Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

ORNL Technology Could Make Solar Energy More Viable

Date:
December 17, 1999
Source:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Summary:
Solar energy could get a mega-boost, effectively gaining a three-fold improvement over conventional technology, with a system being developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The "full-spectrum solar energy system" harnesses the clean and abundant energy found in sunlight and uses that energy more efficiently than is possible with traditional solar energy systems.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec. 15, 1999 - Solar energy could get a mega-boost, effectively gaining a three-fold improvement over conventional technology, with a system being developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The "full-spectrum solar energy system" harnesses the clean and abundant energy found in sunlight and uses that energy more efficiently than is possible with traditional solar energy systems. The technology departs from conventional approaches that focus on using solar energy for a single purpose, such as to generate power.

"Instead of inefficiently converting the visible light found in sunlight into electricity only to reconvert a sizeable portion back into interior light, it makes more sense to just collect and distribute the light directly," said Jeff Muhs, a researcher in ORNL's Engineering Technology Division.

"By using the visible portion of the light spectrum, we can reduce the amount of electricity we consume for lighting commercial buildings," Muhs said. "We can use the other portions of the spectrum to generate electricity."

Interior lighting is the single largest user of electrical power in commercial buildings, accounting for more than a third of all of the electricity consumed commercially in the United States.

The system being developed by Muhs and industry partners uses novel roof-mounted two-axis tracking concentrators that separate the visible and infrared portions of the sun's rays. Using large-diameter optical fibers, it distributes visible light to interiors of buildings. The system converts infrared, or non-visible, portions of the solar spectrum into electricity.

The most economical photovoltaic cells today use silicon-based materials, and the conversion efficiency of these devices is relatively low in most portions of the visible light spectrum.

"Our approach leverages the benefits of concentrating photovoltaic cells in the near-infrared portion of the spectrum, where they are generally more efficient," Muhs said.

Models developed at ORNL and independently verified by Antares Engineers & Economists suggest that the overall efficiency and affordability of solar energy can be improved by as much as threefold in commercial buildings when compared to conventional solar technologies.

To effectively use the visible light from the sun for interior lighting of commercial buildings, it must be combined with artificial light yet still maintain uniform lighting - even when the amount of sunlight changes. Muhs has dubbed this combination of natural and artificial light "hybrid lighting."

The benefits of hybrid lighting include the elimination of glare and variability, better utilization of direct sunlight, the reduction of architectural intrusion and the reduction of energy consumption during peak demand.

"Hybrid lighting is poised to compete with conventional day lighting and conventional solar technologies as the preferred use of solar energy in commercial buildings," Muhs said. "Integrated with full-spectrum solar energy systems, it offers even further advantages."

Industry partners agree that the potential for commercial application of a full-spectrum solar energy system is significant.

"Assuming our goal remains the same, and utility deregulation continues at its ever-increasing pace, full-spectrum approaches like this that take a holistic view of solar energy are the future of solar energy," Muhs said. "The ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions using solar energy hasn't changed. We're just rethinking how best to do it in commercial buildings where lighting loads and energy costs are high during peak demand periods."

Other prospective partners, including Translight LLC of Pomfret, Conn., share Muhs' optimism.

"Our analyses indicate that there is a realistic opportunity to achieve simple paybacks of less than five years using this hybrid approach to solar energy," said Hanafi Fraval, director of Translight, a manufacturer of large-core optical fibers.

The ORNL-led initiative is also receiving support from the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C., and Duke Solar in Raleigh, N.C.

ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "ORNL Technology Could Make Solar Energy More Viable." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/12/991217082217.htm>.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (1999, December 17). ORNL Technology Could Make Solar Energy More Viable. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/12/991217082217.htm
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "ORNL Technology Could Make Solar Energy More Viable." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/12/991217082217.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins