Eindhoven University of Technology Testing Solar Panels that Double as Sound Barriers!
Although solar power has come quite a long way, there are still a lot of aspects holding back the spread of everyday applicability. Efficiency of solar panels has
improved, typically staying in the ballpark of a 13-15% rating, but there’s still one thing that people seem to take issue with when it comes to panels: aesthetics.
Making solar panels attractive in appearance is obviously not the priority when it comes to further advancing their effectiveness, but one professor at the Eindhoven
University of Technology in The Netherlands believes that developing the look of solar panels can expand into more daily applications, and his team is already testing it out.
Dr. Michael Debije has been taking charge of the project/experiment, and he is hoping that his test could mean an expansion of solar applications in the future.
For the next year, a set of experimental “luminescent solar concentrators” are being installed and tested along the A2 highway near the city of Den Bosch. These concentrators, or LSCs, are not traditional solar panels in any sense. With the appearance similar to that of stained glass, LSCs carry the look of blue, yellow, red, and clear. This allows different wavelengths of sunlight to get absorbed and passed onto traditional solar cells that discreetly reside on the edges of the panels.
Not only do these panels act as solar power generators, they are also highway sound
barriers. These barriers stand about 4.5 meters tall, effectively blocking out the sound coming from highway A2.
Although the efficiency of these panels are lower than the standard solar cell, currently only at about four to eight percent, one kilometer-long length of LSCs are capable of producing enough electricity to power 50 homes. On top of that, LSCs are able to absorb wavelengths even when it is cloudy outside.
According to The Global Construction Review, who spoke to Dr. Debije, LSCs cost significantly less than regular solar cells, and as already demonstrated, aren’t limited to buildings or isolated solar farms.
The main challenge for the project will be to see if enough power can be generated throughout the year. While Dr. Debije already has funding from sources such as the
Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands and Van Campen Industries (on top of Eindhoven University of Technology), he is hoping that proven performance can open up the doors to even more investment.
For now, the experiment will run until June of 2016. While seeing how much power can be generated is the main focus for the project, other tests include seeing how
well the LSCs can hold up in various weather. There is also the concern towards whether or not the visually attractive installation could serve as a target for vandals. There will be year-round maintenance of the installation to keep the project running.
Even if the efficiency isn’t exactly where the standard is set, LSCs could open up the doors to all kinds of new ways to incorporate solar energy into already existing infrastructure, and with additional backing, Dr. Debije’s solar experiment could very well prove to be successful.
Author Bio – Michael Cartier represents the digital team of See.Solar, a site devoted to residential solar installations in the United States.