Solar Energy - description uses and facts
Energy comes in various forms. In physics, it is defined as the potential or the capacity of doing work. Before understanding the concept, one needs to define work. Work, in physics, happens when an object experiences displacement because of an external force being applied to it.
The capacity of an object to affect the displacement, position, or state of another object is called energy. In the universe, energy is found in various forms. By the law of conservation of energy, it can neither be created nor annihilated. Energy changes its form from one to another.
For example, when you switch on a fan, the electric energy that powers the fan transforms into mechanical energy that is responsible for the motion of the blades of the fan. Though, not all electric energy is transferred to the blades. Some of it is wasted in the form of heat and sound energy as well. Thus, there is no amount of energy that goes unaccounted for in a closed system.
The advent of the industrial revolution was possible only because humans could understand the transformation of energy. We learned to tap into the energy of biotic resources present in the environment and change it into various other forms of energy, the majority of transformations being in the form of mechanical energy. Almost all machines, means of transportations, and other mechanical objects that were invented came into being when humans understood that they could use the energy of fossil fuels.
Before the industrial revolution, humans used energy for the most basic tasks. These included drying clothes using the heat energy of the sun, getting warmth by burning wood, and the muscle power of animals for transportation. Some of the simplest machines created before the 17th Century were based on the motion of wind and water, which were used in farms.
After cow dung, steam and coal were used in machines as they provided more power. More power means that more work is done in less time. Thus, with the invention of the steam engine, various forms of energy were introduced, primarily coal and petroleum.
Coal was used for smelting iron so that it can be used to make better and bigger machines, thus began the industrial revolution. After that, hydroelectric power was used to create electricity. As the 19th Century neared, petrol, a form of processed petroleum, was now used to fuel most of the machines, locomotives, and other engines and motors.
Engines that ran on petrol were considered clean and quiet, as they freed the streets from the clatter of horses and animal dung. The dependence on petroleum increased by multiple folds as the years went by. By the mid-20th Century, petroleum was used so much that an energy crisis was at the door. Due to various political and diplomatic reasons, the world realized that depending on one source of energy for the working of the whole nation can be dangerous. If the source of energy shuts down or goes extinct, then the whole economy of the country can come crashing down.
Thus, scientists began researching alternate sources of energy. Though, at that time, the research was because of political reasons only. However, as the 21st Century neared, the impact of overusing fossil fuels became clear around the world. The burning of fossil fuels releases gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Both are greenhouse gases that trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere to make the earth warmer even when the sun has set. These gases are essential to the existence of the life of earth, but their percentage in the atmosphere increased over the limit with the use of fossil fuels. Because of the burning of fossil fuels, an estimated amount of 6.5 million tons of carbon and Sulphur dioxide is deposited in the atmosphere.
This resulted in a phenomenon called global warming. Global warming is when the temperature of the earth rises above its average, warming the atmosphere. It results in the changing of seasons, melting of the glacier, the rise of sea level, and various other harming effects. Not only that, but these gases also cause other phenomena such as acid rain and holes in the ozone layer.
Through all these, fossil fuels were depleting at an alarming rate. It is estimated that the oil reserves around the world will run out by 2052. As per the World Energy Conservation, the coal and natural gas deposits will deplete in the next Century.
As the situation became dire, the search for an alternative source that is not only clean and efficient but also is not under the risk of running out in the future sped up. Scientists tried various resources such as wind, geothermal energy, tidal energy, etc. Out of these all, the one form of energy that is most readily available and can be accessed from anywhere on the planet is solar energy.
What is solar energy in simple words?
Solar energy is derived from the sun. The sun lights up our day with light and heat energy. Also known as thermal and electric energy in more technical terms, these forms of energy are available at every part of the earth. Thermal energy is responsible for heating the earth to a livable temperature at which life forms can survive, and water remains in its liquid state.
The electric energy component of solar energy is used to produce electricity through solar cells. This is called photovoltaic. Photo, here, means light, and volta represents electric energy.
The intensity of the energy received by a location on earth from the sun may vary. The variation is caused due to the tilt of the earth on its axis, exactly 22.5 degrees.
Along with that, the elliptical orbit that the earth follows to rotate around the sun is also responsible for the variation of the intensity or amount of energy received by various locations. The orbit causes variation with time as well. This can be experienced when compared to the solar energy received during the summer and winter seasons.
Sun’s energy is in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Radiation has been used by humans for as long as we have been on earth. However, the usage has been limited because of under-sourced technology. One can find solar energy being used to dry clothes, food items, etc. People also use solar energy to dry up animal dung that can be used as a source of energy itself.
Solar energy is primarily used by green plants. These are the only living organisms that can produce their food. All other organisms present on earth are directly or indirectly dependent on the green plants for their nutrition. The green plants use sunlight or solar energy with the help of chlorophyll, the green pigment present in the leaves. With the help of solar energy, carbon dioxide, and water, they can create a complex form of sugar. Sugar, in turn, provides nutrition to the plants, and along with it, supports the nutrition of other living beings on earth.
Sun itself gets its energy from hydrogen fusion. Hydrogen fusion is the process when under immense temperature and pressure that is present in the core of the sun, the atoms of hydrogen combine. The combination happens at the atomic level, releasing a tremendous amount of energy. Through the combination, hydrogen atoms convert into helium atoms. The energy released from the fusion is responsible for the energy of the sun and all other stars in the universe.
Most of the solar energy received by earth is either absorbed by the oceans and atmosphere or reelected back to outer space. The absorption and reflection of the energy are shown through the schematic diagram below. It shows the energy budget of earth, that is, how much solar energy the planet uses and how much is reflected back.
Through the means of technology, humans have also learned to tap the immense solar energy that we receive from the sun. The technology used to convert solar energy into usable electric energy is called the photovoltaic effect.
History of Solar Energy
The use of solar energy began when humans acquired sense. We used to dry meat and other food items to preserve them, drying wet clothes and wood, etc. However, the scientific approach towards thinking that the sun could be a source of energy that we can use began much later. Here is a brief overview of the history of solar energy.
- The fact that light energy can be turned into other forms of energy was first found by Edmund Becquerel in 1838.
- The first book that took sunlight as solar energy was written between 1876 to 1878. The book, called A Substitute for Fuel in Tropical Countries, was written by Willian Adams.
- Solar radiation was successfully converted into mechanical power for the first time in 1860. The experiment was successfully conducted by Auguste Mouchout.
- The first solar energy-based company was formed by Aubrey Eneas in 1895.
- In 1904, Henry Willsie was the first to build two solar plants in California, USA, that stored the energy that they had converted. Thus, the plant proved that solar energy could be used at night as well.
- The first solar panel with an efficiency of 6% was developed by Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson, and Daryl Chaplin in 1954. The solar panel used silicon as the semiconductor. The manufacturing of the panel was done in Bell Laboratories.
- The first commercial solar cell was developed for the public in 1965. The cell cost $300 per watt.
- Vanguard I was the first satellite launched in space in 1958 that used solar energy to generate power in space.
- By the time the 1970s came around, the average price of a solar cell had dropped down to $20 per watt.
Solar Energy in India
In India, the government-supported and promoted the use of solar energy by the people of India. For that, it started a Solar Photovoltaics Program during the 1970s. At that time, the program was considered to be one of the biggest of its kind in the world.
- Under the program, the government began offering various offers and subsidies to people buying solar energy equipment. The reliefs offered are explained here.
- For the first year of installation, the government offered 100% depreciation on the solar energy system.
- For the manufacturers of such systems, the government removed the excise duty.
- The raw material, components, and materials used to manufacture the solar energy systems were imported in India with lower tariff rates.
- Soft loans and other monetary benefits were offered to the buyers, manufacturers, and other people involved in the production.
What are 5 advantages of Solar Energy ?
An alternate form of energy at this time and stage of civilization should be green, eco-friendly, and affordable. There are various clean options available such as windmills, tidal energy, etc., but these cannot be harnessed by common people. Solar energy solutions provide the following benefits that make it the best solution for common people and economies alike.
- Renewable Source of Energy
The first benefit that solar energy provides is that it is renewable. Sun proves to be an infinite source of energy that powers up the world uniformly with its sunlight. The energy can be utilized everywhere around the world at any time of the year. It does vary from one location to another, but that does not hinder its potential. Solar energy is infinite in nature; one cannot expect to run out of it anytime in the near future. The sun is currently in its middle years. It is 5 billion years old and will for as long more.
- Reduction in electricity bills
Through solar panels and solar batteries, we can run some or most of our appliances using solar energy. Thus, the consumption of electricity that these appliances would have used otherwise is decreased drastically as well. Through net metering and smart export guarantee and various such offers provided by different governments, one can benefit from the production of electric energy through solar energy as well.
If one produces more energy than what they consume, then through these plans, they can sell the extra electrical energy to the electricity company. Thus, if one lives at a location that receives good sunlight throughout the day, then they can make money by setting up a solar panel in their homes.
For this benefit, the solar panel should be connected to the grid line. It should also be connected to the meter to get the exact reading of the units of energy produced and consumed by the owner.
- Low Maintenance
Most of the solar devices, once set up, do not require extra attention. One should keep performing regular cleaning at least twice a year, but other than that, they do not require costly or frequent maintenance. If it is bought from a reputable manufacturer, then the solar panel system will come with a valid warranty along with a lifespan of at least 25 to 30 years.
Also, different systems require different maintenance. If you opt for a fixed system, then there is little to no maintenance cost.
- Technological Development
Solar cells and panels work on the principle of the photovoltaic effect. The effect is essentially a quantum phenomenon. Hence, the development of solar energy systems also promotes research in quantum physics. Also, the solar cells are made of semiconductor material that needs to be doped in different ways so that the output voltage power can be maximized. Thus, the nanotechnology and material science involved in the process of doping have also been in steady progress since the onset of solar energy solutions.
- Electric Cars
Solar energy is not just a substitute for most of the world’s dependence on coal for the generation of electricity. It is also a potential option for petrol and diesel. A hybrid or electric vehicle can be charged through solar panels, and the energy generated by the cells can power the cars and other vehicles to function similarly to those that work on fossil fuels.
- Reduction in carbon footprint
Solar energy is a clean energy source. There are no exhausts or other byproducts generated during its production. Thus, it can be used to effectively decrease the carbon footprint of a person or home. Through a reduction in carbon footprint, one is benefiting the environment by reducing the production of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. Thus, it directly helps in decreasing the effect of global warming and other phenomenon caused by greenhouse gases.
Reduction in carbon footprint also ensures that our ecological system, forests, and animals are secured against human intrusion.
