Solar Windows Power Your Home?

A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work. Scientists have demonstrated that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight. Clever clogs.

Quantum dot LSC devices under ultraviolet illumination.
A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from University of Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.

“The key accomplishment is the demonstration of large-area luminescent solar concentrators that use a new generation of specially engineered quantum dots,” said lead researcher Victor Klimov of the 
Centre for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP) at Los Alamos.
Quantum dots are ultra-small bits of semiconductor matter that can be synthesized with nearly atomic precision via modern methods of colloidal chemistry. Their emission color can be tuned by simply varying their dimensions. Color tunability is combined with high emission efficiencies approaching 100 percent. These properties have recently become the basis of a new technology — quantum dot displays — employed, for example, in the newest generation of the Kindle Fire ™ e-reader.

Light-harvesting antennas

A luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) is a photon management device, representing a slab of transparent material that contains highly efficient emitters such as dye molecules or quantum dots. Sunlight absorbed in the slab is re-radiated at longer wavelengths and guided towards the slab edge equipped with a solar cell.
Klimov explained, “The LSC serves as a light-harvesting antenna which concentrates solar radiation collected from a large area onto a much smaller solar cell, and this increases its power output.”
“LSCs are especially attractive because in addition to gains in efficiency, they can enable new interesting concepts such as photovoltaic windows that can transform house facades into large-area energy generation units,” said Sergio Brovelli, who worked at Los Alamos until 2012 and is now a faculty member at UNIMIB.
Because of highly efficient, color-tunable emission and solution processability, quantum dots are attractive materials for use in inexpensive, large-area LSCs. One challenge, however, is an overlap between emission and absorption bands in the dots, which leads to significant light losses due to the dots re-absorbing some of the light they produce.

“Giant” but still tiny, engineered dots

To overcome this problem the Los Alamos and UNIMIB researchers have developed LSCs based on quantum dots with artificially induced large separation between emission and absorption bands (called a large Stokes shift).
These “Stokes-shift” engineered quantum dots represent cadmium selenide/cadmium sulfide (CdSe/CdS) structures in which light absorption is dominated by an ultra-thick outer shell of CdS, while emission occurs from the inner core of a narrower-gap CdSe. The separation of light-absorption and light-emission functions between the two different parts of the nanostructure results in a large spectral shift of emission with respect to absorption, which greatly reduces losses to re-absorption.
Concept of a Solar Window
To implement this concept, Los Alamos researchers created a series of thick-shell (so-called “giant”) CdSe/CdS quantum dots, which were incorporated by their Italian partners into large slabs (sized in tens of centimeters) of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). While being large by quantum dot standards, the active particles are still tiny — only about hundred angstroms across. For comparison, a human hair is about 500,000 angstroms wide.
“A key to the success of this project was the use of a modified industrial method of cell-casting, we developed at UNIMIB Materials Science Department” said Francesco Meinardi, professor of Physics at UNIMIB.
Spectroscopic measurements indicated virtually no losses to re-absorption on distances of tens of centimeters. Further, tests using simulated solar radiation demonstrated high photon harvesting efficiencies of approximately 10% per absorbed photon achievable in nearly transparent samples, perfectly suited for utilization as photovoltaic windows.
Despite their high transparency, the fabricated structures showed significant enhancement of solar flux with the concentration factor of more than four. These exciting results indicate that “Stokes-shift-engineered” quantum dots represent a promising materials platform. It may enable the creation of solution processable large-area LSCs with independently tunable emission and absorption spectra.
Sadly this all still just an idea and won’t be in the mainstream market for a few more years. The idea though is  revolutionary. You could plug in your appliances into your WINDOW. Ideal for Kitchen windows, plug in your kettle and make a lovely cuppa powered by the sun, bliss. For more information on the Solar Window click here. Also there are many different companies trying to get their own spin on the Solar Window e.g. New Energy claim they are making a Solar Window that can out perform any commercial Solar Panel by 10 fold. Clearly in the foreseeable future not only will we see Solar Windows hitting the market but a whole range of them specially designed in their own unique ways!
I bid you adieu my dear Sirs and Madams!

