Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “photovoltaics”

Bye-bye Silicon Solar Cell?

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Perovskite structures have the potential to revolutionise the solar PV industry, but they are notorious for breaking down very rapidly in real-world use. Now a research team from Princeton University has developed a process for overcoming that problem, making perovskite a real competitor to existing silicon PV technology.

[] – Accelerated aging of all-inorganic, interface-stabilized perovskite solar cells
[] – Once seen as fleeting, a new solar tech proves its lasting power

Oceans of Energy – North Sea Offshore Solar

The Dutch company “Oceans of Energy” has installed 50 kW worth of solar modules 15 km out of the coast of The Hague, and so far they have weathered 140 kmh storms and 10 meter waves.

Oceans of Energy has raised its ambition level and wants to roll out in 3 phases: 1, 10 and 100 MW resp. The big selling point of this technology is that no valuable and very scarce Dutch land resources need to be occupied with solar panels. The Dutch part of the North Sea has an area of 57,800 km. With an annual solar radiation of ca. 1000 kWh/m2 and a solar panel efficiency of 20%, this area would in theory be sufficient to generate an annual 11,560 TWh. Note that Dutch annual electricity consumption is 120 TWh or merely 1% of the total Dutch North Sea solar potential. And then there is that 85 GW of wind potential.

Who needs Saudi-Arabia if you have the Netherlands?

All-in-all, more than sufficient to power the entire EU. Not going to happen, of course. Cheaper energy in the form of hydrogen from for instance, Africa, will limit the economic energy harvesting potential of the North Sea. But to bridge a few decades of energy starvation due to geopolitical factors, like the Ukraine war? Who knows?

[] – Dutch floating solar unit weathers through major North Sea storms intact
[] – Oceans of Energy plans twentyfold scale-up of floating solar plant in North Sea
[] – Oceans of Energy’s floating solar system weathers through all North Sea storms
[] – Floating solar

Comeback European Solar Module Manufacturing

In an age of declining globalism and fracturing supply lines, it is of the utmost importance that Europe is able to produce essential goods itself and is not dependent on relations with far-away suppliers. The most basic industries are food and energy. Everything else is secondary.

Europe has proven that it can successfully cooperate and set up potent industries and conglomerates, like ESA and Airbus and has a streamlined, highly efficient agricultural sector that is self-sufficient and net-exporter. Europa also dominates in wind turbine manufacturing and offshore installation.

Now it is important that Europa does something similar in solar module manufacturing. PV-solar is complementary to wind electricity generation, reducing the need to store energy.

[] – Putting Europe back in the lead in solar panel production
[] – Europe had just 650 MW of solar cell manufacturing capacity at the end of 2020

[] – European Solar Initiative

The European Solar Initiative aims to re-develop 20-GW manufacturing capacity of solar PV technologies in Europe by 2025. The European Solar Initiative was launched in February 2021 by SolarPower Europe and EIT InnoEnergy and is formally endorsed by the European Commission. The initiative aims to scale up solar PV manufacturing capacity in Europe to 20GW by 2025, unlocking €40bn of GDP annually and creating 400,000 new direct and indirect jobs across the PV value chain.

Two examples of European solar module manufacturers are Swiss Meyer-Burger and Dutch Solarge.

German language video

Most Chinese Solar Panels go to Europe

It’s obvious that Europe remains an enthusiastic supporter of the renewable energy transition if you look at the solar panel export numbers from China.

Remarkable is the immense import of Chinese solar panels to the Netherlands. 16.5 GW is the equivalent of 1.6 GW continuously 24/7/365, that’s a large power station! At a Dutch national average electricity consumption of 13.7 GW (120 billion kWh in 2020), this covers the purchase of new capacity of no less than 12% in a single year! Development of Dutch renewable electricity share:

2019 – 18%
2020 – 25%
2021 – 33%

With rapidly rising electricity prices, expect the incentive to buy solar panels to only further increase. At this rate, including the growth of offshore wind, the Netherlands should be covered for 100% with renewable electricity in a matter of a few years, clearly before 2030.

