5 Inventions Showing Us the Future of Solar Energy

When you imagine the energy of the future, solar power is probably in the picture – but in recent years, less than 2% of the world’s electricity has come from solar power. Here are 5 new inventions that are likely to change that.

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Cash-strapped farms are growing a new crop: Solar panels

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Solar trackers: everything you need to know


Organic solar cells: what you need to know


Thin film solar panels: do they make sense for residential?


Solar thermal fuels


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  1. Sean Draco on June 7, 2020 at 10:05 am

    I’ve always said ships would return to sails.. But that they’d be solar powering sails.

  2. Mind and Spirit on June 7, 2020 at 10:05 am

    What an amazing time to be alive

  3. A Smith on June 7, 2020 at 10:06 am
  4. TheFriendlyHacker on June 7, 2020 at 10:08 am

    The technology for those "Window panels" is awesome. But windows are already stupidly expensive (just had to replace 5 of them on my house, and it wasn’t cheap). The solar windows would be far more expensive compared to that. And considering they don’t capture as much energy as a regular silicon panel, I just don’t see them as being economically viable (YET).
    Albeit, in a future where they are much cheaper and widely implemented, they’d make a difference. I doubt you could power an entire building off of them. But even a 10% difference is significant!

  5. Dennis Albert on June 7, 2020 at 10:08 am

    Dont love the idea of heat though for thermal fuels why not just electrons its chemistry

  6. LizardVideoDude on June 7, 2020 at 10:10 am

    The solar windows turning infra-red light into energy would also keep the building interior cooler, reducing air-conditioning costs. Win-win!

    And surprised he didn’t mention combining the last method of storing solar heat with traditional solar panels, to prevent them heating up so they stay more efficient. The solar heat itself could be used to heat water, or the interior space in colder weather.

  7. m paul on June 7, 2020 at 10:10 am


  8. nope nopê on June 7, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Hum… for the glass solar cells, you cannot use them to get infrared if they are embedded in regular glass: regular glass do not let infrared through and specialty glass that lets infrared through is prohibitively expansive for this kind of surface dependent applications.

  9. Billy Bob John on June 7, 2020 at 10:12 am


  10. Dennis Albert on June 7, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Agrivoltaics feels primitive, im sure plasma solar panels may work

  11. BR5491Z1Z on June 7, 2020 at 10:16 am

    have you heard of a company called solar city the one owned by Elon Musk .his solar panels look like roofing material and blend perfectly the architecture of the house .where have you people been at scishow . do some research before you make a vid you idiots…peace out

  12. goose gatherer on June 7, 2020 at 10:16 am

    To make solar panels at a reasonable price the manufacturers get the glass panels made by using FOSSIL FUELS (coal) as the heat source (because it is cheaper than using electricity)….mmmmmm….not ideal of course but it hides the scam of cheap energy from the general public by making them think that solar panels are the way to go….This important piece of evidence is never made available by those who push the solar panel scam. This is a similar scam to that being run by the electric car pushers….when you charge you car in the evening for the travel the next day, guess how the power is supplied to your car……from companies who use Fossil fuels…..but no one mentions this when pushing these "Clean Energy" vehicles., and solar panels are of no use in the dark and neither are those massive tall wind generators on the many calm days. Follow the money , find the truth

  13. Jason Y on June 7, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Storing the sun in a reusable fuel type is pretty awesome.

  14. Rayhan Sheikh on June 7, 2020 at 10:18 am

    so that’s why we need it everyone indeed solar panels that’s fancinating as well for norbronadiene

  15. David Pothier on June 7, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Incorrect data on solar panel tracker, Heliodrive tracks the sun with using any power or computer. https://youtu.be/3Uq6307xa8U

  16. Archer C on June 7, 2020 at 10:19 am

    "PV trackers" are traditionally called Heliostats.

  17. Dereck on June 7, 2020 at 10:19 am

    I thought solar is currently energy negative in the sense that it takes more energy to make the panel than the panel will create over its lifetime. The newest solar panels only have a 10 year shelf life before needing to be replaced.

  18. MrTatertot69 on June 7, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Do you think we can ever set up a Dyson sphere or swarm?