- Easy to Install
Solar panels do not follow a complex system or method of installation. They are available in various sizes and structures to fit the available space in different homes and locations. The best place to fit a solar panel would be on the roof, though one can also choose their backyard, front yard, and other such open places to fit their solar panel.
The electrician or the mechanic will handle the decision regarding the tilt of the solar panel, its position, and the direction that it should face getting the most exposure to the sunlight.
- Increase Property Value
Solar energy is the future. People are beginning to realize that solar energy is the only way energy needs in the future will be fulfilled. Thus, if one installs a solar panel in their house, they are increasing the property value of their house. If one decides to sell their house in the future, they will be able to get an increased price for it.
Disadvantages of solar energy
One has to make a huge initial investment while buying the solar panel system. Most solar energy systems include a complicated technological system and high-end materials that make them expensive. However, various manufacturers and retailers offer EMI and other financial plans to make them more affordable for the common people.
- Dependent on Weather
Solar energy is dependent on the weather for it to reach its maximum efficiency. During rainy seasons or in some areas, during winter, the sun is usually hidden behind the clouds. Hence, the solar panel fails to gain exposure to the sun required to generate enough electricity.
Most people who live in crowded and big cities live in apartments and other such small spaces. Such spaces do not allow the placement of large solar panels. Also, some houses are surrounded by tall buildings that hinder exposure to the sun. Thus, one will not be able to get the benefit of a solar panel if they do not have the required location.
- Solar Energy Storage
Unless one uses the solar energy generated immediately, they will have to either lose it or store it so that it can be used later. The energy stored in them is stored in specifically designed solar batteries. These are of various types that one can choose according to their needs. The energy saved in these batteries can be used when the solar panel is not working, such as during the night or cloudy days.
Though, these storage batteries are expensive and add to the investment one has to make while buying a solar panel system.
The solar panel is space consuming. One needs to make space for solar panels, batteries, and wires. Also, the connections need to be made using copper wires, etc. All of the equipment needs a lot of space that may not be available at every house.
When a photon strikes an atom, then the electrons present in the atom excite to the next energy level. The excitation takes place because the electron gains energy from the photon. Photon is the massless particle that constitutes light. When the energy that the photon possesses is more than the forbidden energy bandgap of the semiconductor, only then can the effect take place.
Once the electron reaches the excited state, it gets de-excited back to its original energy level very fast. The original energy level is valued at the ground state.
The semiconductor material used for the photovoltaic effect is doped with another material such that it shows an asymmetry. Because of the asymmetry, the excited atoms return back to their ground state before they relax.
These electrons are then fed to an external circuit. Now, the circuit has electrons that possess some of the exciting energy that they gained from the photon. This excess energy creates potential differences. The potential difference thus generated is called electron motive force, also known as emf. Due to this force, the electron is driven in the external circuit and generates electric energy.
Glossary of common solar energy terms
- Quantum Efficiency
Quantum efficiency is defined in terms of probability. According to it, it is the chance of a photon, when it strikes the surface of a metal, releases an electron to the external circuit.
- Photon Flux
Flux is defined as a quantity that passes through a given area at any point in time. Photon flux is the number of photons that pass through a unit area per second. The direction of the area is taken perpendicular to the beam of light.
- Air Mass
Air mass is the unit used to measure the path length of the solar radiation. It is considered through the point of view of the earth’s atmosphere. The air mass increases as the angle of the solar radiation increase from the zenith. One can measure the air mass with the help of the length of the shadow cast by the sun at any point in time. The preferred standard spectrum of the air mass is taken as AM 1.5 spectrum.
- Solar Irradiance
Solar irradiance is the amount of energy received by the earth from the sun. It is measured with the constraints of per unit area and per unit time. It depends upon the wavelength of the light and is maximum in the range of wavelengths 300 to 800 nm.
Irradiance is the measure of the energy flux density emitted in a unit area. It gives the power density of the sun. Outside the atmosphere of the earth, the power density is calculated to be 1353 W/m2. At the surface of the sun, this power density is approximately 62 MW/m2.
- The motion of the sun
The sun movies in the sky in the shape of eight numbers. This path is called an analemma. The reason behind such a unique pattern made by the sun is because of the axial tilt of the earth. Earth, as we know, is titled on its axis at the angle of 23.5 degrees. The path of the sun as observed from a place near the poles is vastly different from its path as observed from the equator. This is the reason why days get longer and shorter depending on the season.
- Spectral Photon Flux Density
The spectral photon flux density is defined as the number of photons that pass through a unit area in unit time. The density is measured only for the photons that have particular energy as they pass through a unit solid angle.
- Current-Voltage Characteristic
The overall output voltage of the solar cell is known as its current-voltage characteristic. It is calculated with the help of the sum of short circuit photocurrent along with the dark current. Here, the short circuit photocurrent is taken to be positive.
- Equivalent Circuit of Ideal Solar Cell
A cell will generate power only when the product of current and voltage is positive. Also, the condition of the voltage being present between 0 and the open circuit should be true.
When the voltage between the diodes is more than the open-circuit voltage, then the cell is said to consume power. It is in this condition when the light-emitting diode (LED) operates.
When the opposite condition, that is, when the voltage is less than zero, the device that radiates light acts as a photodetector. It detects the presence of photons in the atmosphere. Along with this, it consumes power to create a photocurrent.
Thus, an ideal solar cell produces a photocurrent that is proportional to the intensity of the light when struck with photons. The current produced is divided between the load and the variable resistance of the diode.
If the variable resistance is set at a higher number, then more current flows through the diode. Hence, the potential difference between the cell terminals becomes higher. This phenomenon enables the diode to provide photovoltage to the external circuit and drives the photocurrent through the load in smaller quantities.
The point at which the cell power density, ie, the product of current density and bias voltage, is maximum is called maximum power point or MPP.
The efficiency is defined using this point as a reference. It is the measure of power density that is provided at the operating point. It is represented as a part of the incident light power density.
- Parasitic Resistances
Contrary to ideal cells, real solar cells have some resistances that result in the loss of current and power. The resistance is created due to contact and leads to current leaking from the sides of the solar cell device. The following types of resistances should be considered in a real solar cell device.
- Series Resistance
It is the inherent property of the material to oppose the following of the current through it. It is especially observed at the point of front contacts along with resistive contacts. The resistance that is caused due to this is called series resistance. It creates problems, especially in cases of high current densities.
- Shunt Resistance
Shunt resistance is caused due to current leaking through the edges or sides of the cell device. Shunt resistance is seen in devices that are not rectified properly.
How efficient are solar panels?
In real solar cells, the light is not absorbed fully. Some photons that strike the surface of the metal are reflected back without being absorbed. Thus, the wastage of photons results in less photocurrent.
The power generated by a solar cell is decreased when the voltage drops. This happens because of the series resistance present between the point of photogeneration and the external circuit.
Defect sites are present in the arrangement of the cells. Here, the excited charges get stuck. Thus, the overall photocurrent is reduced. This usually happens at the junctions of the diode.
Solar panels are usually able to convert 15% to 22% of light into solar energy. The best-known figures achieved are about 26.7% and that too in the lab. A 100% efficiency is presently not possible.
How does solar energy work? Solar energy, how it works?
Solar panels are an amalgamation of smaller photovoltaic cells. The cells are made of semiconductors that can convert solar energy into usable electric energy. They can do this when an imbalance is created in the electric field through doping, enabling them to conduct electricity.
The solar cells are the building block of the solar panel system. These can generate DC voltage ranging from 0.5 to 1 V. The voltage generated by a single cell is too small to be of any use commercially. Thus, to increase their output voltage, the cells are connected parallelly to each other.
The solar cell is a two-terminal device. It acts as a diode when the sun is not present. When it receives sunlight, it generates photovoltage. During this time, when the cell is being charged by the sun, a current flow between the p-type and n-type regions of the diode.
This current, which is generated because of the light, in turn, superimposes upon the rectifying current-voltage of the diode. This power is extracted in the form of usable electric energy.
Glossary of solar cell terms
- Open circuit voltage
Similar to how EMF is generated in a normal battery cell, the light creates a similar voltage when it hits the solar cell. Such voltage that is created when the terminals are isolated is known as open-circuit voltage.
- Short circuit current
When the terminals are connected with each other, the current generated in the case is called a short circuit current. One should note that the current and voltage generated in the cell is calculated based on the illumination and the load.
Current drawn from a solar cell is directly proportional to the illumination area.
The solar cells are designed such that the semiconductors (one positive and the other negative) are placed parallel to each other. The placement of the semiconductors creates an electric field between them. Thus, the electric field directs the flow of the drifting electron.
The direction of the flow of the electric current is towards the conductive metal plates. The flow of electric current is called energy current. Energy current is responsible for the strength of the electricity that can be produced by the cell.
When the photons strike the metal petal and release electrons, these loose electrons hit the metal plates. The current caused is provided with the direction to flow towards the wires. Thus, the solar cell is able to work similarly to any other kind of cell.
Solar Panels: A clean electric generator
Solar panels are the equipment used to convert solar energy from the sun to electric energy. It does so with no emissions, no parts that need the energy to move, and no maintenance. A solar power energy system’s most important part is the solar panel.
A solar panel is constructed by arranging cells made of silicon in symmetric patterns. The pattern is so designed so that it can gather the most sunlight at any point in time. The light particles, known as the mass-less photons, strike the surface of the silicon cells. With their striking, a photoelectric phenomenon takes place, thereby creating electric energy.
A solar cell can produce 0.5 volts of current. These cells are arranged in the panel in rows and columns. The cells arranged in series create double the power, and those arranged in parallel create double the output voltage. Thus, the total output of the solar panel can be increased based on the configuration of the cells in it.
The panels, in turn, are also connected with the help of wires in parallel and series configuration. This increases the power and the output voltage of the panel as well. The wires used are configured in such a way that the minimum length of the wires is required. This is to decrease the overall cost of solar panels.
What are the 4 types of solar panels?
There are mainly four types of solar panels. These are based on their composition and configuration. One should choose one that provides the best efficiency in their budget.
● Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline panels are popular among solar panel buyers who are buying them for their homes; this is because of their clean look. The panels are completely black, which are accentuated by the silver lining.
They provide an efficiency of 15-20%, making them the most efficient solar panels. The efficiency is because of their structure. They are made from a single crystal, easing the movement of the excited electrons on the surface. Such composition ensures that the photovoltaic cells used in these solar panels provide better results than other counterparts. Because of their higher efficiency, one can ensure the maximum electric energy by utilizing minimum space. These make them the best option for people with limited space on roofs.
