N°25 - December 2017
Solar energy is an infinitely available, carbon-free energy. Roughly 20 square surfaces of 160 km x 160 km covered with solar panels could theoretically power the entire world in 2030 with zero carbon emission! Having already made major contributions to Solar Impulse, the world’s only solar-powered aircraft, how could Solvay further the advancement of this alternative energy?
“There has been a major evolution in the photovoltaic (PV) industry in recent years,” explains Robert Gresser, Director of the Sustainable Energy Platform within the Advanced Innovation Office of Solvay (pictured). “Before, companies manufactured solar panels designed to suit all purposes. And because they were all the same, it quickly became a commodity with producers competing to make the cheapest modules. After studying the effectiveness of solar energy capture in locations as diverse as Shanghai, Berlin or the Mojave Desert, however, major differences were recorded. For example, sand in the atmosphere can degrade the panel, much like how sand can stick to a window and minimize the amount of light able to pass through it. In Germany, on the other hand, the climate is humid, so the panels there needed to accommodate humidity. Today the market is evolving to compensate for these differences, producing different kinds of solar panels tailored to specific segments, geographies and climates.”