Solar energy Introduction
Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the Sun that is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, solar architecture, molten salt power plants and artificial photosynthesis and we also discuss solar-energy-introduction-adnantage-and-disadvantage.
It is an important source of renewable energy and its technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on how they capture and distribute solar energy or convert it into solar power. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar water heating to harness the energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light-dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.
History Of Solar Energy :
We can trace all energy used on our planet back to the source…the nearest star, our sun. The history of solar energy is as old as humankind. In the last two centuries, we started using Sun’s energy directly to make electricity.
In 1839, Alexandre Edmond Becquerel (pictured on the right) discovered that certain materials produced small amounts of electric current when exposed to light.
William Grylls Adams, who, with his student, Richard Evans Day, discovered in 1876 that a solid material – selenium – produced electricity when exposed to light. Selenium photovoltaic cells were converting light to electricity at 1 to 2 percent efficiency.
Photovoltaic, or PV for short, is the word that describes converting sunlight into electricity: photo, meaning pertaining to light, and voltaic meaning producing voltage. It took, more than 100 years, however, for the concept of electricity from sunlight to become more than an just an experiment.
Needs Of Solar Energy :
- Renewable Energy Source
Among all the benefits of solar panels, the most important thing is that solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. It can be harnessed in all areas of the world and is available every day. We cannot run out of solar energy, unlike some of the other sources of energy. Solar energy will be accessible as long as we have the sun, therefore sunlight will be available to us for at least 5 billion years when according to scientists the sun is going to die.
- Reduces Electricity Bills
Since you will be meeting some of your energy needs with the electricity your solar system has generated, your energy bills will drop. How much you save on your bill will be dependent on the size of the solar system and your electricity or heat usage. Moreover, not only will you be saving on the electricity bill, but if you generate more electricity than you use, the surplus will be exported back to the grid and you will receive bonus payments for that amount (considering that your solar panel system is connected to the grid). Savings can further grow if you sell excess electricity at high rates during the day and then buy electricity from the grid during the evening when the rates are lower.
- Diverse Applications
Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes. You can generate electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (solar thermal). Solar energy can be used to produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, to distill water in regions with limited clean water supplies and to power satellites in space. Solar energy can also be integrated into the materials used for buildings. Not long ago Sharp introduced transparent solar energy windows.
- Low Maintenance Costs
Solar energy systems generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. You only need to keep them relatively clean, so cleaning them a couple of times per year will do the job. If in doubt, you can always rely on specialised cleaning companies, Most reliable solar panel manufacturers give 20-25 years warranty. Also, as there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear. The inverter is usually the only part that needs to changed after 5-10 years because it is continuously working to convert solar energy into electricity (solar PV) and heat (solar thermal). Apart from the inverter, the cables also need maintenance to ensure your solar power system runs at maximum efficiency. So, after covering the initial cost of the solar system, you can expect very little spending on maintenance and repair work.
- Technology Development
Technology in the solar power industry is constantly advancing and improvements will intensify in the future. Innovations in quantum physics and nanotechnology can potentially increase the effectiveness of solar panels and double, or even triple, the electrical input of the solar power systems.
3.How is Solar Energy Generated :
Solar power is arguably the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable energy available, and it can be used in several forms to help power your home or business. Solar-poweredphotovoltaic (PV) panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity by exciting electrons in silicon cells using the photons of light from the sun. This electricity can then be used to supply renewable energy to your home or business.
To understand this process further, let’s look at the solar energy components that make up a complete solar power system.
The roof system
In most solar systems, solar panels are placed on the roof. An ideal site will have no shade on the panels, especially during the prime sunlight hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; a south-facing installation will usually provide the optimum potential for your system, but other orientations may provide sufficient production. Trees or other factors that cause shading during the day will cause significant decreases to power production. The importance of shading and efficiency cannot be overstated. In a solar panel, if even just one of its 36 cells is shaded, power production will be reduced by more than half. Experienced installation contractors such as NW Wind & Solar use a device called a Solar Pathfinder to carefully identify potential areas of shading prior to installation.
Solar panels, also known as modules, contain photovoltaic cells made from silicon that transform incoming sunlight into electricity rather than heat. (”Photovoltaic” means electricity from light — photo = light, voltaic = electricity.)