They use the purest form of silicon available that are arranged in a complex crystal growth form. The method through which the single crystal of silicon is made is called the Czochralski method. In the method, a seed crystal of silicon is placed in a chamber that contains pure molten silicon. The molten silicon draws around the seed, creating a single crystal.
The cells or wafers are produced by processing long silicon rods with widths ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 mm. These rods are then wired together to form a solar panel. Most panels have at least 60 to 72 solar cells.
Premium solar panels such as LG Neon panels are monocrystalline. Because of their process of manufacturing and the efficiency provided, these are much more expensive. Though, with the progress in technology, the difference in the price range has reduced considerably.
● Polycrystalline solar panels
Also known as multi-crystalline solar panels are preferred by homeowners because of their cost. They are available at rates much cheaper than monocrystalline solar panels. They are usually available in blue color specked randomly.
These are made from a large block consisting of various crystals instead of one singular crystal as with a monocrystalline solar panel. The process of manufacture resembles that of the monocrystalline solar panel. A seed is placed in a vat of pure molten silicon, though when the molten silicon cools down, it creates crystals of various forms.
These varied crystals give it a blue, speckled appearance.
A polycrystalline solar panel will also have around 60 to 72 cells. They are less efficient than monocrystalline but are available at lesser rates. Their efficiency level ranges from 15 to 17%. However, with technological development and research, their overall voltage output has been increased. These days, it has been increased from 240 watts to 300 watts.
The panel is created similarly as with monocrystalline, first by dividing the crystals into rods that are arranged in the form of wafers. These wafers are joined together through wires to form a complete panel.
● Amorphous solar panels
These panels do not use crystals of silicon. Instead, a thin layer of silicon is deposited on top of the base metal. Thus, their formation makes them the cheapest option in solar panels. Though, due to such economical use of silicon, their efficiency is also lower than other solar panels. To manage the efficiency level, they are manufactured over large areas so that they can gain more sunlight. They can be chosen by those with immense roof areas and should be positioned facing south.
● Thin film solar panels
These are very easy to install because of their lightweight and flexible structure. The cells need to be used on a large scale as their efficiency is much lower than the monocrystalline and polycrystalline options. These are manufactured by placing a thin film of a photovoltaic substance on a carrier substance, such as glass. The photovoltaic substance used for these solar panels is Cadmium Telluride, Dye-sensitized solar cells, copper indium gallium selenide, etc.
Commercially available thin-film technologies are available at an efficiency rate of 10 to 13%, making them the most unfavourable option out of all the solar panels. As the thin film placed on the material may degrade, the lifespan of these solar panels is much shorter.
Their only advantage is their low cost. Ease of manufacturing and low-performance results in low rates. They are mostly used by huge companies and institutions that have a large enough space to place various thin-film solar panels.
4 Generations of Solar cells
Solar panels are divided into various types based on technological advancement. These are thus defined in the form of generations. There are primarily three generations of solar panels that are detailed below. The last generation is still in the research phase.
These are the traditional solar panels in which the cells are made of monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon. Those made from the purest form of silicon are monocrystalline. These are dark in color and are available with rounded edges. The pure form of silicon used in the generation made them the ones with the highest efficiency rate. They could provide the generation of power with up to 20% efficiency.
The panels occupy less space, and their monocrystalline form ensures that they last for long. They also do not get affected by the high temperature caused due to long exposure to sunlight.
However, pure silicon is very expensive, making it a huge investment, especially for residential regions.
Another type of solar panel available during this generation was the ones made by melting raw silicon. The process of manufacturing was much faster and cheaper, though the lower quality of silicon affects the efficiency of the panel as well. They could generate electric current with up to 15% efficiency.
These involve thin-film solar cells, also known as TFSC. Various photovoltaic materials were used during this generation, such as silicon, copper, cadmium, etc. They are placed on top of one another in the form of films. The cells of this kind are easy to manufacture. The materials are immune to effect of exposure to extreme sunlight for long hours. They can be drafted into various forms to suit different applications.
The only issue with generation 2 solar panels was that they take up a lot of space. Thus, they cannot be planted at crowded locations such as most residential areas. Also, these come with shorter warranties because of the shorter lifespan in comparison to the monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels.
During this generation, amorphous silicon solar cells were also popularly used. One can still find them on their calculators. These cells use the triple-layered technology, which is an upgraded and the best version of thin-film technology. They offer the advantage of being inexpensive, but they are also less efficient. They may offer efficiency in the range of 8 to 18%.
This generation of solar panels was based on research in the field of thin-film technology. Both organic and inorganic materials are used in the panels to generate electricity and power. The generation features biohybrid solar cells. The cells imitate the natural process of photosynthesis that takes place in most green plants to generate energy in the form of carbohydrates.
The technology used in the biohybrid cells is known as photosystem
They are believed to be the most efficient of all because of their basis of converting chemical to electric energy.
Cadmium Telluride solar cells
These are the most eco-friendly solar cells as they require the least amount of water for their development. They have a higher efficiency; thus, their payback time is much shorter. The cells are created with the aim in mind to keep the carbon footprint of the buyer to the minimum.
The only disadvantage of these cells is that Cadmium Telluride is toxic in nature. It can prove to be poisonous if one inhales or ingests the compound.
Concentrated photovoltaic cells or CPVs are technology still under research. They work on the same basis as the older photovoltaic systems. Though, their efficiency rate is much higher than their older counterparts. They can convert solar energy to electric energy with a 22% efficiency rate.
Though, to get the complete benefit of these panels, one needs to ensure that they face the sun at all times. Therefore, they are attached with a rotating or tracking mounting system. Such a system increases the cost and maintenance needs of the complete solar energy system.
Factors to consider while mounting a solar panel
- Shading and Shadows
During the hours when sunlight is at its prime, there should be no shadows on the solar panel. The location of the panel should be chosen, keeping in mind that no shades are falling on the panel, thereby decreasing its efficiency. One should ensure that they remove all the obstacles and hindrances that can create a shadow on the panel. The prime hours when sunlight is at its peak are usually 9 AM to 4 PM.
The area where the solar panel is set up should provide an airflow so that it can cool down after long exposure to direct sunlight. Without proper airflow, the temperature of the solar panel may rise up, decreasing its efficiency in the long run.
- Wind Loading
Wind loading is another factor that needs to be considered while choosing the location for the solar panel. By choosing an airy area, you can ensure that there is lesser wind resistance in the array of the solar panel.
Types of Solar Panel Array Mounting
One needs to choose the mounting mechanism that they use for their solar panel. The decision should be based on their location, weather conditions, and house structure.
Fixed Solar Panel Mounting
The fixed solar panel mounting is basic, inexpensive, and easy to install. However, one will not be able to rotate or move the panel. One should ensure that they place the panels such that they face the equator. Also, the panels should be due to the true south. One should not rely on a compass for finding the true south as it varies from the magnetic south.
The angle of inclination of the panels should be based on the owner’s location. It is based on latitude. When the angle of inclination is kept more than the latitude, then the panel will face the winter sun better. Whereas making a tilt at an angle lesser than the latitude will make it better facing for the summer sun.
Tracking Solar Panel Mount
Though these kinds of mounting systems prove to be the most efficient in terms of producing energy, they are also the most expensive ones. The tracking solar panel mount follows the trajectory of the sun in the sun throughout the day, ensuring that it is most exposed to the sunlight.
The axis tracker attached to the system tracks the movement of the sun from east to west. Another axis system helps the solar panel change its angle of inclination with the change in seasons.
They require more maintenance as well as the axis may wobble with use over time. Also, if one is located at a place where the temperature drops dramatically during the winter, the mechanical axis mechanism may fail due to extreme temperatures.
How long do solar panels last?
Most solar panels manufactured these days have a life expectancy of around 25 to 30 years. They do not require much maintenance during these years. An average of 240 watts of solar panel can ensure that one’s home is powered up throughout the year. With proper upkeep and if the location is favourable, the expectancy of the solar panel can be increased as well.
How do solar panels work diagram
Solar panels work on the basis of the photovoltaic effect. The photons from the sunlight strike the atoms on the solar panel. This causes the release of electrons from the atoms present on the surface of the metal atop the panel. The released electrons generate the flow of electric current. The cells used to make the solar panel are thus called photovoltaic cells. They generate DC power which is then converted to AC power using inverter technology.
Most solar panels that are available in the market are made by using silicon cells. These cells are arranged in a metal frame that is enclosed in a glass casing. The cells are connected with each other and the circuit using copper wires.
Silicon is a nonmetal that shows conductive property under the photovoltaic effect. It can absorb sunlight and convert solar energy into electric energy.
A solar inverter is an essential part of the solar panel system. It performs various necessary functions that increase the efficiency of the solar panel system and ensure that it runs perfectly throughout its tenure. When a person considers buying a solar panel system to create an alternate source of energy for their household needs, the first doubt that arises in mind is what will happen during the night.
When the sun is not out, or during rainy seasons when the sun is barely visible from behind the clouds, how will the solar panel system provide enough energy to run all the appliances of the house?
Here, the essential fact at work is that during the summer season or on clear days when the sun is at its full power, the energy that is converted by the solar panel into electric energy is and cannot be completely used by the household. A percentage of it is used by the smaller electric appliances that can run on DC current. The rest of the energy can go to waste if not harnessed properly.
To harness this energy, solar inverters are used. Their primary function is that they convert the DC current to AC current. All the appliances that need to be attached using a plug to be used run on AC current. Thus, if one is using a solar panel for their homes, they need to get a solar inverter to convert electric energy obtained by the solar energy into usable AC energy.
Along with that, it is through the solar inverter that one can monitor the functioning and working of the solar panel system. It provides information after analyzing the operation of the solar panel system.
It also informs when the system may require a maintenance check or when a component is not working.
In short, a solar inverter can be defined as an element of the solar panel system that converts the variable DC output that is obtained by a photovoltaic solar panel into an alternating current (AC) of 240V. The current in the sockets of a household is 240V as well.
The electric energy that is not used by the appliances and home is either sent to the power grid system of the house or stored in the solar battery system. The energy saved in the batteries can be used on days when the sun is not out, or the solar panel is under maintenance. Thus, through a solar inverter, one can ensure that their homes are always connected to electricity no matter the season or weather.
How do solar inverters work?
The basic principle behind all kinds of inverters is to convert DC power into AC power that can be used by the appliances of a house. In the case of a solar panel system, the power generated through the photovoltaic panel is in the range of 250V to 600V. This power is in the form of DC (Direct Current) and varies as per the position of the sun and the solar energy received by the solar panel. Thus, the DC is varying throughout the day.