  19. ENDERwigginMEDIC on June 7, 2020 at 10:20 am

    The real problem is that polycrystaline panels are a whopping 16-18% efficiency. That is freaking stone age. Even NASA level are under 40%. We need to ramp up our research

  20. Dennis Albert on June 7, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Solar windows is not primitive, they could now repurpose it to mimic photosynthesis, create another chemical reaction that produces more energy, the first step is the solar windows or a cuticle

  21. MetalHendrix on June 7, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Yep, Pretty Great Deal, until the military gets their claws on it and i am Pretty Shure it had Happened Before.

  22. Vincent Robinette on June 7, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Another thing that solar(and wind)need to be viable energy sources for the future, is cheap, efficient electrical energy storage. As far as storing thermal solar, Sodium Acetate Trihydrate is a phase change material, that can store about 90 BTU’s per pound. It changes phase at about 138° Fahrenheit.

  23. AnalystPrime on June 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Lots of people complain how putting up a solar farm blocks sunlight from plants… I think I shall direct them to google agrivoltaics next time. I knew it was possible, it is just the first time I heard anyone name the idea. Another way to reduce the heat problem I have heard some plan is using solar power in northern latitudes. Sure the winters can be long and dark, but when not covered by snow the panels do still get plenty of sun and overheating certainly will not be an issue… Actually, given weather changes due to global warming, some northern areas got abnormally little snow last winter so even being too cold won’t be an issue.

    PV trackers aren’t a new idea at all, there have even been several YT how to videos for DIY installers online for a while now. The problem is you need a moving frame for each group of panels, and if you only do one or two panels you need lots of frames and motors but more than four makes the frame heavy and then you need a more expensive motors. Is is in fact one major reason why concentrated solar is expensive even though mirrors are much cheaper than PV panels. A solution proposed couple years ago is putting up a rail next to the panels that a robot arm will travel on and adjust each panel as it passes by. Even though you need a robot for each row, they are far cheaper than installing and maintaining a motor for each frame.

    Solar windows certainly seem useful even if their output would be low, and there are many uses for a solar fabric. Still, that depends on their cost: A cheap thin film panel producing 100W that costs $100 is useful for people who just need some power in their car or while camping, and as they are lighweight and sometimes even foldable they are easy to haul around. But if you build a power plant you actually want the twice as expensive modern panels because for the same amount of power you would need three to four times as many panels so the cheaper panels would actually cost about 50% more and the cost of land, frames, electronics and installation about triples. In other words, if the cost per watt of solar windows or fabrics is too high they will remain a fancy toy.

  24. Marc-André Servant on June 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

    There’s an easier way to understand the thermodynamics of solar panels: imagine an indestructible solar panel connected to a heater, in a room that is first heated until it is white hot and then covered in insulation. Free energy! (A contradiction.)
    Therefore solar panels must lose efficiency as they heat up, and a solar panel as hot as the sun must produce zero energy.

  25. Andrew Singleton on June 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

    ‘unless you wanna put on a mask and rollerblade like its cyberpunk times’
    Uh hank? You mean… Right Now?

  26. Nate Barrios on June 7, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Was cool to see agrivoltaics mentioned in the video. It is a major research topic here in the Ecological Engineering department of Oregon State University

  27. David Fortier on June 7, 2020 at 10:34 am

    What about solar power using solar concentration? Different types of boilers can be used, as well as Stirling engines and their efficiency is definitely competitive with PV panels. Would those work in hot places like large deserts?

  28. Leon Adams on June 7, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Agrivoltaics = two thumbs up 👍 👍 . Why aren’t they the entire exoskeleton of greenhouses for year round local foods?

  29. Salim BENMERABET on June 7, 2020 at 10:36 am

    I thought that I was knowledgeable about solar energy and that I won’t learn anything new … I WAS WRONG!
    Many thanks, SciShow

  30. H Grace on June 7, 2020 at 10:37 am

    So many fantastic ideas. I honestly can’t wait

  31. Bismuth LD on June 7, 2020 at 10:39 am

    What if aliens civilizations never had fossil fuels and instead skipped from wood burning to synthetic fuels, then to solar. Imagine they come down and see us pumping old liquid dead things out of the ground and using it to run our civilization. It might be pretty weird for them to see.

