New Wave of Solar Panels Could Mean "Net-Zero" Homes Within the Decade PDF Print E-mail
Written by Natalie Tononi   
Monday, 25 October 2010 18:47
In one hour, the sun puts out enough energy to power the entire planet for one year. So why has this power not been harnessed for use on a broader scale? Only about 0.1 percent of the nations power comes from solar energy. But with statistics like the one above, it's hard to believe that this source is not more common. Dow Corning Corp. is looking to do just this by a process called encapsulation that will use silicone to make panels that can harness more of the sun's energy than existing technologies. This will help to make solar power more efficient and cost effective. Dow Corning Corp. has teamed up with Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. to create the silicon necessary for the process. This stimulated $500 million expansion that later became a $2 billion expansion for Hemlock.

MaryLou Benecke, vice-president of public affairs and corporate communications at Dow, is convinced that the only way to increase alternative energy in the United States is to initiate the right policies. In Michigan, she believes that only a small amount has been done to advance alternatives and much more is needed. The only way to achieve these renewable goals is to push politics aside and have a "singular focus". Senior research and development director at Dow, David Parillo, concurs with this statement and deems collaboration and policymaking are the key to success.

The Solar Solutions Application Center by Dow is looking to help solar panels switch from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) to the polycrystalline silicon method. This new method will allow for better prevention of corrosion, protection against weathering, transparency, and ability to capture and harness the sunlight. This new center itself would allow for the manufacturing of nearly 100 megawatts worth of solar panels in just one year.

Along with these new panels comes the idea of solar shingles. Experts say that by 2011 these devices will be on the market and within the next decade homes could be "net-zero" and completely self-powered. According to Sun Catalytix, these shingles would allow for surplus energy to be stored within "electrolyzers" and saved for later use. When night strikes and the sun ceases to provide energy, the system would switch gears and use broken down hydrogen and oxygen fuel cells to produce power. This would mean electricity would be provided by the shingles 24 hours a day, despite the fact that the sun is not shining.

With all of these new technologies discussed above, combined with the prospect of electric cars and home charging stations, a person's home could be the gateway to an environmentally friendly future. Every means of electricity and fuel would be present right at the homeowner's fingertips. The use of all of these natural elements would provide for a cleaner society. Now the only problem will be convincing corporations like DTE to agree with these new technologies by giving them some kind of cut. Until then, a cleaner future might not be as far in the dark as many had previously supposed.









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The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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Anonymous and Natalie Tononi serve as energy and environment policy correspondents for the Michigan Policy Network. Natalie is a first-year student in Lyman Briggs College at MSU.

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