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Archive for the category “photovoltaics”

New Perovskite Solar Cell

polarons[source]

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has laid the foundations for an entirely new type of photovoltaic cell. In this new method, infrared radiation is converted into electrical energy using a different mechanism from that found in conventional solar cells. The mechanism behind the new solid-state solar cell made of the mineral perovskite relies on so-called polaron excitations, which combine the excitation of electrons and vibrations of the crystal lattice.

[phys.org] – Scientists lay foundations for new type of solar cell
[onlinelibrary.wiley.com] – Evolution of Hot Polaron States with a Nanosecond Lifetime in a Manganite Perovskite
[cleantechnica.com] – Holy Hot Polarons, Batman! New Perovskite Solar Cell Shows Promise

Forget everything you know about solar cells and check this out. A research team based at the University of Göttingen in Germany has come up with something they call an “entirely new” way to harvest energy from sunlight. In effect, the new solar cell puts the brakes on excited electrons, extending their lifetime. The result is a more efficient solar cell, with less energy lost in the form of heat and more energy converted to electricity.

[wikipedia.org] – Polarons

A polaron is a quasiparticle used in condensed matter physics to understand the interactions between electrons and atoms in a solid material. The polaron concept was first proposed by Lev Landau in 1933 to describe an electron moving in a dielectric crystal where the atoms move from their equilibrium positions to effectively screen the charge of an electron, known as a phonon cloud. This lowers the electron mobility and increases the electron’s effective mass.

Read more…

Solar Project Completed in the Netherlands

delfzijl-zonneparkLargest solar park in the Netherlands, ironically covered in snow

Location: Delfzijl [Google Maps]
Capacity: 7500 households
Panels: 120,000
Owner: German energy company Wirsol
Size: 65 soccer fields

Coming Spring the title “largest solar park in the Netherlands” will move from Delfzijl to Vlissingen [Sloehaven], with 140,000 panels.

In general, investment in solar energy is booming in the Netherlands. In 2016 500 MW new capacity was installed, 100 MW more than in 2015.

[nos.nl] – Delfzijl heeft grootste zonnepark van Nederland
[nu.nl] – Grootste zonnepark van Nederland geopend in Delfzijl

zonnepark-delfzijl[source] Same park

Solar Energy in Plants Retail

2,000 panels producing 520,000 kwh/year and reducing the energy bill to almost zero.

[google maps] – Celieplant Aalsmeer
[celieplant.nl] – Celieplant Aalsmeer
[aalsmeer.nl] – Celieplant met 2000 zonnepanelen duurzaamste gebouw Aalsmeer en regio

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SolaRoad Project Update

In the Netherlands space is scarce… but there are many roads. The idea is to let traffic drive over solar panels. In 2014 a bicycle path was created to test the concept. Meanwhile the results are in.

[deepresource] – SolaRoad Finally Launched (Oct 2014)
[deepresource] – SolaRoad Operational (Nov 2014)
[wikipedia.org] – SolaRoad

Read more…

The First Kilowatthour

solar-panels

Solar panels where installed earlier this week and despite grey November weather, today the first kWh is produced, meaning the energy required to pull a standard car up the Eiffel tower.

[deepresource] – One Kilowatthour

The panels should generate 1.5 times the electricity required on a yearly basis, for a relatively modest standard consumption pattern to power desktop computer + monitor, fridge, freezer and television. The converter has a build-in wifi and can send the solar production data via the internet router to a server. Via a browser actual and cumulative data can be displayed, see screenshot above.

Additionally, the smart meter bridging the household with the grid operator also has a wifi, enabling to read consumption data, see iPhone-6 screen shot below.

stroommeter

In other words, at 11 o’clock on a half-clouded morning in November, the panels already produce more than is consumed. The rest is fed into the grid.

Later this month a gardening center will deliver a few m3 compost to upgrade the soil of the garden, that next season will be fully utilized for food production.

