It’s not an exaggeration to say that the solar market is exploding right now, with plenty of new solar energy sources and energy storage solutions being announced. And in the wake of new federal buy-ins, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s recent pledge to contribute $53 million to new photovoltaic (PV) and solar energy projects, it’s clear that the industry is developing quick—especially compared to the markets in 2018.
This is why we thought it’d be the perfect time to look at some of these new technologies, including many that we’re hoping to see in 2019! Interested in how much solar panels cost in your town? Solar Reviews has your city here.
What are the hottest solar technologies coming in 2019?
There are a few great solar technologies on the horizon, many of which involve new forms of solar panels that completely reimagine how consumers can integrate solar into their lives.
Maxim Integrated Technology
If you haven’t heard of Maxim Integrated, you will soon. This California-based company is seeking to shake up the solar industry with new technologies that change the way solar panels route and generate electric power. This might be one of the best solar advancements we’ll see in 2019, so we’ll be doing a deeper dive into this technology in just a moment.
Clear Solar Panels
Imagine buildings as tall as skyscrapers completely powered by clean energy, free of any mounts, grids, or solar panel installations. It sounds hard to believe, but expect to start hearing about it in 2019.
Researchers are developing solar windows through clear films—placed on traditional window glass—that generate power by absorbing UV light. It’s a breakthrough technology that offers some interesting possibilities for buildings that want to decrease reliance on fossil fuels while maintaining a streamlined aesthetic to the outside world.
Bifacial Solar Panels
Earlier this year, solar experts predicted that bifacial solar panel wouldn’t see widespread adoption for another one or two years. But with the technology boom that the solar industry is seeing, we’re willing to bet that this one comes around sooner than many others on this list.
As their name suggests, bifacial solar panels are solar panels that absorb light from both sides. This means that at the right angle, the top of a panel could absorb light like normal while the bottom could absorb light reflected from other nearby surfaces—drastically increasing the power output of the panel.
Tesla Solar Roof Tiles
We’ve discussed Tesla’s solar roof shingles in previous posts, and since then, we’ve been pleased to see that building-integrated PVs are taking hold in the market. However, it’s no secret that Tesla has had some challenges over the past few years with its overly-aggressive production timelines for its line of renewable energy products, and its solar roof is no exception.
There’s no telling whether Tesla will be up to meeting consumer demand for these products in 2019, but we’ll be keeping an ear out for information on when production might get going.
Split Cell Solar Modules
Another exciting advancement to solar technology that might be hitting the shelves in 2019 is split solar panels. These panels are about half the size of traditional panels and have a new type of silicon chip architecture that supports solar thermal cycling, improves module longevity, and improves efficiency across the board.
Is Maxim cell optimization the best new solar technology in 2019?
It just might be. But to explain why we need to provide a bit of background.
Many solar systems use technologies called microinverters or power optimizers to improve the efficiency of individual solar panels in the grid. In essence, these technologies fine-tune the performance of each panel and help it generate its maximum power output in situations where panel power may be decreased—think cloudy days, when your panels get covered by leaves, or if they’re placed in suboptimal locations to capture sunlight.
Let’s look at those pesky leaves as a quick example. A tiny leaf falling on your solar panel can be more problematic than you think. Based on the way PV cells operate, these kinds of obstructions don’t just affect the output where the blockage occurs. They create energy transfer disruptions that ripple through the panel’s entire cell system and limit the panel’s ability to function.
(Of course, good installers can help you install a solar system where these types of problems are minimized. Solar Reviews rates the best solar installers in your area here.)
This brings us back to Maxim’s new cell optimization strategy.
Maxim Integrated gets around this issue with a new piece of tech that optimizes the solar panel at the cell level. When obstructions happen, power isn’t lost—it’s efficiently rerouted through the remaining cells to optimize output as much as possible. The overall cellular grid isn’t disrupted and there’s no risk of losing power to any other cells in the panel. This may be a way to achieving maximum efficiency where shading is present.
It sounds like a small change, but trust us on this-this advancement has the potential to disrupt a significant portion of the current solar industry.
Are there any other new advances in solar panel efficiency on the horizon?
Of course! The above technologies are just scratching the surface.
For example, researchers at MIT have been working on new types of solar technology dubbed “solar thermophotovoltaics”—a hefty phrase describing new solar panel compounds that convert thermal energy into focused beams that can increase the efficiency of solar panels and their ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Other researchers are working on perovskite solar cells that could lower the cost of solar power because these perovskite materials are cheaper to produce than silicon cells. State and national renewable energy targets around the world help to drive further research. There are also improvements happening in thin film solar cells technology from companies like First Solar who are known for utility-scale solar panels using CIGS materials.
Even further out are truly game-changing technologies, like the nanotechnology quantum dot solar cells currently being studied by the U.S. government.
In truth, there’s plenty to look forward to in the solar panel market but if you are considering solar panels for home then none of these new solar technologies will arrive before the 30% federal tax credit reduces at the end of 2019. So it's a prudent idea to talk to one or more solar providers near you and arrange a solar cost and savings estimate tailored to your home as current solar incentives make home solar a very attractive investment in 2019.