The Science of Solar

Why You Should Go Solar for Your Home

Why You Should Go Solar for Your Home 150 150 andrew

Over the past few years, we’ve heard more and more about climate change and the effect that it is having on the world around us. People are scrambling to find a way that they can decrease their impact, one of which is adding solar panels to their homes. In Connecticut as of 2017, nearly 23,000 homes had installed solar panels and that number has been growing rapidly ever since. Whether you want to add them to your home to help reduce your environmental impact or because you’re hoping that they can help you save money, we’re going to review the biggest reasons that you should go solar! 

 The first reason is one that we’ve already reviewed. Adding solar panels to your home is a great way to be conscious about the effect that you have on the environment. Unlike other forms of energy, solar power does not produce greenhouse gases, air or water pollution. You can reduce your carbon footprint while also reducing your energy bill. Your solar panel system can help get rid of 3-4 tons of carbon emissions in just one year.

 Another good reason to go solar is so that you can reduce your electric bill (generally by a noticeable amount). On average in Connecticut, homes are able to save $11,000 over the course of a 20-year agreement, based on an estimate made by Project Solar by Google. In some states, you’re also able to avoid the constant increase to the amount that you’re paying from the utility company. Imagine what you could do with thousands of dollars extra!

 When you get solar panels for your home, you get a huge return on your investment. Solar panels are one way of making your money back ten-fold. When you purchase solar panels, you’re able to save way more than they would have cost in the first place, allowing you to (once again) save money in the long run.

 Lastly (for our list), solar panels will increase the value of your home. Despite popular rumors, solar panels will actually increase the value of your home when you go to sell it. Crazy right? This is because so many people are looking for homes that have solar panels, both for environmental reasons, along with the benefit that they’re going to be able to save money themselves. Solar panels are a sure-fire way of reducing the cost of ownership, which is why so many people have decided to make the switch.

Overall, these are just some of the biggest reasons why you should go solar and install your own panels on your home. You can join a community of people who want to reduce their carbon footprint on the world while also saving themselves money in the process. There’s generally very few reasons why you shouldn’t go solar, and if something that you’ve been thinking about for a long time, now is your chance to take the leap and get started on setting up your very own solar panels for your home.

The 5 Best Questions to Ask Before Going Solar

The 5 Best Questions to Ask Before Going Solar 150 150 andrew

Blog Title – The 5 Best Questions to Ask Before Going Solar 

These days it seems like solar panels are everywhere. They’re going up in fields, on big buildings, and even on personal homes. Chances are you’ve seen one or two articles convincing you that solar power would be able to save you money in the long run. With their ever-growing popularity, how can you tell if solar panels are right for your home? What are the questions that you should be asking before you sign up? We’re going to be breaking down all the questions that you may have and that you should ask your sales rep. 

Question #1: Where can the panels be installed on my roof? 

There is a ton of misinformation out there about how solar panels are going to decrease the value of your property because they have to be placed in the front of the house, but this isn’t true. Not only do solar panels increase the amount you can ask for when you go to sell, but each house will have a unique placement depending on the type of roof, the angle of the slant, and various other factors. This is something that you can ask the company before you get them installed, so you can have a good idea of where they’ll be placed. 

Question #2: Do you offer leases, loans, or a power purchase agreement?

Before you take out a large loan or go into debt to purchase your solar panels, it’s smart to ask if they have any other options. At Elite Energy Consultants, we offer a power purchase agreement that will reduce the cost of the solar panels. This is one way that you can get the solar panels at little to no cost to yourself, while also paying lower rates for electricity than you would through the electric company. There’s no harm in asking! 

Question #3: What incentives are available in my state?

This is another great money-saving questions to ask, because a lot of states have some form of incentive that they offer for people going solar. In Connecticut, there are 77 different policies and incentives that you could potentially use to help lower the cost of electricity or the cost of the solar panels themselves. 

Question #4: Would I be able to do net metering in my state?

Currently, there are 38 states that allow you net meter any extra electricity that is created by your solar panels. This means that in the spring and summer months, if you make more electricity than you use, the electric company will turn back your meter. When the winter months come around and the solar panels aren’t covering all the energy that you need, the electricity that was stored up will be returned to the home for free. If you live in a state that does net metering, this is just another good reason to add solar panels to your home! 

