1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from
- It is weather-dependent – solar panels are dependent on sunlight to effectively collect solar energy. As a result, cloudy and rainy days have a noticeable effect on the energy system.
- Solar storage can be expensive – beyond the initial cost of purchasing solar PV systems, which is fairly high, solar energy also requires large storage systems.
- It uses a lot of space – solar PV is a much more land-intensive technology than coal, natural gas or nuclear power. It uses 44 acres per megawatt compared to 12 for the other three sources. However, it is less than wind and hydro, which use 71 and 315 acres respectively.
- The toxic chemicals used – the PV production process requires the use of cadmium and arsenic. While the EU has implemented strict regulations in place for PV recycling, a large number of countries dump their solar panels in landfills, risking toxic chemicals leaking into the soil.
- Creating more efficient materials – startups are integrating new materials into solar panels to maximize the solar PV yield. One example is Australian startup Sapphire, which uses nanostructured ‘black silicon’ to prevent light reflection and allow the cells to absorb more light.
- Developing ways to store more energy – Finnish cleantech startup Teraloop developed an alternative model to electrochemical batteries for storing renewable energy: a flywheel. It is designed to store rotational energy efficiently and meet the requirements of industrial players who need a large amount of energy.
- Producing smarter solar trackers – solar panels are often assembled into arrays on a type of mounting system – rooftop-mounted, ground-mounted, wall-mounted or floating. While mounts can be fixed, they can also be dynamic and use solar trackers to make sure panels always face the sun. These tracking systems are increasingly common in utility-scale projects. In the tracker space, US startup Array Technologies has developed DuraTrack Hz, an industry-leading single-axis tracker. Early October, the startup raised over $1 billion in a public offering.
- Manufacturing more reliable inverters – a large amount of the production loss on solar PV systems is often attributable to the poor performance of inverters, responsible for converting and feeding the power into the grid. This can be due to a faulty installation, overheating issues or an isolation fault. US startup Alencon Systems has developed a system based on a patented harmonic neutralization approach, an upgrade from the pulse-with modulation used by PV inverters today.
2 Key Figures
3 startups to draw inspiration from
This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: Sapphire, SolarEdge technologies and Oxford PV.
Sapphire designs and manufactures solar energy systems to make them efficient by using nanostructured “black silicon” to prevent light reflection and allow the cells to absorb more light.
SolarEdge technologies sells power optimizers, solar inverters and monitoring systems for PV arrays. The products are designed for residential, commercial and utility-scale installations.