For decades, environmental management activists have been preaching about the advantages of renewable forms of energy such as solar panels and wind farms. Today, we see this slowly transforming in to reality with increasing oil prices and a technology push in the right direction.
The significant drop in global prices of solar panels has encouraged solar companies such as Solon Energy (Berlin, Germany) and Trina Solar (Changzhou, China) to change their design strategy. They are now focusing on lowering the cost of installing the solar panels with new designs that are less labor intensive.
For commercial rooftops, the cost of the solar panel itself never exceeds 40% of the total. The rest comes from installation of the metal framework, power electronics and labor. Trina’s innovative new design gets rid of most of the metal frame by grooves on the solar panel to lock into special hardware that props the panel at the right angle without the need for any additional bolts and screws. This reduces installation time by 2/3 and saves material costs, which add up to a 10% drop in price of the panel.
Solon Energy takes it a step further by eliminating the metal altogether. They use an array of solar cells sealed behind a glass layer glued to a plastic frame, which angles the cells towards the sun. Solon says the design reduces the installation time by 75 percent; and the time needed for making the electrical connections by half.
Germany has already taken a huge step by deciding to close all of the country’s industrial nuclear plants to be replaced by energy from wind turbines and solar panels. This “Energiewende” project is being watched very closely and if it works, it will serve as a template for other countries.
Overall, the challenge has always been with implementation of innovative technology on a large scale. However, once implemented, it is a permanent solution to blackouts and other power outages especially in the developing world.
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Fatema joins the RIC team as the Communications Officer responsible for marketing, social media, event and web management. She is a graduate student pursuing her final year in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
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