Question #5: How much can I save on my electric bill each month?

This question is one that is going to vary from company to company and from state to state, so unfortunately we can’t give a good answer here. This is something that you should definitely talk to your solar panel company about! Most people are able to save a large amount of money over the lifetime of their solar panels when compared to how much they would spend with the utility companies.  

If there are any questions that are holding you back from going solar, the best thing that you can do is ask a local company all about them. We try our best to answered as fully and honestly as possible because we are passionate about the environment and helping as many people go solar as we can.

Solar Agriculture has a bright future

Solar Agriculture has a bright future 150 150 Joshua Jones

At first glance, you might not think solar power mixes well with agriculture. After all, wouldn’t the plants and the panels both be competing for the same solar resources? As it turns out, the answer isn’t that simple.

Researchers in Utah and Oregon, as well as another research team at the University of Arizona, have published papers showing that food farms make great locations for solar panel arrays. Photovoltaic panels operate best in certain conditions, the most obvious being abundant sunlight. Temperature is also an important factor, since the panels start to lose efficiency above 78°F. With the light wind and low humidity that’s often associated with land covered in crops and grass, agricultural areas have the perfect combination of environmental factors for solar panels.

Many food crops also benefit from this arrangement as well. Excessive sunlight can actually be bad for plants, which require some amount of shade and can burn in the sun. In the study at the University of Arizona, the areas where crops were planted around the panels stayed cooler during the day and warmer at night. Not only that, but the temperature of the panels stayed an incredible 9ºC cooler during the day. The air was also less dry, and the soil dried out less quickly between waterings. Nearly all of the crops used in the test saw a noticeable increase in the amount of crop produced, an increase in water-use efficiency, or an improvement in CO2 uptake.

This new concept of combining agriculture with solar power has been termed “agrivoltaics” and it’s making big waves in the solar industry. The idea of combining solar farms with food farms opens up a tremendous area for implementing solar power. Farmers could see increased efficiency in their food production and save water, as well as provide their own power or even make money through a solar lease.

We can’t wait to see where this technology goes. What are your thoughts about agrivoltaics? Let us know down in the comments!

Improving Solar by Mimicking Nature

Improving Solar by Mimicking Nature 150 150 Joshua Jones

Scientists at NCSU have recently published research that may change the way we see and use solar energy.

The current standard in solar is synthetic semiconductors. You’ve seen them before; either on your neighbor’s roof, the top of a high-rise, or even on calculators. They work with incredible efficiency to convert beams of sunlight into useable energy, and are in use all across the globe. Solar continues to grow in popularity, and the technology is quick to follow.

While it’s usually synthetic semiconductors used to convert energy, these scientists have instead used chlorophyll to successfully mimic the way a plant converts sunlight into food.
Natural based semiconductors have the potential to be more cost effective and more environmentally friendly than traditional solar. These panels would also be flexible, allowing them to be installed almost anywhere.

While using a natural-based semiconductor may have many benefits, we are still quite a ways away from seeing this type of solar in regular use. Currently, scientists have only successfully used chlorophyll to convert light into energy in a lab environment. They are hoping their research today will pave the way for a future where we can implement this technology in our daily lives to further reduce our footprint.


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Lightyear One solar powered EV

Lightyear One – The Solar Powered Car

Lightyear One – The Solar Powered Car 600 337 Joshua Jones

A Dutch company has debuted a solar powered electric vehicle (EV) that is capable of traveling up to 450 miles on a single charge. The Lightyear One was officially unveiled Tuesday, June 25th at an event in Katwijk, Southern Netherlands. The prototype was developed by a team hailing from Eindhoven University of Technology.

Lightyear, the company behind the car, was founded in 2016 by members of Solar Team Eindhoven. The team has won a number of solar-powered car races with what’s considered the world’s first family car powered by solar energy. The Lightyear aims to bring a road-ready solar vehicle to the consumer market.

Innovating for the Future

The Lightyear One can accommodate five adults, with about 28 cubic feet of storage space. The 16.5 square feet of solar panels -mounted on the roof and hood- provide the solar batteries with roughly 7.5 miles per hour of exposure to sun. While this may not seem too impressive, it can also be charged at regular EV stations. This includes 60 kW (fast-charging) which will charge the car up to 315 miles of range in an hour. It can also charge up to about 250 miles of range overnight with standard (European) 230V sockets.