[deepresource] – Not in my Backyard?

Next prepping investment will be focused on producing ‘hot air’. The idea is to install 8 or so 100*165 cm solar panels (for electricity) against a palisade and additionally put glass plates in front of them, leaving a space of 5-10 cm. The panels are black and hence absorb all radiation. 10-15% will be converted into electricity, the rest into hot air that can be pumped into the living room with simple desktop computer ventilator.

*** UPDATE ***

After 13:00 MET the sun began to shine, 2.15 kwh on one November day with only two hours of sunshine.

panels2

buienradar[buienradar.nl] With solar panels on your roof the weather becomes more interesting than ever. A good cloud front can cost you half a euro.

Hybrid Solar

panel-thermoSolar thermal-electric hybrid

volther-powertherm-180wConventional thermal solar collector

In densely packed cities in overcrowded north-western Europe, space is the real scarce commodity, more than money. The consequence is that if this scarce (roof) space is used for solar energy, preference is usually given to solar panels over thermal solar collectors. In fact, when we visited the 2014 Munich Intersolar exhibition, there were hardly any producers of solar thermal collectors present.

It is premature however to write-off thermal solar completely. If sun rays hit a solar panel, ca. 15% is converted into electricity and the rest is lost in heating up the panel, which degrades performance. The idea of hybrid solar is to use the same (scarce) surface for both electricity and heat:

volther-connection
A solar hybrid panel has two energy outlets: one for electricity and one for hot fluid, utilizing nearly all solar energy.

volther-europe

[newformenergy.ie] – Photovoltaic Thermal PVT
[solartherm-hybrid-pv.de] – Solartherm Hybrid PV
[solenergo.lv] – Volther Hybrid PV-T Panels
[hausundsolar.de] – Volther PowerVolt PV-T Hybrid Collector

hybrid-solar[source] Robust two-edged sword

Global Solar On Track With 52 GW New Installation in 2015

global-irradiance[source]

In the first quarter of 2015, more than 12GW of solar installations were added globally, according to EnergyTrend’s research. The forecasted 52GW annual demand is likely to be achieved, and installations in China, USA and Japan will represent up to 63% of the global installing capacity.

The UK is currently the largest market in Europe, German market is ‘saturated’, France obliges builders of new homes to provide for solar capacity.

[energytrend.com] – Solar Installation in the First Quarter of 2015 Exceeded 12GW, Globally

solar-countries

Wafer-Thin Silicon Discs on Leading Edge of German R&D

Drittelzellmodul_Detail[source]
The German Fraunhofer Institute continues to make progress in reducing the cost of wafer used to produce solar cells.

Roughly a third of the costs for a silicon solar module is accrued before production of the wafer even starts… Holding a wafer-thin silicon disc between his two index fingers, Schönfelder explained that it is the industry standard, roughly 180 micrometres thin. He said that his research project is about producing even thinner silicon wafers, as well as reducing the breakage rate… Fraunhofer’s DiaCell project… DiaCell refers to the name of the diamond wire saw involved in the research… Reducing costs for the entire value chain is the mission of the DiaCell research project… This sawing gap created by the wire cutting process is incredibly expensive, representing a nearly 50% material loss… another research effort is developing wafer-splitting strategies to produce zero material loss. Instead of sawing the wafer into slices, with wafer splitting, a special polymer is glued to both sides of the wafer. When in a frozen state, the special polymer layer contracts, developing a strong enough force to split the wafer into slices.

[solarlove.org] – Wafer-Thin Silicon Discs on Leading Edge of German R&D
[invest-in-saxony-anhalt.com] – Highly coveted in the solar industry: wafer-thin silicon discs

MIT Upbeat About Prospects Solar Power

Les-Mees-solar-farm
[source] Siemens solar plant, Le Mées, France

MIT comes to the conclusion that with existing solar panel technology, the world can very well be powered. The real bottleneck is not technology, but investment. By 2050 a large chunk of the current overall power consumption of 15 terawatts could be replaced using solar power. 15 terawatts represents the power equivalent of 15,000 standard 1 GW power plants.

