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Future House | Emerging Solar Technology

This Old House Home Technology Expert Ross Trethewey takes us to MIT to discuss the future of solar technology.

Home technology expert Ross Trethewey heads to MIT to talk to Professor Vladimir Bulović, Director of MIT.nano, about the future of solar. After a brief discussion about the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and current state of solar tech, Vladimir shows Ross what he believes to be future tech: an electricity-generating film that can be applied to windows and other materials to produce electricity.

Solar Has Obstacles

Solar installations continue to grow by around 20 percent each year, and about 3 percent of the world’s electricity comes from solar. However, it has obstacles. The installation process, whether it be in a solar field or on a roof, requires materials like concrete and metal. Also, in some cases, roofs will need reinforcement before they’re able to carry the load. These issues are holding solar’s growth back, but a format change could make a big difference.

New Formats for Solar

The solar landscape will change over the next 5 to 10 years. Some solar experts believe that solar energy-absorbing products will hit the market that no one has ever seen before. Some of these products will be lighter, while others may be essentially invisible. These changes will allow these products to integrate into buildings without changing their structure or aesthetics.

What might these products look like? Technology such as rolled panels that install on a roof like a carpet or even infrared-absorbing glass panels installed in windows will allow for a wider spread of solar technology.

Flexibility is Important

Flexibility is part of the future for solar tech, not simply in terms of a variety of applications but also in terms of actual solar cells. Technology exists to print solar cells onto flexible materials like the plastic used in water bottles. These sheets are incredibly lightweight and pliable, giving them near-endless possibilities for use in a wide variety of products—such as energy-producing windows—without adding much bulk or weight to the material.

Experts are Exploring New Options Every Day

Solar technology is important to a more sustainable future. As such, experts are working on new technology every day. Labs allow scientists and engineers to test different materials and the solar cells’ efficiency when used in these applications. Through these trials, tests, and experiments, future solar products will begin to hit the market and create a brighter, more energy-efficient future.

Resources

Ross tours MIT.nano and discusses the future of solar with MIT.nano director Vladimir Bulović. Bulović gives Ross some insight into innovations that could change the way solar power is delivered.