The built in solar panels allow the car to charge while it’s stationary. Additionally, they provide a “boost” to power while in motion. During a four-hour drive, the Lightyear one is projected to collect nearly 31 miles worth of extra charge. If the drive pulls over for a pit stop or lunch, the vehicle will continue to charge! Exact range and mileage will vary depending on a number of factors including climate and driving frequency. However, the company estimates that someone driving the national average of 20,000 km (about 12.4k miles) per year “in the cloudy Netherlands” would get around 40 percent of their mileage from solar annually.

Lightyear One profile front


Facing Challenges

The amount of energy required to power a vehicle weighing upwards of one to two tons is a big challenge in developing solar vehicles. The nature and size of vehicles provide limited space for solar panels. Because of this, Lightyear has worked to optimize the car’s weight and structure, using aluminum and carbon fiber materials. They are also fine tuning aero-dynamics to reduce drag in an effort to lower energy consumption.

“Our job at the aerodynamics team is to ensure that the air will move along the curves of the car as smoothly as possible, because we stop the air from moving in swirls, into holes, or into interstices, we reduce friction between the car and the air. We want the car to cut through the air just like a raindrop – the ultimate example of an aerodynamic object.”
– Annemiek Koers, Aerodynamics Engineer at Lightyear.

The development of Lightyear One has been no secret. At the official unveiling on the 25th, the company announced that anyone can now reserve one of their cars for a fee of €119,000 ($135,000) – though the full price is actually €150,000 ($170,000). 100 units have already been reserved despite the 2021 release date. The company says that the cost reflects the novelty of the technology. They hope that future iterations will help bring the price tag down.

“Since new technology has a high unit cost, we have to start in an exclusive market,” Lightyear CEO and co-founder Lex Hoefsloot added. “Lightyear One is the first long-range solar car and has staggering specifications. The next models we plan to develop will have a significantly lower purchase price. In addition, future models will be provided to autonomous and shared car fleets, so the purchase price can be divided amongst a large group of users.”

Lightyear One rear profile

Charging Forward

The EV market is still small compared to petroleum and diesel, but it is growing. The cumulative EV sales hit the 4 million mark last year according to Bloomberg NEF. That doesn’t seem like much with over a billion cars globally, but the broader picture paints a promising trend. It took around five years to sell the first million electric cars and just a year and a half to shift the second million. Furthermore, it only took 6 months to pass 4 million electric vehicles sold after hitting the 3 million milestone.

Companies are starting to significantly invest into EV charging infrastructure, with fossil fuel giants like BP and Shell acquiring charging network providers. Additionally, efforts to develop infrastructure for charging vehicles as they move are being seen. For example, Sweden is developing “electrified roads”. While solar powered cars are not a new concept, they have yet to reach the commercial market at any scale. With a range of up to 450 miles, Lightyear hopes to accelerate the uptake of EVs globally – with solar energy as the draw – by alleviating one of the core sticking points for many would-be EV converts.

“The main goal of the car is to fill in where electric cars fall short,” Hoefsloot added. “Research has shown that range and the lack of charging options are still the top concerns that people have when considering electric cars. With Lightyear One, we want to show that our technology enabled us to build one of the most sustainable cars on the market, that also offers great convenience.”

Yanfa Yan solar cell research at UToledo

Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power

Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power 650 433 Joshua Jones

One step closer to the most clean and renewable source of energy in the world

The University of Toledo has made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make a new material to replace silicon in solar cells. Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics, has been working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and The University of Colorado. He envisions the ultra-high efficiency material called a tandem perovskite solar cell will be ready to debut in full-sized solar panels in the consumer market in the near future.

Perovskites are compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemical reactions. They would replace silicon, which — for now — remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the sun’s light into electrical energy. “We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess.”

The Research is Here

A new research paper outlines how the photovoltaics team is fine-tuning a mix of lead and tin. This will advance the technology closer to it’s maximum efficiency. These efforts have increased the efficiency of the new solar cell to about 23 percent. That’s a 5% increase over the current efficiency rating of 18% with silicon panels. Scientists used a chemical compound called guanidinium thiocyanate to dramatically improve the structural and optoelectronic properties of the lead-tin mixed perovskite films.