What you NEED to know before buying Solar Panels

Can I Get A Solar Panel System?

Before you decide to get a solar array there are a number of factors you have to consider as it can be a big deal. There are a number of things that have to be expertly evaluated before you can even consider putting panels on your roof.
First of all, some might have to come out and do a site survey. An engineer will climb up on your roof, take measurements, inspect to see if you have visibility to the south, and use this funky solar pathfinder device to determine the times of day that particular areas would be shaded.
Solar Path finder
They go to the four corners of where the solar array is going to be installed with the Solar Pathfinder, and with it point towards the south it has a series of marks on it and a glass dome which reflects anything that would be throwing a shadow. You basically look at the reflection and see what time of day the shadow might affect that spot. 
To get the most out of your panels you need to have them in a pin-point location to work efficiently as possible, you can’t just bung them on any old place! Basically this means it must be facing south within about a 20 degree window. If they can’t point the panels in that direction, you might as well not do it because your solar generation drops dramatically. Same goes for shade. If you’ve got a building beside you, or trees that tower over the house, you’re done.
Even if your roof points south, and nothing’s blocking the sun you still need to have an engineering survey done to determine if your roof can bear the additional weight! Luckily, it only adds about 5-6 pounds per square foot of roof loading, so most roofs should be able to take it.

How Big of a Solar Panel System Do I Need?

To some extent figuring out what you need is narrowed down by how much room you have and cost. But you also need to take a look at your previous year’s electric bills, find out what your electric rates are, and research what the projected generation will be for the size of system you’re thinking about.
Here’s a site to let you calculateproduction for your location. Just pick your country and region  You’ll come up with an estimate that looks kind of like this:
Station Identification
City: LondonòGatwick
Country/Province: GBR  
Latitude: 51.15° N
Longitude:     0.18° W
Elevation: 62 m
Weather Data:     IWEC
PV System Specifications
DC Rating: 4.00 kW
DC to AC Derate Factor: 0.770
AC Rating: 3.08 kW
Array Type: Fixed Tilt  
Array Tilt: 51.2°
Array Azimuth: 180.0°
Energy Specifications
Energy Cost:     0.0752 pound/kWh
Solar Radiation


1.45      128  9.63 
1.90      151  11.36 
2.55      227  17.07 
3.99      347  26.09 
4.60      406  30.53 
4.38      368  27.67 
4.63      397  29.85 
4.52      390  29.33 
3.56      302  22.71 
10  2.64      232  17.45 
11  1.61      137  10.30 
12  0.97      79  5.94 
Year  3.07      3163  237.86 
Can I Get A Solar Panel System?

Solar Panel System Tips and Tricks

Oh boy, there is a lot they aren’t telling you! For example, one really good thing is that these systems are mostly guaranteed for 20 years! What isn’t really talked about is that its the solar panels that are warrantied for that long, but the inverters are not. So when you’re doing your ROI calculations you need to include the fact that you’re going to have to spend more money somewhere in the middle of the life-cycle for changing out parts.
Sunny Boy Solar Inverter
Speaking inverters, I should explain that the reason you need an inverter is that the solar panels put out DC current. This is like the current that comes out of a battery. But houses use AC current. So the inverter takes care of the conversion. There are two different kinds of inverters that are currently in use.

Solar MicroInverters

Being dependent on one inverter can be inefficient, if they inverter goes down or has technical problems it means you won’t be generating any electricity. An answer to the efficiency problem comes in the form of micro-inverters. Instead of stringing multiple panels together and putting them through one big inverter, micro-inverters are installed on every single solar panel. This allows each panel to contribute 100% of its production to the home, and if one fails it doesn’t affect the output of any others.

Choosing between Inverters and MicroInverters

Each type of inverter has its own benefits. While micro-inverters are more efficient, they are also more costly. It could also mean a lot more wiring that have to be mounted and routed. Yikes! Big inverters might weigh 140 pounds(ish), but they get mounted in one spot and with minimal wiring. They are also extremely reliable, having been around since the beginning of the industry.

