Printing Solar Panels on Our Curtains? Don’t Blink, It May Happen

Could it be possible one day to hit the “Print” button on your computer and generate a sheet of… solar panels? Will we someday peek through solar panels printed on our curtains and blinds to see if it’s nice outside?

The phenomenon is not as far off as you might think. According to the Australian website Habitat, it is already possible to print solar cells with inkjet printing. Scientists believe it won’t be unusual someday to print cells on a variety of surfaces, including walls, umbrellas, tents and windows. And developers of clean energy in Seattle are already experimenting with the process in a new clean energy lab that opened this month.

Printable solar cells are made by printing a special type of photovoltaic film on a plastic surface. The product is much cheaper than purchasing the solar panels that have been used on the roofs of homes and businesses for years, but it also has a ways to go in terms of efficiency — paper cells are about 10 percent efficient, compared to an efficiency rating of around 25 percent for PV solar panels.

“Silicon is falling in price, but think about how cheap plastic is. The ink is a negligible cost, so the raw materials are very cost effective. This is a big step forward because you can put these cells anywhere you can think of. Also the consistency is better than silicon — they work well in cloudy conditions,” photovoltaic expert Dr. Fiona Scholes is quoted as saying in Habitat.

In Seattle, testing has begun on the process at the newly opened Washington Clean Energy Testbeds. The facility’s director, J. Devin MacKenzie, told the Everett Herald the new technology would not only be more affordable, but it could be produced much faster and create less waste.

“This would take an hour to go from a new design to printing something structurally,” MacKenzie told the newspaper.

Photo credit: Habitat

Five Years From Now

What were you doing five years ago?

Sometimes when we look ahead, five years seems like such a long time to wait to receive a promotion, save up for a new car, take a vacation or reach some other long-desired goal. But when we look back just five years ago and think about our family, our home, our lives — we are faced with the reality that five years goes by so fast.

Five years from now, what will you be thinking about the choices you’re making today? It’s a question that challenges us.

At Solora Solar, we gain great satisfaction from the five-year mark in our relationships with customers because that’s the point at which their solar installation typically has earned enough in energy production and tax incentives to have repaid their investment in the system. We haven’t encountered a customer yet who reached that five-year mark and regretted their decision.

It’s a great feeling for us, but an even better feeling for them.

That’s why if you are considering going solar, we encourage you to think back to where your life was at just five years ago. If you go solar in 2017, the next five years is going to go pass just as quickly as the last five. And then you will be living in a home that is worth more and generating free energy from that point forward.

What will your life be like five years from now?

Photo credit: Michael Ruiz

Temperature Effects on Seattle Solar Energy Systems

The temperature of solar modules can be a very important factor affecting the electrical output produced by your solar panels. It’s funny, but the more sun we get in Seattle, the hotter the modules get which counteracts any benefit the sun can give your home.

Although there’s a lot of rain in Seattle, heat from a hot sun may lower your solar output by 10 to 25 percent, varying within that range based on your location. Obviously not every solar module is impacted by heat in the same way, and some cope better with high temperatures than others.

Temperature Coefficiency

On a very warm summer day — where solar modules might reach a temperature of 45˚C or so — the output of electricity would decrease by 10 percent. On the other hand, a sunny day during off-summer times would produce electricity above maximum levels.

Solar Modules Respond to Seattle Temperatures

The solar module’s temperature on the roof of your Seattle home directly affects efficiencies. When solar panel temperatures increase, production decreases while power usage increases. Thus, the hotter a solar module gets, the less electricity it is able to produce.

Cadmium Telluride solar modules are the best solar panels for handling high temperatures, but they aren’t quite as efficient as other solar panels in turning sunlight into electrical power. Instead, consider more current technologies like the CIGS and 4G solar power technologies.