Recently there have been dramatic breakthroughs in solar energy that will help further been the mainstream use of photovoltaic (PV) technology, enabling solar closer to parity with fossil fuel costs as a viable source of energy to the grid. A key development that makes possible the widespread use of solar energy production of the cells with cheaper and more readily available materials. Silicon, however, has traditionally been the preferred material for PV cadmium telluride, copper, and selenium (among other materials) are now also be used to PV cells. These materials are used for highly efficient, low-cost cells.
Nano PV cells lead to much more compact, thinner, more efficient solar units. Nano-technology in PV with 4-7 times (or more) of the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells are standard in the R & D phase of today, with limited commercial availability. There are alternative materials and nanotechnology PV cells with significantly higher efficiency than the standard (double to triple the standard 12-15% efficiency) in use. The solar panels are produced could be exponentially improved through the development, refinement and implementation of nanotechnology.
In addition to the improvements in traditional photovoltaic technology, there are exponential developments in the field of solar heat. Instead of simply converting the energy of the sun into electricity, with solar thermal energy, solar energy heats water, molten salt, or any other working fluid, and then steam is used to drive generators. Solar represents an advancement in solar energy by 4 to 5 times the power density of PV. However, to realize reduction in the costs of this technology is difficult, to ensure that it really take off.
One commercially successful application of solar energy is the solar water heater. Solar water heaters are required in new construction in the entire country of Israel, and now, in the State of Hawaii. Some of the other applications of solar power generation and heating under even remotely located buildings, industrial buildings, schools, hospitals, etc …
Both types of solar (PV and solar thermal) continues to decrease steadily the costs are incurred as technology advances. However, photovoltaic expected in advance thermal remain in terms of costs of the production and use. Solar thermal energy has a few advantages that compensate for the higher costs. Solar thermal energy is produced consistently throughout the day, not depending on weather conditions. The turbine runs on natural gas when there is no sun for long periods. Solar thermal units fit easily with energy storage systems and will continue to produce energy at night, using embedded energy throughout the day.
The most promising new technologies in the world of solar energy CSP and HCPV. CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) and HCPV (high-concentration photovoltaic) technologies that use a wide range of lenses and mirrors (heliostats) to focus sunlight on PV’s. Also used in a similar application, to concentrate sunlight on PV and / or a working fluid (such as water, molten salt, or synthetic oil), valleys are solar dishes and solar energy. Dishes and valleys appear to hold great promise for the future of renewable energy.
CSP plants produce electricity by first concentrate sunlight on a concentrated group of solar cells as an installation on a tower. Also dishes and valleys, which in a CSP application, sunlight focused on a group of PV’s of a working fluid, or both, at the source. CSP plants which first focus light on photovoltaic cells, then use the captured energy heat a working fluid. Then, this high-temperature liquid is used to turn a turbine or a motor which drives a generator current. Good examples of CSP plants are found in Spain, Italy, Australia and Mexico, as well as the US states of California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada, just to mention a few places for this emerging technology.
Source: http://ezinearticles.com/?Dramatic-Breakthroughs-in-Solar-Energy&id=8925209 by Daniel Braff