Category Archives: Solar Energy

Scientists Develop Thermal Battery to Capture the Sun’s Heat

Scientists Develop Thermal Battery to Capture the Sun’s Heat Photovoltaic panels have allowed us to convert the sun’s energy into electricity, but what about those times when you just need heat from the sun, rather than electricity? Let’s say you want to heat your home with solar energy, for example. You could convert it into electricity to power a furnace, or you could simply store that raw thermal energy and release it as needed. This second option is theoretically more straightforward and efficient, but it requires a “thermal battery” capable of capturing and storing large amounts of thermal energy for long periods of time.

Thanks to a team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts, this type of high-capacity thermal battery could soon become a reality.

Last month, the team reported that they had developed a new plastic-like polymer called AzoPMA that could be used to create the thermal batteries of the future. Thanks to a unique molecular structure, this material is capable of storing vast amounts of thermal energy and releasing it on demand. When AzoPMA is exposed to sunlight, its molecules assume a high-energy form that allows the material to trap heat. Once it’s exposed to another external trigger, the molecules revert to a low-energy form that causes them to release their stored heat.

According to a recent article in NBC News, this thermal battery breakthrough “could do for solar tech what high-performance electrical batteries have done for iPhones and Tesla cars.”

In addition to their residential heating applications, high-capacity thermal batteries could be used in a number of other settings as well. They could be used to melt snow on roadways, for example, or to make safe, efficient solar ovens for people in developing nations. In fact, because the technology is so new, engineers are only beginning to explore the practical applications of thermal batteries. Before too long, however, they could become just as common as the lithium-ion batteries that revolutionized portable electronics in the early years of the 21st century.

Five Things to Know About Solar Ready Requirements

Solar is becoming an increasingly common and affordable alternative for generating electricity. Estimates are that more 1 million homes in the U.S. now have solar panels installed. California is a leading proponent of home solar panels, and has implemented solar ready requirements for new homes. Here are five things the California Energy Commission’s Efficiency Division… Continue Reading

Using Renewables to Boost Water Supplies?

California is now amid its fifth year of serious drought, and state and private agencies alike have been trying everything from water usage restrictions to exploring alternative sources of water as part of efforts to balance demand with availability. The problem with converting alternative water sources like recycled wastewater, brackish groundwater and seawater into potable… Continue Reading

Zero Net Energy: What Does it Mean for Homeowners?

New home construction is poised to transform significantly in the year 2020 in California when Zero Net Energy building solutions will be required as part of designing ZNE-compliant homes. What does this mean exactly for homeowners? Let’s take a closer look at the rules. Think of your home now – in fact, you’re probably sitting… Continue Reading