The year gone by saw significant progress in the areas of renewable energy and clean technologies. Progress was not just about laboratory successes but also about financing and commercialization. These technologies are moving beyond dependence on Government support – many of them are commercially viable long term investments. This article shows ten most noteworthy developments of the past year in this field.
1. Solar Power – Star of the Year
2013 was without doubt the year of Solar PV. Five countries i.e. Germany, USA, Japan, China and Italy have crossed the 10 GW mark. Increasing maturity in the solar market is supporting a strong consumer drive towards sustainable and cost effective long term power.
The solar eco-system continues to develop, with cell manufacturers, balance of systems vendors and installers all doing their bit to maximize returns on investment. Meanwhile research continues on maximizing conversion of available solar spectrum into useful electricity. The past year saw exciting progress in increasing conversion efficiency, though there is still some way to go in making these high efficiency technologies cost-effective.
Work is also under way to expand the range of applications of solar including coatings and paints.
Modern mono-crystalline solar cells have been limited by physical properties of silicon as well as practical considerations such as reflection of light off the cells as well as light blockage by wires. A partnership between NREL and TetraSun has nevertheless been able to come up with efficiencies up to 21% along with cost reductions by using copper to replace silver in cells.
A lot of action was seen in multi-junction cells with improvement in properties of junctions as well as internal optics. Alta Devices for example, increased record efficiency from 26.4% in 2010 to 28.8% in 2012 to 30.8% (two junction cell) in 2013. NREL followed this up with 31.1%. Later in the year, Sharp, followed by Fraunhofer achieved efficiencies of up to 44.7% at 297 suns with four junction cells.
Shailesh is post graduate in Environment Management from Forest Research Institute (FRI) University, Dehradun, India. Presently he is working in the areas of Environmental and Renewable Energy Advisory Services. He has started GreenCleanGuide.com during his college days.