The DC power is converted to a controlled 240 V of AC power. The process takes place with the help of solid-state devices. Devices such as Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors are used in most solar inverters. They are connected to a hybrid bridge arrangement. Through this arrangement, the DC power is made to oscillate. Through these oscillations, AC power is generated.
Traditional inverters used to have transformers. A step-up transformer was used that converted DC into AC. Though, these days, most manufacturers are turning towards transformerless inverters. These solar inverters are more efficient as with no transformer; there is no loss of energy while converting it to AC from DC.
The solar inverter also has a microchip, and an array of ICs installed to them. These chips perform basic functions that are programmed into them. The functions have complex algorithms behind them through which the condition and working of the solar panel system can be monitored.
The controller provided with the inverter ensures that the power output obtained from the photovoltaic system is maximum. A special algorithm called the Maximum Power Point Tracking algorithm is employed to ensure that the efficiency of the panel is completely utilized.
Components of a Solar Inverter
A power inverter has the following components that enable it to convert DC power into AC current.
Capacitors are used in all kinds of solar inverters to filter the ripples on the DC lines. These ripples are created because of semiconductor switching and decrease the efficiency of the inverter. They also lessen the losses that are inherent in a photovoltaic array. The capacitors keep the DC bus voltage stable.
- Software and Monitoring
The solar inverter is programmed using various complex algorithms that are fed into a microprocessor or a microcontroller. The programs monitor the status of the solar panel and inverter system to inform the owner of any faults in the system.
- Solid-State Switches
These are switches made by combining semiconductors. Most popularly used are IGBT (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors) and MOSFETs (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors). These switches play a primary role in converting DC to AC.
- Magnetic Components
The magnetic components are used to filter the wave shapes to ensure that no irregular waveform interacts with the appliances. They mainly include inductors and transformers. They also help to bring the AC power to the desirable limit that is followed by the grid interconnections. They are responsible for separating the AC and DC circuits.
Types of solar inverters
Solar inverters have grown throughout the years. They are introduced with advanced technology to ensure that maximum efficiency of the system is reached. Based on the applications of the solar inverter, they are classified into the following types.
- Square Wave Power Inverters
These inverters use a cigarette lighter plug-in. The plug-in is automatic and produces a square wave as one might know that an AC current is a sine wave. Thus, producing a square wave proves to be inefficient for most appliances.
The appliances that can work on this square wave can face various technical problems as well. However, these solar inverters are the most inexpensive in kind. They work on 500 watts or less. But their drawbacks overcome the price range in which they are offered, making them the least desirable type of solar inverter.
- Modified Sine Wave Power Inverter
Modified sine wave power inverter converts the DC power into AC power of quasi-sine waveform. The sine wave produced lies somewhere between a square wave and a true sine wave. The conversion of DC power into AC power through such a method is not that expensive. Thus, these inverters are considered to be the most economical.
However, the modified sine wave that is provided by the solar inverter has the issue that appliances with heavier usage cannot work on such waves. Various appliances also work based on motor speed. That is, the time the oscillations made by the motor to perform one function or another. With modified sine waves, the oscillations produced are irregular. Thus, controllers and timer-based devices cannot be supported by a modified sine wave solar inverter.
- True Sine Wave Power Inverter
A true sine wave solar inverter can produce a sine wave closest to its original form. If the manufacturer produced better quality, then the sine wave produced can be better than the one delivered through the utility electricity one receives at home. These inverters are controlled by computers to manage their work as per the AC load at a particular time. They are also the most expensive kind of solar inverter.
The computer system that is provided in a true sine wave solar inverter regularly checks the need for AC power and turns itself on and off accordingly. Thus, it can successfully save energy when most appliances are switched off. It can support any kind of power appliance, no matter the load they require to work. They also aid the efficiency of an appliance.
- Grid-Tie Power Inverters
People who do not need an independent power system for their homes and only want to decrease their utility bills by using solar power should opt for a grid-tie solar inverter. The energy produced by the solar panel is used by the appliances, decreasing the usage of utility electricity. Thus, one can save up on the bills. Also, if the energy produced is more than the energy utilized by the appliances of the house, then one can sell the produced energy to the power grid as well.
These inverters come with a power bank battery. These are especially helpful during power outages to ensure that all the appliances keep working uninterrupted.
- Multiple Inverters
Two solar inverters can be connected to each other in different configurations to provide more power or more output voltage. When the solar inverters are connected in series, then the output voltage can be doubled. Whereas, when one arranges the solar inverters in a parallel configuration, then the power of the inverter is doubled.
- Off-Grid Power Inverters or Outback Power Inverters
These are stand-alone solar inverters that are not connected to any other component or the power grid. Thus, they are also known as off-grid power inverters. However, one can get a sealed model, or GTFX, or a vented model, also called GVFX, to connect it to the power grid such that one can sell the energy produced through the solar panel system can be sold off to the electricity company.
- Micro Inverters
To use the space available more efficiently, one can attach a microinverter to a single solar panel. Thereby, one can create a series of panels attached to their inverters. With this system, if one finds that one needs more power, then they do not have to buy a complete inverter system. They can get microinverters, which are much cheaper and smaller in size.
Microinverters are easy to install with their smaller size and lesser technological needs. Also, they work similarly to any other inverter to convert DC power into AC. Through this method, one can arrange the solar panels in any configuration. It performs maximum power point tracking for the module to which it is connected.
Advantages of Solar Inverters
Here are the prominent advantages of solar inverters that can help one use solar energy even more efficiently.
- Synchronous solar inverters decrease the power consumption of various households and even huge establishments like companies and schools.
- Solar inverters are much cheaper than diesel-based generators. They also produce clean energy that is healthier for the environment.
- Along with electric appliances, solar energy can be used to cook food through a solar cooker, solar heater, etc.
Disadvantages of Solar Inverters
- The upfront cost of a durable and good quality solar inverter is huge, making it a huge investment.
- Solar inverters may require extra space other than the one covered by the solar panel and battery system.
What is the best solar battery for your home?
Solar Batteries changed the game with their top-notch technology. The biggest issue that people had with the usage of solar energy was the question: What will happen when there is no sun to charge the solar panel? Most people use most of the electricity during the evening hours. It is also during these hours that the sun has already set below the horizon, making it impossible for the solar panels to generate electricity.
To answer the question, solar batteries were introduced. These are batteries that can store the electric energy generated by solar panels for later use. The batteries can also discharge power whenever it is in use. Solar batteries are available in various sizes, the most popular ones being the Tall Tubular flooded battery. With an adequate reservoir of electrolyte, to keep the battery running without maintenance for 18 months at a time it is the most ideal battery for solar home inverters.
These batteries can be the best option to install along with the solar panel and inverter to save up on the electricity bills. Various companies such as Tesla are devolving solar panel systems that are capable of generating electric energy using PV cells and store the extra energy generated for later use.
How is Solar Energy Stored in Solar Batteries?
First, one needs to install a compatible solar battery with its solar panel system. Once installed and connected, the solar battery stores the excess energy that is not used by the house and its appliances. Once night falls or when the solar panel cannot produce enough energy as is currently needed, then the appliances draw energy from the solar battery.
If in case the solar battery is fully charged and there is still excess energy being created by the solar panel. Then this excess energy is sent back through the grid.
These batteries can also provide backup energy for the times when your house or locality faces power outages.
Other than storing photovoltaic energy, there are solar batteries that are designed to store thermal energy generated by solar energy. This is done through solar hot water systems that are used in most homes. The water, once heated by solar energy, is stored in an insulated tank. It remains heated there until it is drawn and used as per the requirement.
Other ways to save thermal energy once the sun has set is through oil or molten salt. These work as insulators and conserve the temperature of the water hours after the solar panel has stopped providing any thermal energy. Such methods are specifically used in Concentrating Solar Power plants, also known as CSP plants.
Should you install a solar battery with your solar panel system at your home?
Solar batteries are relatively newer technology and are on the expensive side. Thus, it is a viable question if one should set up a solar battery with their solar panel system. The answer to the question depends upon one’s usage and needs.
If one finds that most of their energy consumption happened during the late hours or after the sun has set, then considering buying a solar battery is not a bad option. After all, the investment made on solar batteries and other equipment is one time. Once the investment is made, one can begin saving by reducing their electricity and utility bills.
However, if one notices that there is not much need for energy at their home once the solar panel stops working, then they can opt-out of buying solar batteries. Though, it is advised to buy the solar battery for its multitude of benefits. It can offer up as a backup in times of power outages and can ensure that the owner’s house is always connected to power even on cloudy days.
Another factor that plays a part in the decision whether to buy a solar bank or not is whether you choose to be connected to the local grid. If your house is connected, then you can consider the utility grid as your backup. You can also choose to transfer the extra power generated by the solar panel to the grid.
Thus, through this method, you are not only ensured that your house would be powered up even when the solar panel is not working but also ensure that you get a side income by selling the power generated by the solar panel.
In the following cases, one should consider investing in a solar battery system.
- There is no local utility grid
If you are located in a region with no electricity grid located nearby, then your power consumption needs are completely dependent on the solar panel. Hence, you need to insure yourself for the cloudy days. In such cases, it is essential to install a solar battery system with the solar panel.
- Frequent Power Outages
If your house or locality faces frequent power outages, then it will not be practical to depend on the utility grid. It is better to become self-sufficient in terms of energy. Having a solar battery will make sure that you always have a backup to fall on.
- Energy Independence
If you are aiming for complete energy independence and do not want to be connected to the electricity grid anymore, then you will have to invest in a solar battery.
- Utility Prices
In most countries, the price charged per unit used varies throughout the day. It is the cheapest during the hours when the energy is least used, for example, in the small hours of the morning. The utility prices are the highest when the energy is used the most in all homes, that is, after evening, between 4 PM and 9 PM.
Thus, when the solar panel stops working and you fall on the utility grid for your energy needs, you are paying the highest price. This makes investing in a solar battery a better option.
- Getting the most of investment made in the solar PV system
The cost of a solar panel is not cheap. If you are making an investment in the complete solar system, ensure that you get the complete benefits of the energy produced by the panel. You can do this by storing the execs energy in the solar batteries to be used later. Also, the battery can ensure that you have an alternate energy option in case the utility rate in your locality is increased.
What are the different types of batteries for residential solar energy?
There are majorly four kinds of solar batteries available commercially in the market. All of the batteries have a different composition and thus, offer their own sets of pros and cons. The details regarding these solar batteries are explained below.
- Lead-Acid Batteries
These are also known as well as wet cell batteries. These batteries have been used for more than 200 years and are still in business because of their impeccable features and reliability.
