(Image Credit: Rice University)
The world is an exciting place right now when you see some of the latest advances and shifts in solar power. It’s been awhile since we’ve explored some updates in the technological side of the industry, and one particular change recently caught my attention: paintable batteries.
And a new entrant into the solar power world is claiming we can all have our very own solar power generators using a do-it-yourself kit.
A few of the problems that solar power faces include space and energy storage. One new technology could solve both. Without adding a great deal to the weight or physical size of a solar panel, paintable batteries could very well be the solution to size and storage issues.
The battery technology is simple: paint on the lithium ion layers you want to use in a certain sequence and plug into the stored power. The initial experiment was actually tested with solar power in mind. The end result would be a solar panel with a built in battery system. When excess power is being generated by the PV system, the energy is stored for later use, such as when the sun goes down. It’s cheap, lightweight, and solves several problems at once.
Rice University is spearheading the technology. The initial applications would be for small scale devices like LED lighting and similar devices. But the concepts can be expanded into commercial and residential systems.
Steam Powered Solar Engines
(Image Credit: Zenman Energy)
Steve Nelson may have coined the term “open source solar” with his non-profit Zenman Energy group that has decided to give away all their designs, research, and ideas for free. Nelson developed a simple system for focusing light onto a pipe for the purpose of boiling water and turning a small generator.
The first generation is designed to run a 10 horsepower motor, which can easily run a modern household while there is daylight. Larger models to be developed will replace power plants, running multiple 100+ horsepower steam engines.
While the concepts are only just now getting off the ground, what makes this version more feasible than most is that it’s “open source.” Meaning that if you find a great new way to improve the system, you can contribute to the project and they will integrate your work into the designs.
And since it’s free for all who are interested, there’s really no threat of competition. Once the first prototypes are out, anyone can download the plans and build their own – contributing as they figure out new ways to improve.
Here’s a video of the concept in action. This isn’t Nelson’s design, but an example to show what’s possible: