World-First for Solar Glass in Perth

 

On Monday, 19th April 2021, the world’s first clear solar glass greenhouse was opened in Perth, Western Australia. The greenhouse is on-location at Murdoch University in Perth’s south; part of the University’s new $7.5 million grains research project. We’ve looked at some of the amazing ways solar is being used in the past and this one is also nothing short of amazing! So, let’s look at it in a bit more detail.

ClearVue Technologies

The solar glass itself has been developed by ClearVue Technologies, which is an Australian company that is committed to playing a big role in a future powered by renewable energy. Their main product is energy-efficient glass that generates electricity… thus, the name solar glass. Seems like an amazing place to start, right? The Perth-based outfit leads the way in building-integrated photovoltaics. Let’s break that down.

Building-Integrated PV

Building-integrated photovoltaics is the use of solar technology in normal, everyday building materials. In other words, they’re essentially building materials that harness solar energy. This includes things like windows, tiles and glass. In this case, we’re looking at glass. One of the ways ClearVue is using solar technology in glass is through what they call glazing; allowing energy to be generated from the glass without affecting its transparency. ClearVue calls this an integrated glazing unit (or IGU if you like a good acronym).

So… back to the solar glass greenhouse

Solar Glass Greenhouse
Image Source: Murdoch University

It’s expected to generate enough energy to power around 12 average Aussie households. Get an inside look at the greenhouse by watching the video above! The technology itself works to let in sunlight (as is the case with a normal greenhouse) but also to convert ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light into energy that helps power the greenhouse itself. This is because too much UV and/or IR light can damage plants and their cells.

As a result, plants don’t need to worry so much about protecting themselves from the sun and can put all their energy into growing. This one’s for the agriculturalists and botanists; ClearVue’s solar glass is expected to help plants grow at a rate of about 20-30% higher than in standard greenhouses! How good?

Has ClearVue used solar glass for anything else?

This is not the first time that ClearVue has used its solar glass in Perth. In 2018, it was announced that the company would start using the technology on bus shelters and street signs. Additionally, in 2019, ClearVue’s solar glass was used in an atrium at Warwick Grove Shopping Centre, north of Perth. The IGUs power the indoor lighting, outdoor signage, and display screens at the shopping centre.

So, if you’re in Perth… go check out the solar glass greenhouse at Murdoch University or the atrium at Warwick Grove Shopping Centre. If you drop in at either, make sure you share your pics with us on social media! In the meantime, keep an eye out for more solar glass developments!

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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