These are available in forms of Flooded lead-acid, Gelled Electrolyte Sealed Lead-Acid, and Sealed Absorbed Glass Mat Lead-Acid. Thus, they are differentiated in the form of flooded and sealed types.
- They are the most cost-effective option available in solar batteries. These solar batteries can be recycled and reused easily as their technology is being used for several years.
- The lead acid solar battery is probably the only battery that can be completely recycled, ensuring a clean environment at end-of-life.
- Lead acid batteries do not explode unpredictably like in the case of lithium ion battery.
- Lead acid batteries are in use for 2 centuries and have proven it is a safe and reliable technology.
- It is heavy & occupies more space
Nickel Cadmium Battery
Nickel-cadmium batteries are mostly used by aircraft industries. They were developed in the late 1800s, though they were overshadowed by their other better counterparts like lead acid batteries.
- They can be operated at extreme temperatures, making the effect of heat on the minimum.
- They do not require frequent maintenance and checks to keep them in health.
- Cadmium used in the batteries is extremely toxic, making the manufacturing and usage of these batteries a huge risk.
- Cadmium is also banned in some countries for its toxicity. Also, they have irregularities in holding a charge after long use.
Though still a new technology, Lithium-ion batteries are now becoming popular & used across the board for various energy storage solutions. They are considered to have potential, especially for cars and other high energy requirements. They can be charges faster than a lead acid battery. Though, the charging time may depend on the size and other factors.
The performance of lithium-ion batteries can get seriously affected when used in high-temperature conditions.
- Lithium-ion batteries do not require any maintenance.
- These batteries have a much higher battery energy density. This means that they can store more electric energy in a smaller space.
- Lithium-ion batteries are considerably more expensive because of the necessary expensive & sophisticated battery management systems required to monitor each & every cell for voltage & temperature. Failure to have a BMS can adversely affect safety.
- They also have high chances of thermal runaway. It is a phenomenon when a lithium ion battery catches fire when being charged. The chances of thermal runaway depend upon the process followed for the installation of the battery and its upkeep.
A flow battery is also known as a redox flow battery is an electrochemical device where chemical energy is provided by two chemical components are dissolved in liquids through a system on separate sides of a separating membrane. Ion exchange occurs through the membrane while the liquids circulate in their own space.
These batteries are much larger in sizes. Their size hinders them from becoming a suitable option to be used residentially. While it has technical advantages over conventional batteries like near-unlimited longevity the current implementation is comparatively less powerful and require more sophisticated electronics.
- The depth of discharge of these batteries is 100%.
- Life is nearly unlimited
- These batteries are huge because of their lower storage capacity. Their bigger size and other benefits make them more expensive than their counterparts.
- They require more expensive electronics
- Their charge and discharge rate, that is, the time it takes for them to get completely charged or completely discharged, is low.
How to Pick the Right Solar Battery for Your House?
The best option will be lead-acid batteries. These require low maintenance and need to be placed in an airy space. Their durability and reliability make them a good option. These batteries offer a cost-effective solution & are proven, reliable & dependable batteries.
If price is not a constraint, then lithium ion batteries will be the next option. These are sleek, compact and able to store a large amount of power in a small space. However, they will need the expensive BMS to operate safely.
Solar Battery backup time
The battery backup time can be measured in terms of battery capacity ampere-hours. Roughly a battery with 200 Ah will provide a backup of around 4 to 5 hours. This is when the power consumed is about 400 watts. 400 watts is approximately the power required for a small household when the basic appliances of the house, such as LED lights, fans, TV, laptop, mobile phones, etc., are connected to the battery.
Solar Battery price in India
The prices of solar batteries in India range from INR 4000 to 20,000. The price depends upon the backup time, battery capacity, warranty period, and type of battery.
Solar Grid Storage
Solar batteries are the pioneers in the field of energy storage. They can play an essential role when it comes to grid maintenance. The power in a grid is always maintained in such a way that it does not exceed the power required by the households and buildings connected to the grid. At the same time, it should not be less than the required power. In both cases, a blackout can happen.
Thus, to ensure that the grid always maintains an exact level of power, energy storage options are used. Solar batteries can be used in the grids as they are designed to store the excess energy that is created by the solar panels. Hence, even in the grid, if there is a case of excess power, then the battery can store it so that the level of power is maintained.
When the power in the grid is lower than the requirements, then the required power can be drawn from the solar batteries. Thus, these batteries can work as a backup in the grid to avoid the situation of a blackout or short-circuits.
Features to Consider While Buying Solar Battery
When considering a solar battery for a home, the first thing to take into account is to ensure that you buy a reliable battery. Here the best option is a lead acid battery. Make sure to choose a tubular plate battery. Read all about tubular plates here. Tubular batteries are capable of recovering from a deep discharge faster. the cost.
Solar panels are essentially made of metals and elements that are expensive. Also, the solar charger controller is a device that needs to be connected to the panel and includes circuits that are technologically complex and require immense effort and proficiency. These components raise the cost.
Along with that, one needs to consider the compensation of the electrician’s time and effort to complete the setup and make the connections of the battery with the home appliances.
However, no matter the cost of the installation of the solar battery system, it is the long-term savings that it assures that make it the best option. Before one buys a solar battery, they should be aware of the following points. These will help the person make the best decision for their homes and ensure that they get maximum benefits from the installation of the solar battery system.
- Beware of misleading advertisements
Most advertisements use eye-catching words such as service quality, durability, energy production, etc. However, the buyer should ensure that they do not believe everything that the company advertises. Instead, the person should make sure that they understand the requirement of their home and work accordingly. The factors that the buyer should confirm before they buy a solar battery are the process of installation, services provided post-installation, and problems faced, etc.
- Understanding the type of solar panels
The kind of panel that a person buys should be based on their budget and their surroundings. There are two kinds of panels available in the commercial market that one can pick for their home.
The panels are uniform in design as they are made up of the purest form of large silicone crystal bars. As the design is kept uniform and plain, there is no wastage of space, thereby increasing the efficiency of the panels. On days of strong sunlight, they absorb a huge amount of energy, but if the availability of sunlight is low, then the absorption will reduce.
The panels made from purified crystals arranged symmetrically are polycrystalline. These are not as expensive as monocrystalline but offer less efficiency because of their design.
Solar PV systems are a one-time investment. Once it is installed and connected with the electric lines of the home., it will work endlessly as long as it is maintained properly. They also help in the reduction of power bills, ensuring that the person can increase their savings. While buying the solar battery system, one should make sure that they buy the best quality material. The product should not require too much maintenance and should be able to work in every condition and weather.
- Analyze the Location
The choice of the solar energy system should be based on the location that one resides in. For the locations where one does not get strong light throughout the day, then they should opt for a polycrystalline panel. For locations that receive strong sunlight throughout the year, solar panels made of monocrystalline are the best pick.
The buyer should also ensure that the company from which they are buying the solar battery system provides a regulatory quality certificate. The certifications show what kind of tests are done on the system, the kind of parameters it can meet, its maximum capability, as approved by the government. Certified solar panel systems will last for a long time and will require minimum maintenance.
- Solar Panel Mounting System
The mounting system is a part of the solar battery system. If the mounting system is strong and durable, then it will ensure that even when the winds are strong or in stormy conditions, the solar panel system does not shift or unmount from its place. There are two kinds of mounting systems offered for the solar panel system. These are explained below.
- Flush mounting: It is a cost-efficient solution that is quick to install. Flush mounting is preferred for areas that are not prone to storms and cyclones.
- Roof or floor mounting: Though these mounting systems are more expensive, they are perfect for areas that are frequently hit by strong winds and storms. They secure the system impeccably against cyclones.
The warranty period is another one of the features that a company must offer with its solar energy system. During the warranty period, the company should offer the required services and support for the upkeep of the panel system and other components. The buyer must ensure that they do not pick the company just on the basis of the number of years offered under the warranty period. Instead, they should pick one that offers the most benefits within the period.
On average, a solar panel system comes with a warranty period of 10 years. Some may also offer up to 15 years. However, before considering the years, one should take the performance rating of the manufacturer into question while buying a solar panel system. The average lifespan of a solar enerrgy system is around 20 to 30 years.
- Solar Panel Size
The size of the solar panel chosen must be based on the buyer’s location. Along with that, they should ensure that the size is optimum to capture the most solar energy. For people in the northern atmosphere, the solar panel should face southward. Also, it should have the ability to be rotated east or west. The dimensions of the panel chosen should be based on the availability of area in one’s roof or house.
If the buyer finds that they cannot determine the exact size of the solar panel that is fit for their home, then they should contact a solar panel expert to guide them through the dimensions and other aspects.
- Solar Panel Efficiency
The efficiency of the panel is determined by the rate at which it can charge the solar battery and the output it provides. With higher efficiency, one can ensure that they get the maximum output of energy even on days with low sunlight. The average efficiency of a household panel should at least be 15-16%. A panel offering lower efficiency should be avoided. The highest limit of efficiency that one can get is 20%.
All solar panels need maintenance at a certain point of time during their tenure. However, one should ensure that the solar panel that they choose to invest in is durable and will last for years without needing to be replaced. Solar panels and batteries are not exactly cheap; replacing whole units frequently can negate the savings that one makes in one power bill.
The solar panel has to face all kinds of weather and conditions, from storms and strong winds to snowfalls and rain. They should be strong and durable enough to hold their weight against these natural conditions. It should also be able to endure some weight of debris and dust on them.
Payback Period of a Solar Energy System
There are various benefits to using solar energy systems. Not only do they help us save up on bills, but also, they are better for the environment and the future of the earth. However, transforming from one energy to another takes time and effort.
To use solar energy, one has to invest in machinery and equipment that support the mechanism of the solar energy system. Also, it takes energy and resources to create a solar energy system in the first place.
This energy is expended on the manufacturing process, such as creating the crystalline form of silicon, or welding and formation of wire, etc.
The payback period is the time it takes for a solar energy system to generate that much energy that it took to manufacture it.
Different types of solar panel systems have different payback systems. If the payback period of the solar energy system is shorter, then it can ensure that most of its generated energy is clean. Practically, 87% to 97% of the energy produced by such systems is not touched by pollution and has a negative carbon footprint.
The payback period of a monocrystalline silicon PV model is about 4 years. These take the longest to recover the energy spent on their manufacturing. Thin-film solar panels have a payback period of 3 years. Multi-crystalline models and amorphous solar panels have a payback period of 2 and 1 year, respectively.
Crystalline Silicon PV Solar Panels
The most commercially used solar panels used around the world are crystalline. Pure silicon is used in the manufacturing of mono and polycrystalline solar panels, the purification, melting, and crystallization process of silicon to convert it into a crystal requires a lot of energy.
