The world’s goal to decarbonise is stronger than ever, and as more households and businesses adopt solar energy, emerging technologies to make solar energy more viable to the whole world continue to develop.
A good example of this is the recent Series B funding of Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Venture that will help automate the development, construction, and operation of large-scale solar plants.
The funding was given to Terabase Energy, a solar tech company that has built the first-ever fully digital platform that can manage the lifecycle of utility-scale solar.
Terabase’s cloud-based software that features automation eliminates manual lifting of steel and panels that contribute to the safety and health of workers who operate in challenging conditions.
Breakthrough Energy sees huge potential in Terabase’s solution to reduce costs and boost the deployment of large-scale solar; hence, the funding grant.
This recent funding only shows the large investments being put into solar technology.
Terabase also recently finished its first commercial robot deployment to install solar panels for a 400-megawatt project in central Texas where robots installed ten megawatts. This is a big stepping stone toward the future.
Automation for Solar Plants
Automation for the solar system has been around for a while and new technologies are being used to deliver better processes.
Indeed, automation is on the rise today. Last year, Edify Energy and Octopus Group deployed Fluency’s artificial intelligence-based Trading Platform to optimise trading of the 333 MW Darlington Point Solar Farm located in NSW.
This is the biggest solar farm connection to the National Electricity Market (NEM), with approximately 1,000,000 solar modules spread over 1,000 hectares and an output that can power around 115,000 Australian homes.
The AI platform helps maximise power generation during favourable market conditions and responds to market signs to avoid over-supply and negative prices.
Earlier this year, 5B’s $33.4 million project was announced to help automate the manufacturing and deployment of the prefabricated Maverick, reducing solar technology costs and speeding up installation times.
ARENA will support 5B with the design and help implement a high volume, scalable, and automated manufacturing line at NSW. Government funding will also go towards developing the GPS Guided Deployment (GGD) field robotic system to automate the deployment of solar PV cells.
The Maverick was launched in 2017 and has been used in 52 projects with a total capacity of 32 MW across the world.
It allows for quick plug-and-play deployment on site by using solar PV cells that are slightly titled to the east and west. This allows the maximum ground cover to capture more sunlight than traditional single-axis tracking or fixed tilt solar PV.
Solutions like this will help maximise revenue and increase investor returns as they can reduce price volatility and mitigate constraints.
If you’re thinking of switching to solar, then it’s time that you do now!
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Emerging Solar Technologies in Australia
Other emerging technologies are also being developed and deployed to quicken zero-net in Australia.
In fact, top Australian oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum also secured funding from Heliogen, another Bill Gates-backed company, for a full-scale trial of its Concentrated-Solar-Power (CSP) technology ahead of a planned push into Australia in 2021. Woodside also bought a stake in Heliogen.
Heliogen uses mirrors to concentrate solar energy from a large area, which produces intense heat for industrial processes or generating electricity.
Woodside will fund Heliogen’s first full-scale, 5-megawatt module at the Mojave Desert, while the US government will contribute $39 million to cover the undisclosed cost.
As soon as the first demonstration in California is over, Heliogen will break into Australia with plans to use the CSP for its own operations and produce hydrogen for export. This could also market the modules to Australian mining companies and other remote energy users.
Aside from this, Australian researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) made a significant breakthrough in night-time solar technology in May.
The technology works by using a thermal-radiative dose, which is a semiconductor found in existing technologies, which works like night-vision goggles, to capture photons leaving the planet alone in the infrared spectrum and convert them into electricity.
The technology enabled the researchers to generate electricity at night. As Australia is one of the world’s biggest adopters of rooftop solar, this new night-time solar technology may be helpful; however, it’s still in its early days.
Solar Power Today
It’s true that solar energy is the cleanest renewable energy source available to us today. And with the help of various solar technologies, they can harness solar energy for various uses. Still, there are many challenges before solar can fully replace fossil fuels for power generation. Additionally, there are unexpected challenges with solar electrification.
One biggest challenge is the levelised cost of solar power, which is the cost of power produced by solar over a specific period. It is the capital cost for solar power plants is high, but there are also ongoing maintenance costs that must be considered.
With these new technologies and even Gates’ recent funding for new solar technology, it’s a step forward to make solar energy the main source of power all over the world in the future.
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