Other Things To Keep In Mind

Another thing no one bothered to mention is that the roof on your house generally doesn’t last as long as these systems. So let’s say you have a 10 or 15 year old roof. There is NO WAY it’s going to last as long as the panels. What do you do then? If you have to do any work on the roof you have to deal with the solar array first. Although some companies do provide a service that in the event of your roof needs repairs they will take down the Solar Panels for you for a cheaper price than it would cost originally. If you are worried about this then I would advise to talk about this with a trusted company that will be willing to help you out e.g. the solar company that fitted the panels.

Who’s going to look after the system? And how? I advise to stay at home and participate during the install so you can learn how things are connected, and if something needed minor repairs you could do it yourself.If you have a pitched roof, you probably don’t want to be getting on it to service your panels. So make sure the company you choose has been around a long time so you don’t have to rely on service from someone else.


How Long Does It Take To Install A Solar Panel System?

The good news is that it only takes about a day to a couple of days days for them to be installed on your roof. The bad news is, that the answer isn’t that simple. After we did the site survey and worked out pricing and all that, we had to sign contracts. Those contracts had to get sent off for approval to the electric company because we were going to be tying into the grid. Meanwhile, you have to have the structural engineer come to the house to determine if the roof could bear the weight. All of those things can take weeks to complete.
By the way, if you’re wondering if you can do all this yourself – the answer is no. Next question!

How much do Solar Panels cost?

Obviously Solar Panels range from country to country, region to region but, specifically in the UK (where I just so happen to be from) They are about £5,000-£10,000 but this all depends on the size, quality and quantity of Solar Panels you buy! A website that proved very useful to me was Solar Panel Quoter. They give you a lovely FREE quote from your region specifically and can give you a list of the top 3 companies in your area from their database, how convenient! 
Another thing before you are put off by the expensive price, you aren’t JUST buying the panels themselves with that money. Its also for the install which is in itself a complicated process witnessing it for yourself you’ll understand its worth every penny, just its a lot of pennies!

Your pay back can easily be done over a simple spreadsheet, factoring in the months when the panels will be at either a low or high efficiency. It should be fairly straight forward but on average most solar panel systems make back their money in roughly in half their life times. Which means it is worth getting them, you just need the money to kick-start it! However, if you can afford to do it, it is also a form of insurance against the potential of sky-rocketing energy prices.

This should be about everything you need to consider before installing solar panels. If I have missed anything out or you have any queries, make sure to comment below!

I bid you adieu my dear Sirs and Madams! 

Are Ikea’s solar panels a good deal?
Solar quotes - click here

Swedish home furniture giants Ikea are to begin selling solar panels in all 18 UK based stores within 10 months, following a successful trial period, but do they offer value for money and should you even consider buying solar panels from a furniture store?

Firstly, their price of £5,700 for a 3.36kW system, which is the size for a typical semi-detached property, is expensive. Comparing pricesfrom accredited solar installers shows that a larger 4kW system can now be installed for under £5,000, and a 3kW system for as low as £4,000. Though Ikea have to start somewhere

On the plus side the investment figures still stack up, with Ikea’s smaller 3.36kW system, on a south-facing roof in Southampton, forecast to earn £770 each year from the Government Feed-in-Tariff (guaranteed for 20 years) – meaning you can recoup the cost within just 7 years.

Though installing the same size system for a lower cost from an accredited solar installer makes more sense and will give you a shorter repayment period.

From a personal opinion, Ikea are making a smart move, they have seen the Solar Panel business on the rise and must be expecting a big boom soon like the rest of us. Hence the first UK solar advert airing last week and the noise Solar has been making in the news recently

New to Solar Panels? Here’s an introduction!