The other part of the manufacturing process, that is, cutting off the crystal and fitting it in the form of a wafer, then assembling the cells in the form of a panel, etc., also requires a considerable amount of energy and resources.
Thus, the long and complex manufacturing process makes the payback period of crystalline solar panels much longer. There are hundreds of scientists who are researching to introduce silicon made in laborites to decrease the payback time. With this method, it is expected that in the near future, approximately around 10 years, the payback period of solar panels that use silicon crystal will be decreased to 2 years.
Thin-Film PV Solar Energy Systems
Thin-film technology does not use a large number of semiconductors. Instead, it uses a thin film of the semiconductor that is deposited on a specially selected substrate. Most of the manufacturing cost is spent on the substrate. Thus, their lower energy and resource expectations make their payback period to be not longer than 1 to 2 years.
One can decrease the payback period by minimizing the use of resources in the solar panel system. Thus, it can be done by making the panel without the aluminium frame and support structure, easing the grid-connection system, and other simplifications. By doing this, the payback period of most solar panel systems can be brought down to under 1 year in a few years.
Positive environmental impact of solar energy
An average household uses 800kWh of electricity per month. On average producing solar energy using panels that can generate 1000 kWh of electric energy, reduces emissions by nearly 3.5 kilos of sulphur dioxide, 2.25 kilos of nitrogen oxides and more than 650 kilos of carbon dioxide. During its projected life of 25 years of clean energy, it will avoid conventional plant emissions by more than half a ton of sulphur oxides, 100 tons of carbon dioxides. The data shows just how beneficial solar energy is for the environment.
Solar Energy uses
Solar energy holds the potential to transform the world for the better. Through its multitudes of uses, one can ensure that they decrease their carbon footprint and use only clean and eco-friendly energy. Here are some of the primary applications for which solar energy is considered revolutionary and beneficiary.
- Concentrating Solar Power
CSP or Concentrating Solar Power plants use solar energy to produce electricity. The production is done through mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s beams at a particular location. The technologies that are used by CSP include concentrating photovoltaic systems, dish-Stirling engine systems, parabolic troughs, and central receivers. The energy produced by the plant is used in various smaller applications through its distribution.
One of the biggest applications of solar energy is photovoltaic. The technology can convert solar energy into electric energy. The energy produced is used to power and run various appliances along with the storage of energy for future use. Devices like pocket calculators use photovoltaics to charge their batteries.
Solar PV cells arranged in huge arrays create solar panels that can be used to power residential areas, satellites revolving around the earth and other planets, along with various other devices. Most popularly, they are used to power up the road signals, emergency telephones located at roadsides, to provide power at remote areas, cathodic protection of pipelines, etc.
- Solar Thermal Electric Power Plants
These power plants generate electric energy from solar energy such that it can be used for practical purposes. These include a water heating system for domestic and industrial uses, solar thermal collectors that can keep the water at a specific temperature even when the sun cannot heat it, etc. The Solar Thermal Electric Power Plants technology is used in modern architecture to ensure heating of a house and ventilation.
- Solar Cars
Solar cars are the marvel of technology that uses solar energy as fuel. The car is equipped with a solar panel placed on its top that converts the solar energy into electric energy. Using this electric energy, the car is able to run. Such cars are still under production and research stage.
The issue with these cars is that solar cells and panels are delicate in nature and will not be able to withhold any accident. Also, as the solar panel and the solar battery system take up a lot of space along with the engine, these cars do not have space for more than 1 or 2 people.
- Solar Lighting
Solar lighting is the natural use of sunlight when it is above the horizon. This is also known as daylighting. It is done to gain illumination and lighting inside closed spaces with the help of windows and other forms of ventilation. The illumination depends upon various factors such as the location of the building, placement of the windows, shading due to other buildings, skylights, roofs, light shelves, light tubes, etc. In architecture, daylighting is given special attention so that the house can receive an ample amount of daylight.
- Solar Heating System
Using solar heating system, water is warmed using sunlight. This hot water is stored in thermal collectors made of insulators so that the water can maintain its temperature. The hot water can be used at any time when required. These systems may be active, passive, or work based on batch systems.
- Solar Power Satellites
A solar power satellite is still in the research stage. No prototype of such a satellite is created. However, the technology behind this satellite is believed to be beneficial for humans and the ecology as well. The satellite is proposed to orbit around the earth. The satellite will use microwave power transmission to send a beam of light towards the earth.
On earth, this beam will strike on a large antenna to generate electricity. The highly concentrated beam can produce a lot of energy that can be used to replace conventional sources of energy.
One of the most prominent benefits of such a satellite will be that it will be able to provide solar power to the earth at any point of time, irrespective of day and night, weather conditions, or even seasons. However, the technology required to build a solar power satellite is expensive and requires high precision.
- Passive Solar Energy
Passive solar energy systems work based on capturing solar energy so that it can be used once the sun is not present in the sky. It can be done in various ways. Consider the example of sun closets and greenhouses to understand how the concept works. One can place their windows and other ventilation such that sunlight directly heats up the air and surfaces inside the house. The heat remains to a certain degree even when the sun has set.
Another method can be when the sun’s heat is captured by a particular part of the building. The heated part then conducts heat to other parts of the building once the sun is no longer present. The sun’s heat can also be captured with the help of liquids or air. The captured heat is then passively provided to the complete building.
- Renewable Solar Power Systems
With the help of regenerative fuel cell systems, one can provide storage for solar power systems. The power generated by the solar systems will then be stored on the regenerative fuel systems to be used in the future. The technology is used in spacecraft and satellites by NASA. It enables the satellites and rovers to have enough energy to work through the days or periods when the sun is not shining on them. The storage system provided by RFC is much more flexible to adjust as per the needs of the solar power
- Solar Updraft Tower
Solar updraft power is a proposed plan that can work to generate electricity using wind turbines. Solar heat is used to raise the temperature of the air present inside the tower. Here, the tower works as a greenhouse and traps the heat of the sun. The heated air, having lesser atmospheric pressure than colder air, rises up. As it rises and escapes the tower, it strikes the turbines, rotating them. Through the rotation, electricity is produced that can be used in various applications.
- Solar Distillation
Solar distillation can be a boon to places where there is a scarcity of water. Most such areas have ample exposure to the sun, which can be used to distill and purify the saline water from the oceans and seas. The pure water obtained from this method is effectively potable and is cheaper than when processed through other viable methods.
For solar distillation, the saline water is stored in a shallow basin. The bottom of the basin should preferably be black so that it can absorb maximum solar energy. The basin needs to be covered with class. As the solar energy heats up the basin, it causes the water to evaporate, leaving the impurities and salt behind. The vapors of the water are collected in troughs after being passed through an inclined roof-like structure. The water vapors once cooled down, are safe to drink.
- Solar Cooking
In most parts of the world, energy sources like natural gas, petroleum gas, kerosene, and wood are used for cooking. All these resources leave harmful residues behind, making cooking one of the biggest contributors to the release of greenhouse gases. Therefore, it is essential that the conventional methods are changed, and solar cooking is picked.
Basic solar cooking includes a solar cooker. It is a box of insulated metal or wood. The box has black interiors to ensure that most of the heat of the sun is trapped inside. The box is ensured to be airtight by covering it with glass. The glass lets the solar radiation inside the box but does not let the heat out, trapping the radiation inside.
This increases the temperature inside the box, creating an appropriate temperature for cooking. A cooking pot that has been painted black from the outside is placed inside the solar box to cook food.
- Solar pumping
Solar pumping is the method through which the underground water is pumped out using the electricity generated by solar energy. During high summers, scarcity of water makes it difficult for farmers to manage enough water for irrigation. Through solar pumping, the irrigation process can be made easier and much faster.
During winter seasons, when solar energy is not so readily available, there is not much need for solar pumping. This is because the water reservoirs are not dried up, and the plants lose less water through transpiration.
- Solar furnaces
In laboratories and industries where extremely, high temperatures are required to melt any substance or study the nature of a substance under high temperature, solar furnaces are used. These furnaces can create temperatures that are not reachable through usual heating or burning, making the process especially useful.
For solar furnaces, mirrors are positioned in such a way that it keeps reflecting the sunlight among them, increasing the temperature of the space. An insulated environment is used so as to not let any of the trapped heat passes to the atmosphere.
The heat generated through such a method is not only clean and without any residues, but it also creates temperatures suitable for various metallurgical processes.
- Solar Drying
Drying food products by exposing them to the heat of the sun for a prolonged time has been a proven way to preserve the food for a long time. For drying, agricultural products are placed in an isolated room that is exposed to the sun through a large window. The room is painted black to ensure that none of the heat escapes the room.
The window or the roof is covered through a glass sheet to let the heat in but not out. The room is provided ventilation through holes in the walls so that the agricultural products do not decay due to lack of air.
Farmers use this method to raise the quality of fruits. Dried fruits have better sugar concentration and are immune to most insects and rodents. The method is also preferable to open drying as it is prone to sudden changes in weather such as rains and winds. Also, a closed room ensures that bacteria, fungi, and other parasites do not attack or spoil the product.
- Solar Thermal Energy Production
Through solar energy, one can gain immense thermal energy. This thermal energy can be easily converted to electricity through various methods. For this, solar ponds are used. The pons is either filled with water. When the water heats up, it provides heating to households and industries.
The pond is made to be shallow, and the surface of the pond is painted to be black. Sometimes, high radiation absorbing material is spread on the bottom of the point. The pond is covered with the help of curved glass. It is usually made of fiber. The glass ensures that solar radiation can enter the pond but not escape it. This increases the temperature of the pond.
The pond can also be filled with a volatile liquid. A volatile liquid is one with low temperature. The liquid evaporates quickly, and the vapors are directed towards the turbine. They force the turbine to rotate, thereby creating electricity. The fluid is selected to be one whose vapors are not toxic, polluting, or harmful to the environment.
What is off grid solar energy? detailed pros & cons
The off-grid solar energy system is one in which the household of the building is not connected to the local utility grid. The solar power system provides for all the energy needs of the building, making it self-sufficient. For an off-grid solar power system, one will be required to set up solar batteries that can store the excess energy generated by the solar plant. This stored energy is used later when the solar panel is no more actively generating electricity.
Through the points provided below, one can better understand the working of an off-grid solar power system.
- Electric Access
With an off-grid system, one does not have any extra energy other than what is generated by the solar power system. Thus, if one requires more energy than being produced, then they will have to take the help of generators or energy that is stored in the batteries.
Also, the solar panel only works when the sun is present to provide it with photons.
Once the sun has set or on a cloudy day, there will be no or less energy production. Thus, one will have to rely on previously stored energy in the battery to fulfil their energy needs.
