Innovation That Matters

| Photo source EtaVolt

Could new tech rejuvenate ageing solar panels?

Agriculture & Energy

An automated process restores solar panels affected by weather and poor maintenance

Spotted: Solar panels tend to lose efficiency almost as soon as they are put in, at a rate of around 0.5 per cent per year. This means that after 20 years, a panel has lost 10 per cent or more of its electricity generation capability. Loss in efficiency occurs due to factors such as panel quality, weather, and maintenance. This may not seem like much, but it translates into around $2 billion (around €1.8 billion) in energy loss globally (based on worldwide solar power capacity).

There is currently no commercially available and cost-effective way to easily restore a panel’s performance, but new technology from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) spin-off EtaVolt can rejuvenate solar panels and protect them from degradation.

The company’s device automatically rolls over a panel, applying intense light and controlled temperature as it goes. This causes the molecules in the material to excite and “patch up the holes caused by light and heat damage”. The team likens the technology to patching holes in a bucket, preventing energy leakage and ensuring optimal light energy collection.

According to the company, the process takes less than five minutes and can help treated solar panels recover up to five per cent of their lost field performance.

EtaVolt was spun off from the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) in 2019. The startup has raised $1.4 million (around €1.3 million) in a Singapore Economic Development Board grant, and another $830,000 (around €759,000) from various other sources, including an SG Tech proof-of-concept grant and Market Readiness Assistance funding.

Improving solar panels is the goal of a number of recent innovations spotted by Springwise, including a plant-inspired anti-reflective coating and a process for efficient recovery of silicon from solar panels.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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