Solar photovoltaic cells consist of a positive and a negative film of silicon placed under a thin slice of glass. As the photons of the sunlight beat down upon these cells, they knock the electrons off the silicon. The negatively-charged free electrons are preferentially attracted to one side of the silicon cell, which creates an electric voltage that can be collected and channeled. This current is gathered by wiring the individual solar panels together in series to form a solar photovoltaic array. Depending on the size of the installation, multiple strings of solar photovoltaic array cables terminate in one electrical box, called a fused array combiner. Contained within the combiner box are fuses designed to protect the individual module cables, as well as the connections that deliver power to the inverter. The electricity produced at this stage is DC (direct current) and must be converted to AC (alternating current) suitable for use in your home or business.
The inverter is typically located in an accessible location, as close as practical to the modules. In a residential application, the inverter is often mounted to the exterior sidewall of the home near the electrical main or sub panels. Since inverters make a slight noise, this should be taken into consideration when selecting the location.
The inverter, electricity production meter, and electricity net meter are connected so that power produced by your solar electric system will first be consumed by the electrical loads currently in operation. The balance of power produced by your solar electric system passes through your electrical panel and out onto the electric grid. Whenever you are producing more electricity from your solar electric system than you are immediately consuming, your electric utility meter will turn backwards!
In a solar electric system that is also tied to the utility grid, the DC power from the solar array is converted into 120/240 volt AC power and fed directly into the utility power distribution system of the building. The power is “net metered,” which means it reduces demand for power from the utility when the solar array is generating electricity – thus lowering the utility bill. These grid-tied systems automatically shut off if utility power goes offline, protecting workers from power being back fed into the grid during an outage. These types of solar-powered electric systems are known as “on grid” or “battery-less” and make up approximately 98% of the solar power systems being installed today.
Types of Solar Energy :
The first way to look at solar energy is by how it is converted into useful energy. There are two types in this first group…
- Passive Solar Energy
- Active Solar Energy
The second way look at solar energy is by the type of energy it is converted into. There are three types in this second group…
- Solar Thermal Energy
- Photovoltaic Solar Power
- Concentrating Solar Power
Application Of Solar Energy :
Application of solar energy are as follows:
(a) Solar water heating
(b) Solar heating of buildings
(c) Solar distillation
(d) Solar pumping
(e) Solar drying of agricultural and animal products
(f) Solar furnaces
(g) Solar cooking
(h) Solar electric power generation
(i) Solar thermal power production
(j) Solar green houses.
Advantage Of Solar Energy :
- Solar power is pollution free and causes no greenhouse gases to be emitted after installation
- Reduced dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels
- Renewable clean power that is available every day of the year, even cloudy days produce some power
- Return on investment unlike paying for utility bills
- Virtually no maintenance as solar panels last over 30 years
- Creates jobs by employing solar panel manufacturers, solar installers, etc. and in turn helps the economy
- Excess power can be sold back to the power company if grid intertied
- Ability to live grid free if all power generated provides enough for the home / building
- Can be installed virtually anywhere; in a field to on a building
- Use batteries to store extra power for use at night
- Solar can be used to heat water, power homes and building, even power cars
- Safer than traditional electric current
- Efficiency is always improving so the same size solar that is available today will become more efficient tomorrow
- Aesthetics are improving making the solar more versatile compared to older models; i.e. printing, flexible, solar shingles, etc.
- Federal grants, tax incentives, and rebate programs are available to help with initial costs
Disadvantage Of Solar Energy :
High initial costs for material and installation and long ROI
- Needs lots of space as efficiency is not 100% yet
- No solar power at night so there is a need for a large battery bank
- Some people think they are ugly (I am definitely not one of those!)
- Devices that run on DC power directly are more expensive
- Depending on geographical location the size of the solar panels vary for the same power generation
- Cloudy days do not produce much energy
- Solar panels are not being massed produced due to lack of material and technology to lower the cost enough to be more affordable
- Solar powered cars do not have the same speeds and power as typical gas powered cars
- Lower production in the winter months
Solar Energy and Employment :
Annual Review 2017 presents the status of renewable energy employment, both by technology and in selected countries, over the past year. In this fourth edition, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds that renewable energy employed 9.8 million people around the world in 2016 – a 1.1% increase over 2015.
Jobs in renewables excluding large hydropower increased by 2.8%, to reach 8.3 million in 2016. China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable energy jobs. The shift to Asia continued, with 62% of the global total located in the continent.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) power was the largest employer, with 3.1 million jobs, up 12% from 2015. The growth came mainly from China, the United States and India, whereas jobs decreased for the first time in Japan, and continued to decline in the European Union. New wind power installations in the United States, Germany, India and Brazil, meanwhile, contributed to the increase in global wind employment by 7%, to reach 1.2 million jobs.
Liquid biofuels (1.7 million jobs), solid biomass (0.7 million) and biogas (0.3 million) were also major employers, with jobs concentrated in feedstock supply. Brazil, China, the United States and India were key bioenergy job markets.