You can choose not to install batteries with the off-grid solar energy system. Though, in such a case, they will not be able to use any appliance that runs on electric energy once the solar panel stops generating electricity.
- Excess Production
Most off-grid solar panel systems are designed in a way that they can produce more electricity than required. This excess power is stored in the batteries attached to the system. The energy stored is utilized to run the appliances during night and cloudy weather.
The energy stored in the batteries depends upon the capacity of the solar panel system, the total energy consumption of the owner, and the weather conditions. However, most off-grid plans are big enough to keep the batteries recharged with enough power that can support the household for several hours.
Though, if the weather becomes unusually bad, such that it is raining or is cloudy for several days in the end, then the solar batteries will not be able to provide power to the house during that duration.
The solution to this problem can be buying more batteries, but the issue that arises is the cost. Solar batteries are immensely expensive, and it is not possible for everyone to invest such an amount of money in batteries.
- Power Outages
During storms or heavy rains, grids can go offline. Though, with off-grid solar power systems, the situation will not affect the owner at all. If they have enough power saved in the batteries, they can experience enough power at their house even during a storm or a rainy day.
- Electricity Bills
The biggest benefit of an off-grid system is that as the house is no longer attached to the local grid, there will not be any electricity bill. However, additional equipment such as batteries and other storage devices are so expensive that they negate the benefit.
Off grid solar energy - Pros
- Monthly Savings
With no electricity bills and complete energy needs being fulfilled by practically free solar energy, one can get rid of the monthly utility bills.
- No blackouts
Once the house is off-grid, they are not affected by the sudden surge or loss in power in the grid. Thus, the house will not face any blackouts, power outages, etc.
- The best option for remote locations
The off-grid power system is the best option for houses and areas where no gridlines reach. They can create their own electricity without being dependent on any external source.
Off grid solar energy - Cons
Managing the complete equipment required for an off-grid solar power system can prove to be very expensive. Along with the cost of the solar panel and mounting system, one also has to pay for the batteries and inverter. These components are expensive and even use materials that are hard to dispose of, making them harmful to the environment.
The batteries and other equipment may require regular maintenance that can add to the cost of the power system.
- No backup
In case the batteries run out of power during the rainy season and the clouds do not part, the house will have no power as the solar panel cannot generate enough electricity.
- Wastage of excess energy
Sometimes, energy generated by the solar panel may be more than the capacity of the battery. In such a case, the excess energy will go to waste.
What is on grid solar energy? Detailed - pros & cons
Also known as grid-tied power systems, these are the most common type of power systems available around the world in most houses. On-grid solar power systems not just generate electricity through the solar panel, but at the same time, they are also connected to the power grid. The connection is made through the electricity meter. When the solar panel is not generating any electric power, then the appliances of the house fall back to using the grid power for their needs.
The following factors explain the working and mechanism of an on-grid system.
- Electricity Access
In an on-grid or grid-tied system, it is ensured that the owner’s house always has power, no matter whether the solar panel is generating enough electricity or not. One does not require batteries in such cases as when the solar panel stops working; the electricity is obtained from the grid. The only time the house may fail to be connected to electric power is when the grid is down on a cloudy day or at night.
Through the on-grid solar power system, it is always ensured that the house is powered with enough electricity to fulfill its needs.
- Excess Production
There are times, especially during the summer days, when the solar panel system produces more energy than what is required by the house. Depending upon the usage of the house, the excess energy that is left can be either stored in the batteries like in an off-grid system.
However, with an on-grid system, there is another solution. The surplus energy can be sent to the electricity company through the grid. The electricity sent is then distributed through the community alike to conventional energy.
In some countries, for example, the USA, the people who choose to send their excess energy produced by the solar panel through the grid are compensated for the energy. There are various methods through which the power can be sent to the grid. One is that the units of energy sent are deducted from the monthly utility bill.
Another way to credit the owner of the on-grid solar power system is through net metering. Through net metering, the electricity company can measure the units that have been sent by the owner. The compensation for these units is calculated at the average rate of the units at which the owner is charged. The final amount is added to the account of the owner of the on-grid solar power system.
Thus, if one can send enough units back through the grid, then they can negate the amount of their bill, essentially making electricity free for them.
- Power outages
There are certain situations when the grid does not provide power and goes down. There are various reasons for which the power supply can be shut off. Some of them include storms or other severe weather conditions, earthquakes, when the grid needs to be repaired, fixing the power lines, etc.
During these times, if the solar panel is also not working, then the house will be without power. It can be overcome by adding an inverter or battery to the solar power system.
- Electricity bills
With an on-grid solar power system, you will always get an electricity bill, even when you do not use much of any energy from the grid. Charges such as service tax, delivery charge, etc., will always be applicable.
Also, the electricity company may charge for units differently during the day. They may charge more for a unit that is used during busy hours. These are the hours when most homes need power. They occur as soon as the sun goes down, also when the solar panel stops generating electricity.
Thus, using appliances at this time using the grid power can prove to be expensive.
Though, the electricity bill can be compensated by the energy that is sent by the solar power plant back to the grid.
On grid solar energy - pros
- Less expensive
As the on-grid system only needs the solar panel and no other additional equipment, these are cheaper than the off-grid systems.
Usually, in a solar power system, most of the space is taken up by the batteries. As no batteries or such additions are required with a grid-tied system, they do not require much space for setup.
- Net Metering
Through net metering and similar plans, one can make money by selling the surplus energy generated by their power plants to the grid.
The on-grid system is efficient in every aspect. It saves money, is energy efficient as no energy goes to waste, and is reliable for energy needs.
On grid solar energy - cons
- No power when the grid shuts off
If the grid does not provide power during the night or on rainy or cloudy days, then the house will have to be without power.
- Electricity bill
One still has to pay the utility bills even if they have minimized their dependency on the grid.
Solar Energy companies in India
Disclaimer: Microtex is neither associated with the following companies nor does it recommend any company. The following is just for information purposes only. Readers are advised to make detailed inquiries.
India receives a huge amount of solar exposure throughout its demographic. It has an incredible potential to harness this energy to address its energy crisis situation. This is why India, after years of research and hard work, has become one of the ten largest users of solar energy.
With the growth of India’s economy, it is imperative for India to consider clean and eco-friendly energy solutions that can boost economic growth. Thus, it has become an aim for India to become self-sufficient in terms of energy in the coming decades.
The following companies have shown credible efficiency in their work and contribution towards solar power. These companies develop solar panels of different types along with solar batteries such as Lithium-ion batteries. Indian government promotes the development of solar energy with various subsidies offered for its manufacture and usage. Here are the most prominent and noteworthy solar companies in India.
Vikram Solar is a subsidiary of Vikram Group of Companies. They have been working in the field of engineering and development for several decades. Their impeccable approach towards manufacturing has helped them grow the market of solar energy. Vikram Solar is currently headquartered in Kolkata, West Bengal, with offices across India. They also have offices in various locations in Europe and Africa.
With constant growth, the annual solar module production capacity of Vikram Solar has been raised up to 1 GV. They have considerably large manufacturing facilities where they produce solar panels. The panels created are of different types, versions, sizes, etc. The solar cells created at Vikram Solar are known for their immense efficiency and longevity.
Waaree Solar has become India’s one of the biggest companies in the field, with almost three decades of experience and work to support them. The manufacturing unit is located at Surat, Gujarat, where 1.5 GW of annual solar modules is produced.
They have offices and units spread across 68 countries, including India. Not only solar panels. They also provide rooftop suctions, EPC solutions, solar water pumps, and independent power producers. Their wide range of services keeps them one of the best choices.
The products provided by Waaree are not only great in quality but also are available at considerably lower costs.
Trina Solar, though not located in India, provides the solar power plant market of India with its services and products. Their solutions are targeted towards residential use and can be afforded by most homes who are looking to turn to solar energy to solve their rising energy needs. They also provide solar energy power solutions for buildings with high energy consumption, such as schools, offices, etc.
They provide modules and panels with high efficiency. Being a pioneer in the global market of solar power makes them credible and reliable. They have a large-scale manufacturing unit.
One of the few companies that are dedicated to thin-film technology. It is located in the US and provides thin-film solar panels to India, among other countries. The technology and its price range are suitable for a demographic such as India. They have seen more than 175 GW of solar modules worldwide.
Their manufacturing unit has made thin-film manufacturing a household name. Their panels provide great efficiency and can be used for years. One can get around 17% of efficiency from their thin-film solar panels, which is a feat in itself. They also source an extensive research and development facility to better their technology with each year and model.
Canadian Solar is a Canadian company with a manufacturing unit set in China. They have successfully provided more than 29 GW of solar modules in recent years for people located in more than 150 countries. It will not be wrong to claim that they are leading the global market with their one fits all technology. They sport a large-scale production and can provide solar panel solutions for industrial purposes as well.
Panasonic has been increasing its foothold in the field of solar energy solutions through the years. It is a popular provider of off-grid solar power systems across India. They provide a solution with integration with the government agencies, various business firms, etc.
This Delhi-based company holds a 74% stake in the production of solar inverters in India. They manufacture with Schneider and have been continuously providing better and more efficient solar inverters through the years. They have been working in the field for more than 30 years. Their biggest pro is that they provide lifetime support to their customers. Also, all their products promise quality and convenings.
- Tata Solar
Tata Solar is one of the oldest companies in India to provide solar energy and EPC solutions for the Indian demographic. They provide for residential, industrial, large-scale, and small-scale solar power systems. They also manufacture both off-grid and on-grid solar power systems for residential regions. Tata Solar has provided more than 1.4 GW of solar modules around the world and around 200 MW of rooftop solutions in India.
Working for more than 20 years, they have an in-house manufacturing base. All their products come with a warranty of 25 years.
Located in Faridabad, Haryana, Loom Solar is one of the new companies in the field. They provide an array of solar solutions, including solar inverters, solar panels. Solar chargers, and much more. They also ensure immaculate delivery and installation of the product along with handling the signing up for government subsidiary and net metering. They have been manufacturing top-notch quality monocrystalline solar panels.
LG India has been developing off-grid solutions suited for the remote locations of India with no grid connection. They have years of trust and experience behind their services, ensuring the best performance.
Floating solar farms (floatovoltaics)
Floatovoltaics are the new proposal to harness the immense solar energy that the earth receives every hour. These plants have proved that they can be the new answer to provide large-scale energy solutions to a country. They do not work any different than a normal solar panel. The only difference is that these solar plants are floating on the water.
Placed on large bodies of water, they do not take up real estate that could be used for some other purpose. They also do not affect wildlife and may prove to live longer. Here are the details regarding these innovative solar farms explained.