Dr. Sanjay Khare, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, said “Science is the top academic journal in the world, alongside Nature, which published other research by Dr. Yan only five months ago after he discovered a single material that produces white light, which could boost the efficiency and appeal of LED bulbs. His significant sustainability work at The University of Toledo can help power the world using clean energy.”

About five years ago Yan’s team identified the ideal properties of perovskites. He has since focused his 20 years of experience on producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that brings together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum. In April, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Yan a $1.1 million grant to continue his research in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Lab.

Moving Forward

“This is the material we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Yan said. “The solar industry is watching and waiting. Some have already started investing in this technology.” Yan is an expert in theory of defect physics and electronic properties in semiconductors, materials synthesis and thin-film solar-cell fabrication.

“Our UToledo research is ongoing to make cheaper and more efficient solar cells that could rival and even outperform the prevailing silicon photovoltaic technology,” said Dr. Zhaoning Song, research assistant professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy and co-author on the study. “Our tandem solar cells with two layers of perovskites deliver high power conversion efficiency and have the potential to bring down production costs of solar panels, which is an important advance in photovoltaics.”

Yan’s team has improved the quality of the materials and the process to manufacture them at a low cost. However more progress still needs to be made. “The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability. Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”

black solar cells

Scientists Pinpoint Solar Cells Defect

Scientists Pinpoint Solar Cells Defect 2816 1880 Joshua Jones

After Decades of Global Effort, Scientists Solve Mystery of Solar Cell Defect

Solar panels are among the most available system of generating energy through renewable sources due to their relative cost and consumer availability. However, the majority of solar cells only achieve 20 percent efficiency-for every kW of equivalent sunlight, about 200W of electrical power can be generated. An international team of researchers have found the key fundamental issue. A material defect which limits and degrades solar cell efficiency. Knowledge of this issue is not new; it has been known about and studied for over 40 years. There are more than 270 research papers attributed to the issue with no solution.

New research shows the first observation of a material defect that limits silicon solar cell efficiency.

Prof. Tony Peaker, who coordinated the research now published in the Journal of Applied Physics said: “Because of the environmental and financial impact, solar cells ‘efficiency degradation’ has been the topic of much scientific and engineering interest in the last four decades. However, despite some of the best minds in the business working on it, the problem has steadfastly resisted resolution until now.”

“During the first hours of operation, after installation, a solar cells efficiency drops from 20 percent to about 18 percent. An absolute drop of 2 percent in efficiency may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that these solar panels are now responsible for delivering a large and exponentially growing fraction of the world’s total energy needs, it’s a significant loss of electricity generating capacity.”

The energy cost of this defect across the globally installed solar capacity is in the 10’s of gigawatts.

That’s equivalent to more energy than the UK’s 15 nuclear power plants combine! Less sustainable energy options such as fossil fuels have to be implemented to bridge the gap because of this.
Researchers were able to identify the mechanism responsible for Light Induced Degradation (LID) thanks to the theoretical and experimental approach of many scientific disciplines. The team uncovered the existence of the defect, which initially lies dormant within the silicon used to manufacture the cells. A process known as ‘deep-level transient spectroscopy’ in which the electronic charge within the bulk of the silicon solar cell is transformed under sunlight. This is part of its energy generating process. The team found that this transformation involves a highly effective “trap” that prevents the flow of electrons.

Dr. Iain Crowe said: “This flow of electrons is what determines the size of the electrical current that a solar cell can deliver to a circuit, anything that impedes it effectively reduces the solar cell efficiency and amount of electrical power that can be generated for a given level of sunlight. We’ve proved the defect exists, it’s now an engineering fix that is needed.”

The industry standard technique, used to determine the quality of silicon material, measures the lifetime of charge carriers. Higher quality material with fewer “traps” have a longer lifetime. Researchers in Manchester lead by professor Mathew Halsall found that their observations have strong correlation with this charge carrier lifetime. It was reduced significantly after transformation of the defect under illumination. They also noted that the effect was reversible. The lifetime increased again when the material was heated in the dark, a process commonly used to remove the “traps.”

The paper, “Identification of the mechanism responsible for the boron oxygen light induced degradation in silicon photovoltaic cells,” is published in the Journal of Applied Physics.