MIT expects battery technology to play a key role in the development of the solar economy.

[rt.com] – Solar panels can power the world
[MIT study] – pdf, 356p, complete report

Global Solar Expansion is Stalling

Infographic_Snapshot_of_Global_PV_Markets_2014-page-001

Disappointing news from the International Energy Agency: in 2014 the installed base of photo-voltaic system merely grew with 39 GW to a cumulative 177 GW. Asia is clearly leading, Europe is behind.

[cleantechnica.com] – Global Solar PV Capacity Ends 2014 At 177 GW

Floating Solar Panels

floating-solar-pv
Floating solar panels, an interesting solution for overcrowded places like the UK?

Since 2011, French Company Ciel & Terre has been developing large-scale floating solar solutions. Their innovative Hydrelio Floating PV system allows standard PV panels to be installed on large bodies of water such as: drinking water reservoirs, quarry lakes, irrigation canals, remediation and tailing ponds, and hydro electric dam reservoirs. This simple and affordable alternative to ground-mounted systems is particularly suitable for water-intensive industries who cannot afford to waste either land or water.

[alternative-energy-news] – Floating solar panels: a viable solution?

Solar Grid Parity in Germany, Holland, Italy, California and Australia

PVgridparity_Snapshot3March2015
Notably in Germany and Holland it pays to invest in domestic solar energy

LCOE = Levelised cost of energy [*]

[iea.org] – Technology Roadmap, Solar Photovoltaic Energy – 2014

[*] – The LCOE represents the present value of the total cost (overnight capital cost, fuel cost, fixed and variable operation and maintenance costs, and financing costs) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle, converted to equal annual payments, given an assumed utilisation, and expressed in terms of real money to remove inflation.

Better Together

kumejima-01[source]
Plea to combine wind and solar in a single power plant. The key argument is that solar and wind are partially complementary: during the night there is guaranteed no solar power, but perhaps wind. And in certain areas like Europe, wind is stronger during the winter and, obviously, solar stronger during the summer.

Combining wind turbines and photovoltaic systems results in up to twice the amount of electricity being generated across the same surface area, while shading losses caused by wind turbines amount to a mere 1 to 2% – much less than previously thought. As an additional benefit, the construction of hybrid power plants does not require grid expansion because the plants generate wind and solar power at different times of day and during complementary seasons, ensuring the level of energy fed into the grid is more steady than that of wind or photovoltaic power plants alone.

[solarlove.org] – Study Finds Wind-Solar Hybrid Power Plants Are Twice As Efficient

World’s Largest Solar Project Nears Completion (579 MW)

DSC00239.jpg

One of the top solar energy companies in the world, SunPower, is close to completing what will be the “world’s largest solar power plant” in Southern California, according to recent reports.

The 579 megawatt (MW) Solar Star project is now mostly online, and is on track for “substantial completion” during Q2, based on recent comments made by SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner during a 2014 earnings presentation.

[solarlove.org] – SunPower Nearing Completion On 579 MW Solar Star Project — “World’s Largest Solar Power Plant”

[Google Maps] – Rosamond, California

Stella Solar Car Wins Silicon Valley Tech Award

This car is a reasonable solution for personal transport in a post-carbon world in territories like Australia, Africa, SW-USA, Middle-East and southern Europe and even in cloudy lands like Holland. Over a year this car generates more energy than it actually consumes.

[nos.nl] – Nederlandse zonnewagen Stella wint ‘Oscar’ in Silicon Valley
[geenstijl.nl] – NL studenten winnen Oscar van de techniek

Pictures from Solar Challenge 2013. Shows advantages of Australia for the coming ‘solar age’. Predictable and intense sun shine, providing abundant energy, enough to propel three adults in a stream-lined car with an average speed of 77 kmh, bridging up to 700 km in one day.

