The last few years, from 2016 to 2018, have seen huge new strides in the US solar energy industry. In California alone, the total amount of solar energy being consumed doubled three times, and while others states may be outmatched, they too are seeing increased use of solar.
Part of what’s driving the new “solar boom” is the advent of new, innovative solar technologies. Businesses do well to take advantage of these new tech opportunities to improve energy efficiency, attract eco-conscious consumers, and do their part to “save the planet.”
Many of the new developments are very exciting. Some are already quite practical to deploy on a wide scale, while others show great potential but are still in their “infancy” stage.
Here are our top four solar innovations affecting the market in 2018:
- New and improved solar panels
Solar panel efficiency surpassed 23.5% in 2016 and has continued to grow since then. Cost per Watt has also sunk in the last few years on the newest solar panel models, which is hinting that 20% surplus will be the new norm for efficiency on even lower-priced solar panels.
On the horizon is a new system by an MIT research team that could double solar panel efficiency in the near future. The system will be collecting and utilizing thermal heat build-up on solar panels that, up till now, has always been emitted and wasted.
- Solar Street Lamps
Integrated solar street lights are already becoming a common component of many municipal “eco-upgrades” in cities across the US.
These all-in-one products come as compact units that need very little maintenance and may transform the way we light up our streets and sidewalks in the years ahead. They collect power from the sun’s rays during the daytime and light up the street or parking lot for “free” from dusk till dawn.
Solar-powered street lamps are a great investment for both government agencies and private businesses alike.
Photovoltaic solar powered lights have been tested already on historic Route 66. They were installed in pavements along the highway for starters, complete with LED bulbs. The result is a system that melts snow and lights up the surrounding area all on self-generated solar power!
- Solar Tracking Mounts
How do your get more solar power production out of ground-mounted solar panels? Simple. Follow the sun, just like plants do.
Highly efficient solar tracking mounts now follow the sun’s path as it moves across the sky each day. They shift and tilt automatically to the optimal angle to collect the maximum amount of sunshine.
While this technology is not new, it is improved and is now gaining popularity like never before. By 2020, half of all ground-mounted solar panels are projected to be located on solar-tracking mounts.
- Solar Water Filters
A new miniature solar-powered water filter put out by Stanford University has made huge advances on past similar models. It no longer uses UV light only, nor does it take hours and hours of sunlight before it will work.
This model works in only minutes’ time. It is suspected to soon become a staple for hikers and outdoorsmen, but the principle behind it could signal major changes to how water is filtered at the home or office IF a larger model could be made.
These four innovations in solar equipment hold treat promise for the future of the industry. They also spell opportunity for business owners who want to make their business both as “green” and as profitable as possible.