[] – Nederland importeert 2 keer zoveel zonnepanelen uit China

Urban Renewables – Solar Panels vs Wind Turbines

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Does small wind energy or backyard wind turbines make sense? Why do we see so much rooftop solar, but so little rooftop wind?

00:00 Intro – Rooftop solar’s domination in the urban renewables sector
00:38 Why don’t we see more rooftop wind turbines?
01:38 Quality of solar resources – Solar irradiation in different places around the world
02:40 Quality of wind resources – Urban wind effects, wind shear effects, available power in wind
04:53 Available wind power in Kolding vs Canberra
05:40 Other points of comparison – Benefits gained from a rural location, noise and vibration issues, maintenance required
07:47 Applications for urban wind technologies – Off-grid properties, high-wind speed locations, rural farms, non-utility and aesthetic purposes, backyard engineering or DIY
09:54 Outro
10:11 Thanks to Brilliant for sponsoring this video!

In this video I’ll take you through the science and engineering reasons why rooftop solar is much easier than small wind, and show that the same wind turbine on a roof is likely to generate *less than 10%* of the energy a turbine of the same size would generate in a nearby wind farm.

And, because I know most of you found this video because you already know you want to do a DIY wind energy project (they’re fun!) or have an off-grid project that needs wind energy to diversify your energy, I have included some resources (Hugh Piggott’s great books on DIY wind energy and certified small wind turbines if you want to buy one).

2022 Share Solar & Wind Dutch Electricity 33%, up from 25%

Tour de France

Tour de France, about 4000 km in 23 days. The electricity yield of 1 solar panel over 23 days (35 kWh) would suffice to power an e-bike for that course. The graph compares results for a pedelec, e-motor-bike, e-train and e-car.

Dutch Solar Star Rising

Not too sunny Netherlands is meanwhile in the global top ten of the country ranking of pv-solar output share and even has surpassed early adopter Germany and is only competing with Spain for the top position in Europe. Most increase comes from the corporate sector.

However, as a part of total primary energy, it is still merely 1.7%. Solar electricity share is now 10%, but with growth rates of 30% could be at 13% next year.

The biggest problem is peak load on the grid. Expanding the grid to accommodate for that peak is like building 8 lane highways to deal with Black Saturday, that’s not smart. The emphasis now must be to rapidly increase local batteries to shave off the peak. In Germany there are already 500k of those, in the Netherlands merely a few thousand.

[] – Nederland is een rij­zen­de ster op het gebied van zonnestroom

Dutch Annual Growth PV-Solar Installed Base 30%

Evaluating Solar Panels After 4 Years

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4 year solar panel review – Are they still worth it? It’s been almost 4 years since I had solar panels installed on my house. To start comparing quotes and simplify insurance-buying, check out Policygenius: Thanks to Policygenius for sponsoring this video! In general they’ve been performing pretty close to what was promised, but last year threw us some curveballs. I saw a pretty sharp decline in the amount of solar produced. Since my solar panels are nearing their 4 year anniversary, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit what I’ve learned living with solar panels in an area you might not think they’d be good for, as well as what happened last year. Do I still think getting solar panels was a good idea? Let’s see if we can come to a decision on this.

I have 6 solar panels since November 2015. Score so far:

2016 – 1200 kWh
2017 – 1400 kWh
2018 – 1490 kWh
2019 – 1510 kWh
2020 – 1600 kWh
2021 – 1500 kWh
2022 – 1510 kWh (projection)

The upshot is that annual output is by no means constant, but dependent on the weather.

I still have 18 m2 SE-facing fence left, that I certainly will utilize for energy harvesting, but I am still in doubt between building a solar air collector or simply mount 10 extra panels. Or put black solar panels behind glass and combine heat and electricity, although I’m not sure how much warm air I can get from merely black panels, instead of using a metal mesh or empty aluminum beer cans, that are usually applied in solar air collectors.

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