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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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What Happens When You Mix New Solar Tech And Artificial Intelligence?

The writing is on the wall. Every major global governmental agency is warning of the imminent tipping point towards catastrophic climate change, even the world’s largest oil company Saudi Aramco is now talking about reaching peak oil within the next 20 years, and the International Energy Agency projects that it will happen in more like 10. Solar and wind are cheaper than ever, and large-scale solar mega-projects are quickly becoming the norm. 

It makes sense, then, that even the supermajor oil companies are diversifying their portfolios and investing in their own demise--also known as the renewable energy sector. Way back in July, 2017 Oilprice reported that France’s Total S.A. was “leading the charge on renewables”. At the time, Total’s website boasted: “For Total, contributing to the development of renewable energies is as much a strategic choice as an industrial responsibility. We are doing our part to diversify the global energy mix by investing in renewables, with a strategic focus on solar energy and bioenergies.”

In the past three years, many other major oil and gas companies have followed suit and begun investing more heavily in renewables, which is great news for the clean energy industry, which has long struggled with inadequate research and development funding from either the public or the private sector. Just this month Oilprice reported on another supermajor diving into the clean energy game: Royal Dutch Shell is investing in a clean energy combo platter in the Dutch North Sea with an offshore wind farm which will create energy to be used for the production of green hydrogen, which is one of the cleanest fuel sources possible, releasing only water vapor when combusted.  Related: The Ultimate Guide To Well Logging

Other, smaller oil and gas companies have also been climbing aboard the clean energy train. This month it was reported that “for the past six years, a major US oil and gas holding company has been collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Lab on new breakthrough perovskite solar cell research.” that company is Hunt Consolidated, Inc., the umbrella company that includes the nearly hundred-year-old Hunt Oil and the much younger branch known as Hunt Perovskite Technologies.

According to reporting by CleanTechnica, this novel perovskite research being pushed forward by Hunt “could have a profound, widespread impact on the energy marketplace and accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewables [...] because perovskite technology can push down solar costs far below today’s costs. Perovskite solar cells are also lighter and more flexible, which means they have a greater range of application.” 

These perovskite solar cells are also efficient and easy to scale up for mass production, as they can be “printed” without needing too much customization for the production process, as they use “a relatively conventional high-volume manufacturing process.” That being said, these cells are still a ways away from being mass produced, much less from hitting the market. While researchers have “worked out the kinks” according to CleanTechnica, these cells are “only just beginning to edge out of the laboratory.” Related: Why Hydrogen Stocks Are Soaring

The CleanTechnica article also suggests that this Hunt venture is particularly special because it’s not just driven by expanding their horizontal market share, unlike other oil companies branching into renewable resources. Comparing the Hunt perovskite project to renewable energy projects by supermajor BP and major Italian energy company Enel, CleanTechnica makes the argument that although “other global oil and gas stakeholders are venturing into renewable energy” these projects are “mainly focused on market-proven technologies that don’t disrupt their fossil fuel business, at least not for the time being,” whereas Hunt’s project has potential to create serious market disruption and real positive change. 

Hunt is not the only company working on the future of perovskite solar cells, which are thought to be superior to more antiquated silicon-based cells. The University of Central Florida seems to be dreaming even bigger, pairing perovskite solar cell technology with artificial intelligence to “make generating energy from the sun even more ubiquitous by creating a spray coating that can be used on bridges, houses, or even skyscrapers so they can be energy self-sufficient.” These lofty goals, paired with the advances being made by companies like Hunt, point to a sunny future indeed. 

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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