A spin-off from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) called EtaVolt has developed a new device that rejuvenates solar panels and protects them from degradation.
Typically, solar panels begin to lose efficiency just hours after installation, especially in the first year, due to harsh environmental conditions. This can result in up to a 10% or more drop in performance over the lifespan of the panels, which is estimated to cause a loss of around US$2 billion in energy globally.
While there are conventional methods to maintain solar panel performance, such as cleaning the top glass layer or replacing the entire module, there is currently no affordable way to easily restore their performance in the field or onsite.
Using the new technology that can energize old solar cells with multiple times the intensity of sunlight, scientists can rejuvenate old solar panels quickly and affordably. The device can also protect both new and old solar panels from performance degradation caused by light and heat.
The new technology, called Advanced Regeneration Technology, works by applying intense light and controlled temperature precisely to solar cells, which excites the polysilicon molecules to move quickly. This reportedly changes their arrangement and patches up the ‘holes’ caused by light and heat damage. This process repairs solar panels to prevent energy leakage, ensuring optimal light energy collection.
The new device can automatically roll itself over solar panels that are up to 2.3 meters in length. The process only takes less than five minutes and can help treated solar panels recover up to 5% of their lost field performance. What’s even better is that it can prevent and minimize further degradation of the solar cells for up to five years, depending on the type of solar panels.
Also, it is claimed to be usable for around 90% of the solar modules available in the market, including those that contain boron, oxygen, defects, and other impurities. It can also be used indoors and deployed onsite for outdoor solar farms.
EtaVolt’s technology is certainly a game-changer in the solar energy industry, especially in tropical regions such as Singapore. Solar panels in these regions are exposed to intense sunlight, humidity, heat, and frequent thunderstorms that can cause rapid deterioration.
Dr Stanley Wang, co-founder of EtaVolt, highlighted the benefits of the circular economy through their patented technology for solar energy systems is definitely something to consider. Their technology not only improves the efficiency and reliability of solar energy but also has the potential to reduce e-waste and the need for frequent panel replacements.
“Our solar rejuvenation method has not only been rigorously tested and validated but has shown field-proven results in various commercial applications. The technology has been successfully implemented in projects with major partners in the solar industry, such as renewable energy solutions firm Vector Green, demonstrating its effectiveness and potential for widespread adoption,” explained Dr Wang.
In addition to the solar panel rejuvenation services, EtaVolt also provides smart recycling services for solar panels with full automation. They dismantle and recover useful materials and resources like silicon from waste solar panels and reuse them for other purposes.