Did you know? The amount of the Sun’s Energy hitting the Earth Solar-System
daily is enough to power the entire planet 20,000 times over. And yet we only harvest a tiny fraction of this valuable resource that will continue to provide us with Free Energy for another 4 billion years.
If you had an oil or gas well under your Home or Business would you extract it?
Why ignore the most powerful resource known to man? Solar Energy is a clean form of renewable energy that if utilised correctly can provide vast amounts of energy daily & save your home or business  a lot of money over the lifetime of the system (roughly £17,000 over 20 years.)
With Energy costs constantly rising & our demand for fuel growing all the time,we are at serious risk of fuel poverty if we don’t reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Lets not run on dead Dinosaurs! We need to look at alternative, renewable way of heating our homes & businesses.
In 2012 the population reached 7 billion & the UN estimates by 2050 it will reach 9.2 billion by which time the Worlds fuel reserves will be 75% less.
 Either we stop going at it like rabbits or we change to renewable energy, I think we all know which one we would prefer!

Solar Panels providing Solar Water Heating

Solar Water heating can provide up to 70% of domestic hot water annually thus
reducing your reliance on fossil fuels which will equate to an approximate 30% saving on fuel. There are also environmental benefits to solar energy. A typical domestic system can save approximately 350kg of COannually or over one third of a tonne.

How Solar Panels Work

How it works – Solar panels are mounted on your roof ideally 45East/West of due South 1800. There are possibilities if you don’t have a South facing aspect but ideally anywhere within that 90windows optimum. Because solar technology has progressed so much in recent years they don’t need direct sunlight as they work on natural daylight.
At daybreak your panels heat up. The energy is sent from your roof to your hot water
tank via stainless steel insulated pipework & is transferred to your hot water cylinder.
When the temperature in your cylinder is reached the pump shuts off & you have a
fully heated tank of water at your disposal. When you run a bath or take a shower
the temperature in your hot water tank drops & the sensor tells the pump to deliver
more energy to the tank. The new heat that is being stored in your panels is sent straight down to your tank so even whilst you are showering your water is reheating. It’s a bit like leaving an immersion heater on all day except you are getting free energy from the sun. It really is that simple…
How to keep your Solar Panels efficient 
There are new materials coming out all the time to make Solar Panels more efficient e.g. new cells, metals. So my advice is to research a few companies that have the key ingredients so you know your Solar Panel will at the top of it’s game! Sort of things you would need to look for are Solar Panels with less wires as they would block sunlight, PVT cells etc.
Over a period of time your Solar Panels will get a bit mucky, just like how a glass house does over the years. This affects how efficient the panel is and will slow how much electricity you make right down. There are solutions to the problem though, in fact there are solutions for the solution! Basically you can buy most of the products to clean your Solar Panels online. I recommend a good Solar Panel cleaning solution and at least a 24ft cleaning pole if you’re too lazy to go up the ladder with a wet rag! If you are even lazier or have money to burn, (usually come hand-in hand) You can hire cleaning companies to do it for you that range from about £30-£50.
Until the next time, I bid you adieu my dear Sirs and Madams!

Solar Panels, not just for your average Hippie?

Solar Power was once deemed only for the eco-green world, TO SAVE THE PLANET and so on. Not to be taken so seriously by your average Joe. But times are changing and it’s becoming a big financial gain, becoming more public with 500,000 UK roofs with Solar Panels, its about time it got fully advertised.

First UK Solar advert to air here

The UK saw it’s first Solar Panel advert recently from Eclipse Energy, right after everyone’s daily dose of Emmerdale! Though a tad cheesy it proves that Solar Power is a more serious, mainstream business. Being targeted at the general, public ideally wanting to save a few quid!

Pioneering the way forward in the Solar Panel business is Chris Cash (Managing director of Eclipse Energy) who thinks that marketed the right way, it can become big industry. And rightly so! Solar Power is accessible to almost any home-owner with many rewards and benefits. Cash is paving the way forward showing the average Joe how Solar Power can help them.

Many other companies are stepping forward into the ‘light’ that Cash has so kindly shown, with companies like Spectrum Energy talking about their adverts coming out soon. The Solar business is finally coming into it’s own. It has been steadily rising for a while now and I won’t be surprised after a mass of adverts that it will finally hit it’s stride, making solar industry boom!