Read more…

Prices Solar Systems

Country Residential Commercial Utility_scale
China 1.5 1.4 1.4
Australia 1.8 1.7 2.0
Germany 2.4 1.8 1.4
Italy 2.8 1.9 1.5
UK 2.8 2.4 1.9
France 4.1 2.7 2.2
Japan 4.2 3.6 2.9
USA 4.9 4.5 3.3

Prices in $/Watt

This explains why Germany, China, Italy and Australia are at the forefront in installing photo-voltaic systems.

[wikipedia.org] – Solar cell

How Solar Panels are Made

Bosch video showing the production process of a solar cell.

We have had the Ice Age, Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Fossil Fuel Age and now we are entering the Sand Age (Silicon Age) aka Solar Age.

The size of a typical solar cell is 156 mm * 156 mm…

solar_cell

… and produces ca. 4 Watt peak or 3.7 kwh per year (Holland) or 100 kwh over a 30 year lifetime. If you realize that 1 kwh represents one man-day of hard physical labor, than this tiny piece of silicon is the equivalent of 6 months of hard physical labor, based on 200 working days/year. That’s the power of technology.

That little 250 cm2 piece of silicium with the weight of a few grams is able to lift a car (in 30 years time) to roughly the same altitude from wich Felix Baumgartner jumped.

sandinhand[source]
This amount of sand, after proper transformations, can generate energy, enough to lift a car into the stratosphere.

In order to replace the world’s current energy consumption for 100% with solar, you need to cover an area the size of Spain entirely with solar panels. That’s a daunting task, but it can be done, as long as you still have fossil fuel to produce these panels. Once these panels are in place, they generate enough energy to replace themselves after 25-30 years, considering an EROEI of 30-60 for well-placed modern solar cells.

[youtube]
Production plant of Calyxo GmbH in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany. Production of CdTe Thin Film Solar Module.

Solar Costs Will Fall Another 40% In 3 Years

First_Solar_cost_reduction_roadmap_2013_Analyst_Day-600x0

Photovoltaic solar energy is just like that other solid state technology, IT: the per Watt solar installation cost is decreasing all the time, like the cost of memory storage or processing power in IT. The fact that budget furniture giant IKEA has started to sell solar panels says it all. The world does not really have a long term energy problem, but it certainly could have a timing problem and a huge dip in economic output, due to shortages in fossil fuel. The sooner the inevitable energy transition takes place, the better it is.

[reneweconomy.com.au] – Why solar costs will fall another 40% in just two years

P.S.: end of 2017 minus January 2015 = three years, not two.

Cheapest Electricity in the World from Solar

Currently the cheapest electricity in the world, 5.8 cent/kwh, is produced in Dubai from the 100 MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Seih Al Dahal, Dubai. With energy prices like these, the Gulf states would be well advised to use their oil wealth to invest in a renewable energy producing future, after the end of the fossil fuel era. How about using cheap solar energy to desalinate seawater and produce fresh water? Or use electricity to produce hydrogen or even fossil fuel from water and CO2 in the air? This way the Gulf states can prevent a fallback to the camel-based economies of the past, when oil & gas run out.

There clearly will be a life after the end of the oil age.

[cleantechnica.com] – Cheapest Solar In The World

Dubai-Solar-Park[source]

[emiratessolar.org] – Solar Energy in Dubai Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park
[www.apricum-group.com] – Dubai’s DEWA procures the world’s cheapest solar energy ever

Global Solar PV Installed Base to Triple in 2020

globaldata-solar-installed-base

GlobalData forecasts that the global cumulative installed base of solar PV modules will triple by 2020, from 135.66 GW in 2013 to 413.98 GW in 2020.

[energy.globaldata.com] – Global Solar Photovoltaic Module Installed Capacity to More than Treble by 2020, says GlobalData
[cleantechnica.com] – Global Solar PV Module Capacity To More Than Treble By 2020

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