What is a Floating Solar Photovoltaic System?
Floating solar farms is an amalgamation of marine technology and solar energy. Huge solar panels and modules are placed to float on a water body. The electricity is generated through the photovoltaic effect. This electricity is transferred through underwater cables to the transmission tower.
Through this method, one can ensure that land is used efficiently by placing large solar farms on water bodies. Placed in man-made water bodies, these solar farms promote natural fish farms under the solar panel.
What Makes Floating Solar Farms a Better Solution?
When it comes to placing large solar farms on land, the biggest question that arises is where. When land is such a limited resource, it becomes impossible to create new space to set up these expansive solar farms. The space acquired by these farms can be in turn, be used for agriculture or residential.
To answer the issue of limited land resources, it was suggested to place the solar farm on water. Floating solar panels can have as many numbers as possible of cells and can generate multiple units of energy. The floating solar farms that are currently running are all placed on manmade water bodies to ensure that there is no issue with their installation. Also, it ensures that one can maintain and upkeep the solar farm properly.
Here are the reasons why floating solar plants can be considered the future of solar energy being harnessed for commercial and large-scale use.
It has been studied and proved that if solar panels are placed in one-fourth of the water bodies of the nation, it can provide 10% of the energy requirements of the USA.
Water has the inherent property of cooling. This can enhance the performance of the solar panel.
In drier climates or locations where water is scarce, placing solar panels atop the water can help reduction of the evaporation of water. Solar panels block the sunlight by absorbing most of it. Thus, they limit the air circulation towards the water body.
They can also make the water safer for the use of people and the wildlife depending on it by avoiding the spread of harmful algae on the water bodies.
Features of Floating Solar Farms
The solar panel used in solar farms is made of a buoyant material that resists rust. The buoyancy is essential to keep the plant floating on the water body.
It is also essential to keep the solar panel clean and dust-proof. Also, it should be protected against the currents of jets of water. The material used to manufacture the floating solar farms should be resistant to humidity. The material used should not include lead as it can be toxic to the water bodies.
To make it buoyant, the material used for such floating farms is polyethylene. It can take up at least 2.5 times its weight.
For ecological reasons, it is better if the floating solar farms are placed on man-made water bodies. This is because solar farms can affect the natural ecosystem of a large natural water body, as it reduces the temperature and exposure to the sun.
Floating Photovoltaics Around the World
There are various working projects around the world that have successfully functioning photovoltaics. The most prominent of these projects are mentioned below.
In 2008, a floating solar farm was placed on a winery in California. It is dry land, prone to drought with minimal rainfall throughout the year. The placing of the solar farm has ensured that limited water is wasted through its evaporation. It thus provides water and energy efficiency to California. The project is placed on recycled water. It is estimated that the plant powers more than 3500 homes in the area.
China has been working to create better and cleaner forms of renewable energy for years. It manufactured and created one of the biggest floating solar farms in the whole world. This was placed on a lake that was formed when a coal mine collapsed. The floating solar farm, known as Huainan solar farm, has 160000 panels. It can produce an estimated 40 MW of energy.
- South Korea
South Korea has also built various floating photovoltaic systems since 2009. It developed the world’s first commercial floating solar farm that was placed on the surface of a dam reservoir. It is estimated that the three solar farms of the country will contribute around 30% of the energy needs of the country by 2030.
- The Netherlands
The second-largest floating solar farm in Europe was manufactured and put to work in the Netherlands. The farm is aimed to save up to 6,500 tines of carbon dioxide by providing energy to more than 4000 houses in the area.
- Floating Solar Plants in India
India began its construction and manifesting of floating solar plants with the 10-kW plant that was placed in Kolkata. Since then, various plants have been placed with increasing power. One is present in Kayamkulam in Kerala. The Rajiv Gandhi Combined Cycle Power Plant is a grid with a power of 70 MW.
India is planning a floating photovoltaic system with a capacity of at least 10 GW in the next few years. These plants are to be placed in various water bodies in Kerala, Odisha, West Bengal, and Assam.
Currently, the most successful floating solar plant in India amounts to 1700 MW of power. Others with more power are still being developed around the country.
Future Trends in Solar Energy
Solar energy solutions need to be improvised and enhanced to increase their efficiency and decrease their cost. Through these technological trends, it can be ensured that solar energy is accessible to all. Here are some of the trends that one can expect to grow in the world of solar power in the oncoming years.
- Bio-Solar Cells
Bio-solar cells aim to replicate the process of photosynthesis. The cells traditionally had two chambers that carry the bacteria responsible for the chemical reaction. It is through this reaction that the bio-solar cell can create energy from solar power.
Recently, the cell was modified to include only one chamber. The material used for cathode and anode was also changed to provide better efficiency. Through these changes, it was made possible to string the cells in the form of a panel.
The photosynthesis that occurs through this bio solar panel has the potential to generate electricity that can power up for 60 hours. The kinds of bacteria used in such cells are also being researched so that the cell can reach its maximum potential.
- Photo-bio electrochemical cells
This is the new technology through which solar energy can be converted into electric energy. The electrochemical reactions that need to take place for the production of electricity are carried out by microorganismal and other biological methods such as plants and enzymes.
One such system that was manufactured to generate electricity was through a glucose oxidase enzyme. The proteins present in the enzyme are connected electrically through chemical electron transfer mediators.
The glucose is oxidized, generating fuel, while the photo irradiation generates electricity. Through the system, one can successfully recreate the process of photosynthesis to generate electric power. The electric power used is derived from the bacterial or biological reaction that occurs in the cell in the enzymes. The model can be used in bio electrocatalysis and for sensing purposes.
The issue with the traditional crystalline silicon cells is that they provide maximum efficiency of 20%. They also take up a lot of space but fail to utilize the potential of the solar energy that they receive.
To solve this issue, scientists combined inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals with carbon-based compounds. Through this method, they could successfully convert two photons of low energy into one with high energy. This high-energy photon can be easily absorbed by the photovoltaic cells in commercial use today.
Thus, through this method, one removes the potential wastage and increases the efficiency of the solar panels by at least 30%. The method can also prove to enhance the technology of data storage, light-emitting diodes, and biological imaging.
- WaterNest 100
WaterNest 100 is a marvel of architecture and technology. The house is completely eco-friendly and is made of recycled timber and aluminium. The floating house has balconies and large windows. It is also equipped with solar panels that can generate electricity of power up to 4kWp. This power is used by the appliances and for other energy needs of the house.
The house is 98% recyclable, uses clean energy, and is made of recycled material. Thus, it is a clean option for new residential areas which have limited mand space. These can be placed on lakes, rivers, and other water bodies.
Floating solar farms are a new trend in the field of solar energy. They solve the issue of the limited available land resource by providing an option to set up large solar farms on water bodies. The water bodies can be manmade or natural, depending upon the size of the farm and the ecological diversity residing in a particular area.
These solar farms can harness solar power and convert it into usable electricity of any scale. They can be set up anywhere and are easy to install and maintain. The floating solar farms do not have any harmful impact on the environment. Instead, they can prove to be beneficial for areas with a scarcity of water.
Made up of thermoplastics and other strong material that can float on water yet handle their weight, these farms have panels tilted at an angle to face the sun.
- Solar Power Transmission from Space
This is still in progress and can be developed to harness solar energy in any season and all conditions. Solar power transmission through space can be done with the help of a specially designed satellite that can direct solar energy in the form of a beam. This beam is transmitted towards the earth, which is then received by an antenna. Through this method, electricity can be transmitted in the form of a microwave unit over huge distances.
The energy consumption and carbon footprint of such a system are similar to that of a nuclear power plant. It is considerably less than that used by plants that run on fossil fuel energy.
Through these technologies, one can harness solar energy even when the system is not directly exposed to the sun.
- Solar Energy Harvesting Trees
These trees are created through 3D printing. The leaves of the trees work as photovoltaic cells that can convert solar energy to electric energy. The energy generated is then stored so that it can be used to power smaller devices. The idea behind these trees is that the trees can be placed at various locations around the cities.
They can be used to charge mobile phones and other smaller devices. Each leaf is equipped with an inverter, creating a series of multi-inverter. Through technology, one can harvest maximum solar energy by using the sunlight that falls on the roads to help passengers and travelers in need of energy.
- Concentrated Photovoltaic Cells
Photovoltaic cells could not concentrate sunlight as their material could not bear the heat. The result of such concentration would have been the melting of the solar cells. Though, through technological advancements in thermal conductivity, such material has been developed that can concentrate solar energy 10 times more than the conventional cells.
Through the concentration of energy, the conversion of solar to electric power can be boosted up by at least 5 times.
The semiconductor material used to make such concentrated PV cells is placed between two conducting surfaces in the form of an ultrathin layer of liquid metal. The material used is usually gallium and indium. The efficiency through these cells can be reached up to 805 by producing 20kW of thermal power and 12 kW of electric power on a day with strong sunlight.
- Colloidal Quantum Dots
These nanoparticle technologies can help replace solar cells. These are much more flexible and cheaper than the conventional photovoltaic cells and can provide 8% more efficiency. The best part about these colloidal quantum dots is that it does not need to bind to air.
Thus, the p-type and n-type semiconductors used in these quantum dots can function in open space as well. This property ensures that the cell can absorb more solar radiance. The colloidal quantum dots also provide stability and can work outdoors perfectly.
- Triple Junction Cells
Cells made of gallium arsenide can be changed to increase and enhance the capturing of light. This property makes them three times more efficient than crystalline photovoltaic cells. The cells have light pipes that guide the sunlight into the system after tracking it through the sensor placed on the window of the device.
What is building integrated Photovoltaics or BIPV? Solar roof shingles
- BIPV Solar Technology
BIPV or Building-integrated Photovoltaics Solar Technology is one of the new developments in the field of residential solar power systems. These integrate the technology of the solar panel system into the architecture of the building. The result is a much more efficient and aesthetically pleasing solar plant that can be installed in new homes.
These are integrated into the parts of the house where sunlight reaches directly throughout the day, such as windows, atrium, terrace, canopies, etc. Through BIPV Solar Technology, one can avoid the need for mounting systems. They provide not only clean energy to the house but also deliver thermal and sound insulation.
Along with these, there have been developments to increase the storage capacity and efficacy of solar batteries as well.
As per a project followed by Ohio State University, created a battery that is 25% cheaper than the battery options available in the market while being 20% more efficient. Along with this, solar roadways technology is also being developed. These are solar panels placed along highways and other such roads. The electricity generated through these panels is then directed to the local grid from where it can be distributed among the community.