The writing is on the wall. Every major global governmental agency is warning of the imminent tipping point towards catastrophic climate change, even the world's largest oil company Saudi Aramco is now talking about reaching peak oil within the next 20 years, and the International Energy Agency projects that it will happen in more like 10. Solar and wind are cheaper than ever, and large-scale solar mega-projects are quickly becoming the norm. It makes sense, then, that even the supermajor oil companies are diversifying their portfolios and investing in their own demise--also known as the renewable energy sector. Way back in July, 2017 Oilprice reported that France's Total S.A. was "leading the charge on renewables". At the time, Total's website boasted: "For Total, contributing to the development of renewable energies is as much a strategic choice as an industrial responsibility. We are doing our part to diversify the global energy mix by investing in renewables, with a strategic focus on solar energy and bioenergies."
Solar power and advanced computing are a key cleantech intersection point. From renewables return on investment optimization to optimal rooftop commercial solar deployment, machine learning is helping us get more efficient and effective in our global transformation. Researchers in the US and China are using machine learning to discover new solar panel chemistries to increase the base efficiency and economic effectiveness of solar panels. They are trialing hundreds or thousands of combinations in virtual test beds before bringing them into the physical world, a key element of the machine-to-reality value proposition. Let's start in the United States with Jinxin Li, Basudev Pradhan, Surya Gaur, and Jayan Thomas from the sun-drenched campus of the University of Central Florida.
The general rule when developing a new kind of solar technology is to expect progress to be slow. Take silicon solar cells, the most ubiquitous and recognizable form of photovoltaic generations today. When silicon panels were first built in the early 1950s, they could only turn about 6 percent of the light that hit them into electricity. More than 30 years later, that number had inched up to 20 percent, and today--30 years after that--they regularly perform in the mid 20s. So when, in 2017, a new material jumped from 3.8 percent to 22.7 percent efficiency after less than 8 years of development, it got people's attention.
WROCLAW, POLAND - What if one day all buildings could be equipped with windows and facades that satisfy the structure's every energy need, whether rain or shine? That sustainability dream is today one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to Polish physicist and businesswoman Olga Malinkiewicz. The 36-year-old has developed a novel inkjet processing method for perovskites -- minerals for a new generation of cheaper solar cells -- that makes it possible to produce solar panels under lower temperatures, thus sharply reducing costs. Indeed, perovskite technology is on track to revolutionize access to solar power for all, given its surprising physical properties, some experts say. "In our opinion, perovskite solar cells have the potential to address the world energy poverty," said Mohammad Khaja Nazeeruddin, a professor at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, an institution on the cutting edge of solar energy research.