid cabins.

More detailed information you can find here:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - The #1 Online Destination For DYI Solar Kits - Shop Now

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Mini Solar Tree Charger - a Unique Eco Gift


SunTree Solar Charger

A mini solar tree charger can be a useful and unique eco gift. We may see it as a mini model of the solar-powered tree charging station about which I wrote in my previous post. 

A mini solar tree charger consists of several small solar panels that resemble leaves on a tree, rechargeable battery, and USB ports. Solar tree charger is an eco-friendly way to charge your mobile phone and tablet in your office or home, using solar energy. It absorbs the sun’s rays and uses solar energy to charge your mobile devices. Even when your phone is not plugged in it will continue to charge the built-in battery ready to transfer the power to your device. 

Here are three models of mini solar tree chargers. You can find on the market only the first and the second one. The third model is looking for investors. 

SunTree - this solar tree charger gives you an awesome way to charge your devices. It is made to look like an actual tree - has a wooden bamboo trunk and branches, and each branch has a small solar panel on the top of it. SunTree has 9 solar panels to charge your mobile devices using PV technology. You can place the SunTree next to a window and it'll charge its internal battery, and in turn, that battery will charge your phone, tablet, and other electronic devices. SunTree is designed by XDDesign, Netherlands. 

Ginkgo Solar Tree - It is made of aluminum, recycled plastic, and bamboo. Ginkgo Solar Tree is a mini solar charging station inspired by the Japanese Ginkgo tree. Gingko solar charger is an environment-friendly source of power. It gets its power from the sun, so it’s green and very easy to use, you just need sunlight. Ginkgo Solar Tree charger aims to make solar energy more approachable and user friendly. Bringing solar energy down to smaller gadgets can help reduce harmful emissions to the atmosphere caused by the growing need to power mobile phones and tablets. Ginkgo Solar Tree can charge your iPhone or iPad up to two times after charging. It has a powerful 4000mAh battery and two USB ports. This product is also designed by XDDesign, Netherlands.

Electree Mini - inspired by bonsai trees, this little solar charger tree collects sunlight to charge your gadgets attractively. Electree Mini is a product of the designer Vivien Muller, who worked together with an electrical engineer to turn his idea for the tree into a reality. This small solar charger has 27 flexible silicon solar panels that can be easily adjusted to harness the maximum amount of sunlight. The device can be used to directly power your gadgets when sunlight is available or use the internal batteries that store solar energy during daylight time. The Electree Mini turns into a miniature light show when the darkness falls. You can also change the color of the LED lantern just by rotating the Electree Mini. The mini solar charger isn’t yet strong enough to charge a tablet, but it can charge your phone or smartwatch once per day.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Solar-Powered Tree as a Solar Charging Station


Israeli eTree
Photo Credit:

A solar-powered tree is a type of solar-powered charging station that can capture solar energy and provide free electricity from the sun to public places.

In 2010, a group of students In Belgrade, Serbia developed the first solar-powered tree in the world - the Strawberry Tree. This is the first public solar charger for mobile devices. The innovative solar charging station has Wi-Fi, USB ports and 16 chargers for various types of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices. The Strawberry Tree won first place in the European Commission’s "Sustainable energy week 2011" competition in Brussels, in the category “Consuming”. 

Another example of a high-tech futuristic solar-powered tree is eTree created by the Israel-based company Sologic. This “tree” is a place to take a break while recharging your mobile gadgets and accessing the Internet via free Wi-Fi. Similar to a real tree, the eTree has brown trunk and branches. But, instead of having leaves, there are solar panels that are angled towards the sky. The eTree has USB ports and provides a small amount of lighting during the night. There are also benches located beside the solar-powered tree. The first eTree was installed at a nature reserve in Israel. 

Solar-powered palm is a variation of a solar-powered tree. This stunning solar design absorbs sunlight during the day through "leaves" covered with ultra-thin solar modules and converts to an exotic solar-powered lamp at night. The trees’ energy can also be used to charge mobile devices through its integrated USB connection. 

The first Smart Palm installed on Jumeirah beach in Dubai is one more example of solar-powered palm. Now, these Smart Palms, or "self-sustaining community tech hubs" are on every public beach in the city, as part of an ambitious plan to convert Dubai into a "Smart City". There are 50 solar-powered Smart Palms on public areas, and each of them provides Wi-Fi, USB socks for mobile phones and tablets, as well as updated information on the weather and local attractions. The solar-powered palm trees are illuminated at night using the system’s battery where solar energy is stored. 

And finally, I should mention solar-powered supertrees, although they are not solar charging stations.

                                 Supertrees in the Gardens of the Bay
                                     Photo Credit: woo siang boon

There are amazing gardens in Singapore - Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay with 18 manmade steel supertrees varying from 15 to 50 meters in height. 11 of them have solar photovoltaic systems to convert sunlight into electricity, so they can light up at night. The supertrees also function as vertical gardens, air venting towers, and rainwater collection devices. These incredible constructions are designed by Grant Associates

The above solar-powered trees are just several examples of the beautiful innovative design, which is also a growing solar trend in the world.