The campus doesn’t just develop the technology, it runs on it. UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering boasts a battery-powered building. Winston Chung Hall is charged by a farm of solar-powered, photovoltaic cells that top up a 1.1 megawatt bank of rare earth lithium-ion batteries.
The lights could go out in the rest of California, but Bourns College would still shine.
Over at UC Santa Cruz, researchers have developed scalable Energy Collector and Storage Systems that can be used in residential homes. These new creations capture four more times the solar energy than technology in use now, boosting solar energy collection from 20 percent of the sun’s rays to 80 percent.
There’s activity at almost every University of California campus. UC Merced has developed highly efficient panels that concentrate available light, reducing the costly need to mechanically track the sun across the sky. At UC Berkeley, researchers and students are developing solar cars - sleek vehicles that can reach speeds of 70 mph.
Campuses from UC Irvine to San Diego are working on ways to improve overall the efficiency and energy conversion of existing technologies - but there are also exciting developments that push the limits of how we perceive solar power.
If you’re thinking about those chunky looking black panels you see on rooftops, think again.
Imagine a skyscraper, entirely and self-sufficiently running on solar power. Every window in the building is a solar cell with near full transparency. It’s a vision that’s close to reality thanks to the work of researchers at UCLA.
Lead by Professor Yang Yang, the team has developed a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light rather than visible light. That makes the cells about 70% transparent. To put that in perspective, they’re no more opaque than the tinted windows used in new buildings.
The cells have other clear advantages too.