We recently posted about the largest solar installation in the United States, which is currently in Florida. While the sunshine state enjoys these bragging rights – for now – it is actually trying to catch up with solar leaders, including California and New Jersey.
But, there are some important solar advancements occurring in Florida!
Greentech Media hosted a webinar to showcase solar research of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium, which has brought researchers from 11 universities to collaborate on renewable energy technology. Among other issues to be tackled include cloud cover and hurricanes – more prevalent in Florida than in the western United States.
Still, there are some important advancements underway. Consider these highlights of the projects on which the FESC is working:
Sunlight to Hydrogen Fuel: Similar to concentrated solar power, mirrors are used to concentrate and direct sunlight to a tower. There, zinc oxide is superheated and reduced to metal. The result is combined with water, in which it oxidizes to create hydrogen. When its combined with organic material, transportation fuel is created. Researchers are also working to develop a fluidized bed reactor that can more efficiently convert metal oxide to hydrogen.
Solar-Powered Desalination: Would you believe me if I said that solar power can create potable water from seawater? Its true! Solar energy collectors are used to superheat saltwater to the boiling point. Vapor includes no salt, so it is collected and condensed through a heat exchanger. Concentrated salt and brine is pumped back into the ocean.
Clean Water from Clean Power: Not only can solar energy help remove salt from ocean water, but we can also use it to remove dangerous microbes. Using materials like titanium dioxide, sunlight can be absorbed to create free radicals which then seek out and destroy polluting materials.
Solar Thermal Power: In order to be competitive with fossil-fuel based electricity, the cost of solar thermal power must be dramatically cut. The best way to do this is to reduce equipment cost by about 50%. The Florida Energy Systems Consortium is helping advance research that will rely on ammonia to generate solar thermal power at a significantly lower temperature.
Solar Cell/LED/Battery Module: When solar electricity is generated, it generally needs to be converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for use. But consider these facts: solar cells, LEDs (light emitting diodes) and batteries all use direct current. What if we could eliminate the need for solar inverters? That idea is propelling new research to build a solar cell with transparent organic material on top of an organic LED. As described:
The LED emits light downward and sits on top of a transparent platform that’s embedded with lithium-ion batteries. The solar cell charges the battery during the day, and the batteries can power the LED light at night.
As a result, efficiency will be increased without the need for an inverter. Plus, savings can be had in material costs, as well.
Solar research in the Florida sunshine seems to be the perfect place to advance renewable energy! Stay tuned for more news about solar advancements from this key location, and from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.