Solar Energy & Sustainable Power for Events Lighting.. part three
How Alternative Energy is Changing the Face of Events Lighting - with the goal of improving efficiency at its core, alternative energy developers are revolutionising the potential for zero carbon solutions. There are several key drivers of change, including legislation, consumer demand, and technological innovation. In this section, we look at how and why alternative energy is changing.
Legislation, grants and incentives
The Paris Agreement (2015) is an international treaty to ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 2oC before 2050. Governments can design their own pathways for meeting this target. In the UK, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is offering £177 million in investments in renewable energy technologies, plus a £1 billion Net Zero Innovation fund. The purpose of this funding is to ensure that emerging solutions are
affordable, and to cultivate a green revolution. Within the broader framework of the green revolution are further incentives. For instance, the existing Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme enables eligible companies to export excess energy from renewable energy systems including solar panels. As new technology emerges, the government is expected to roll out additional incentives to encourage companies to make the switch.
Cultural change and consumer demand
Interest in supporting companies with sustainable energy policies has grown in recent years. Research shows that customers will happily pay up to 3% more to support green initiatives, and in a phenomenon sometimes known as ‘eco-wakening’ consumers are demanding nature positive change at every level of the supply chain. Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures suggest that 33% of consumers now expect sustainability to be central to brands, and many would select a sustainable option over an alternative. As such, consumers are providing powerful incentives for change at an industry level.
The position of events lighting in sustainability drives
The World Economic Forum (WEF) states that all sectors are affected by the consumer demand for sustainability, and governments around the world have highlighted outdoor events lighting as being a key area of focus. Research suggests that the reason for this is that outdoor events are seen as being vital instruments of cultural wellbeing, as well as being important enablers of safe COVID 19 practices. Countries such as South Korea and China are pushing for contemporary lighting solutions that address energy efficiency and light pollution, and innovations have led to technological improvements in solar lighting solutions that are now being globally embraced.
Improvements in solar technology have focused on two areas: efficiency and cost. To boost efficiency while reducing costs, innovators have been exploring new materials, new applications for existing materials, and combining multiple materials to increase their effectiveness.
1. Passivated emitter rear cell (PERC) PERC can be retrofitted to older solar cells to improve the flow of electrons and therefore boost their efficiency. Companies using existing solar lighting systems may be able to improve energy performance with this addition.
2. Heterojunction technology (HJT) HJT is a thin photovoltaic layer that absorbs any light energy that silicon solar panels miss. The films are cheap and easy to produce and can boost efficiency by up to 21%. Additionally, unlike untreated solar panels and PERC, HJT is not affected by heat or light degradation.
3. Half-cell technology The amount of sunlight that reaches the system has always been critically linked to efficiency. Even 20% shading can reduce the power by up to 40%. One way of overcoming this is to use half-cell technology, which doubles the number of solar panels within the same area, meaning the loss of a small amount of surface light will affect a small part of the system rather than all of it. This logical and budget-friendly solution is re-shaping solar panel design for greater efficiency.
4. Bifacial panels Traditional solar panels are ‘monofacial’, meaning sunlight only reaches one side. Bifacial panels are designed to bounce light onto both sides, improving efficiency by at least 10% and sometimes more. Although more expensive than monofacial solar panels, the cost of bifacials continues to fall towards a competitive rate.
5. Perovskite solar cells Silicon is the traditional choice for photovoltaic cells. However, perovskites such as calcium titanate have excellent electroconductive properties, and, when combined with silicon, perovskites can produce efficiency of nearly 30%. Research in this area is relatively new, but it is already causing waves, not least because calcium titanate film is both cheap and easy to produce.
Ideas on the horizon
1. Building-integrated photovoltaics
Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are an aesthetic response to integrating environmentally friendly solutions into structures. Currently, BIPV options include creating invisible photovoltaic surfaces on walls, canopies, windows, floors, and curtains, resulting in a seamless finish. Unlike traditional solar panels, BIPV technologies do not require expensive mounting systems, and offer the additional bonus of excellent thermal and sound insulation. Developments in BIPV designs are equally meaningful for portable units, especially regarding durability and easy maintenance.
2. Solar skins
Aesthetics have always been an issue with traditional solar panels, and this can cause a problem in conservation areas, heritage sites, and on listed buildings. A new technology, solar skins are thin filters that use the photovoltaic effect to reflect a digital image under natural light. Any image can be reflected, enabling solar skins to be used to display advertising messages, logos, and backdrops, offering exciting potential for outdoor venues and events. Additionally, solar skins go further towards improving solar technology aesthetics by hiding metal components for a smooth, discrete finish.
3. Solar fabric
Solar fabric is a soft, photovoltaic material that can be used to generate energy anywhere, anytime. Although currently in its early design stages, in the future it’s likely that this technology will be used for an extensive range of applications. For example, it could be used to make clothes that power phones, or to create events wristbands that give wearers access to offers, menus, and itineraries.
Powered by key drivers including legislation, consumer demand, and scientific innovation, the possibilities of solar lighting in terms of efficiency and range of applications are growing. Today’s installations are increasingly cost-effective, empowering organisations to make energy-friendly choices.
Head back for part the final instalment next week Switching to Solar
To find out more about the advantages of our sustainable event lighting and how we can help, please contact us.