  32. Arthiem on June 7, 2020 at 10:40 am

    the problem with solar panels is they lose their potency before they pay for themselves. if we can make solar panels that don’t break down in 6 years then we would have a real chance. till then I’m sticking with my 7′ deep fanned tunnel AC/Fridge idea.

  33. Willaev on June 7, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Solar: “it’s reliable”, lol, no. And there’s no plan to deal with the unconfined toxic waste from solar.

  34. John Douglas on June 7, 2020 at 10:41 am

    yea that window idea would be next to worthless in anything but a truly massive highrise

  35. gareyal on June 7, 2020 at 10:41 am

    I worry if by the time these inventions become viable commercially, that the world will be beyond saving.

  36. Heads Mess on June 7, 2020 at 10:42 am

    so, let me get this right.
    light, an EM wave, strikes silicon, knocks an electron out of place, then…

    somehow becomes another form of light at a lower frequency, also n em wave, or is that photon?

    so this photon now becomes heat in the form of, well…heat, and as the panel rises in temperature it must start radiating that heat as more photons, because em waves are photons…

    so why not simply cut out all the middlemen, and just use the component of the sunlight that already IS heat, travelling as EM waves? or was that photons?

    what happened to the original photon, the first light that impacted? where did that photon go? did it become an electron? in which case how can you remove that electron and still have a photon you can radiate as heat or infra red?
    oh. because a current also required an electron be replaced when it gets to the other end completes the circuit…
    so…if an electron is released on that side, whilst an electron simultaneously replaces it on the other side…

    where did the photon go, and where is this energy coming from? and in what form does this energy take because if it was one photon causing one electron to move and that electron was immediately nullified by a new electron… and the charge on the electrons must always be the same… and now we have this heat to radiate, so if a photon created an electron and that electron was replaced due to a current flow, and a new photon is radiated off as a new form of em radiation…

    something isnt adding up.

    ahhh. i got it. just add a cosmological constant…. everything fixed.

  37. therugburnz on June 7, 2020 at 10:42 am

    My mom put solar panels on her home and the money she made selling the power more than offset the cost of the panels and the power bill, plus money in the bank.

  38. dick castle on June 7, 2020 at 10:45 am

    This is a little random but I have a spinal cord injury… you should make a video about the reality of curing tht.

  39. Christopher Day on June 7, 2020 at 10:46 am

    THANK YOU for shedding light (FAHK, I did not meant to pun today) on organic photovoltaics. I bartend now, but I was working on new types of dyes and polymers in grad school almost a decade ago, and was always flabbergasted that no one really knew that these…even today. Again, thank ye.

  40. poljenmunkonkelii on June 7, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Btw you can make traditional solar cells also partally transparent at windows by making it really thin!

  41. Dennis Albert on June 7, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Electrolysis fuel instead of thermal

  42. Federico Olivares on June 7, 2020 at 10:54 am

    "Solar panels are no fans of…."

    Yeah.. they are solar pannels

  43. Dennis Albert on June 7, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I love thermal fuel ideas

  44. Larnotlars on June 7, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I am not so sure about wearable Solar. Clothing degrades quickly, and then we have disposal issues. Photoactive compounds are not necessarily benign in the environment. A similar question is the life expectancy of the organic solar compounds. Are we talking about 3 month windows or 3 decade replacement.

  45. GMT on June 7, 2020 at 10:56 am

    I’d like solar pavement since my roof isn’t super big and I can’t legally setup rows of panels.

  46. William Storey on June 7, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Wouldn’t the panels block the sun from the plants?

  47. MrTatertot69 on June 7, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Also with the solar tinted windows can graphene play a roll in conducting electricity

  48. Christian Kulmann on June 7, 2020 at 10:59 am

    I build my own DIY solar tracker, made of steel profiles (2x 330Wp). 2 linear motors. They only need 0,5% of the solar energy, or less.

  49. Peter Houle on June 7, 2020 at 11:00 am

    not all heros wear clothing

  50. Kirstin Rose on June 7, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Make a hank play list please

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