Jobs in solar heating and cooling declined 12% to 0.8 million amid an installation slowdown in major markets such as China, Brazil and the European Union.
Large hydropower employed 1.5 million people (direct jobs), with around 60% of those in operation and maintenance. Key job markets were China, India, Brazil, the Russian Federation and Viet Nam.
In addition to the annual update on jobs in the sector, the report includes findings from a workplace survey in the Middle East and North Africa on barriers to women in clean energy labour markets. Although gender discrimination seems less pronounced in renewable energy employment than in the energy sector at large, challenges remain for women in regard to employment and promotion. IRENA conducted the survey with the Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
Key Challenges of Solar Technology :
- Land Scarcity: Per capita land availability is very low in India, and land is a scarce resource. Dedication of land area near substations for exclusive installation of solar cells might have to compete with other necessities that require land.
- Funding of initiatives like National Solar Mission is a constraint given India’s inadequate financing capabilities. The finance ministry has explicitly raised concerns about funding an ambitious scheme like NSM.
- Manufacturers are mostly focused on export markets that buy Solar PV cells and modules at higher prices thereby increasing their profits. Many new suppliers have tie-ups with foreign players in Europe and United States thereby prioritizing export demand. This could result in reduced supplies for the fast-growing local market.
- The lack of closer industry-government cooperation for the technology to achieve scale.
- The need for focused, collaborative and goals driven R&D to help India attain technology leadership in PV.
- The need for a better financing infrastructure, models and arrangements to spur the PV industry and consumption of PV products.
- Training and development of human resources to drive industry growth and PV adoption
- The need for intra-industry cooperation in expanding the PV supply chain, in technical information sharing through conferences and workshops, in collaborating with BOS (balance of systems) manufacturers and in gathering and publishing accurate market data, trends and projections
- The need to build consumer awareness about the technology, its economics and right usage
- Complexity of subsidy structure & involvement of too many agencies like MNRE, IREDA, SNA, electricity board and electricity regulatory commission makes the development of solar PV projects difficult.
Comparison of different sources and Solar Energy :
Solar electricity is generated from the sun’s energy. The most common and efficient type of solar system is the photovoltaic solar system, which uses photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic cells absorb the sun’s radiation using a semi-conductor, which is then emitted as electrons and harnessed as electricity for powering the home. Solar power is clean, sustainable, free, and definitely renewable. During its production, solar electricity does not produce any emissions; hence it does not pollute the environment in any way. Solar is usually criticized because it requires high initial installation costs. However, federal and state-driven financial incentives have helped bring the prices down. It also offers high energy savings after installation. Although it cannot be produced when the sun is not shining, solar power can be stored in batteries or net-metered to the grid for future use.
Wind energy is produced after the rotation of wind turbines by natural winds. To enhance its production, wind energy is tapped on a large scale using wind farms. Wind is also totally clean, renewable, sustainable, and free — just like solar. Wind turbines can be placed in many different locations including very remote areas and oceans to maximize space usage. Wind turbines have been touted as the prime economic and development vehicles for rural and remote areas. In remote areas, which are not connected to the power grid, rural communities can tap electricity from wind turbines for their home and business uses. Like solar, wind turbines are usually discredited because they rely on weather conditions to generate electricity. They are also considered to be noisy and they also require substantial installation costs.
Globally, hydroelectric power is the most widely used renewable energy. It is generated from the mechanical energy of hydropower, which is the gravitational force/pressure that is present in flowing water. Basically, hydroelectric power is produced when hydropower causes mechanized turbines to turn/rotate; thereby creating mechanical/kinetic energy, which is then converted to ordinary electricity for home and industrial use. Like solar and wind energy, hydroelectric power is 100% clean, renewable and sustainable. Resources are not wasted and no pollutants are released during its production. Hydroelectric energy has several disadvantages including the astronomical costs of building power hydroelectric plants and water (thus environmental) disruption during damming.
India a Potential Game Changer for Solar Power :
Indian electrical energy storage market is in its infancy however it carries significant market potential. India has few pumped hydro storage facilities with total just over 6,500 MWs of capacity. Apart from these facilities there are few other utility scale storage projects currently operating in India, though in recent times there have been announcements of various demonstration projects and investments in building infrastructure. Due to higher renewable energy contribution, which is currently about 13 percent of total electricity generation and high peak deficit, which is more than 10 percent, India increasingly demands energy storage integration. At the moment, there are few successfully implemented large scale energy storage projects available in the country and some projects are also under construction. Among the operational and under construction projects, most of the facilities are pumped hydro storage and a few are thermal storages. Some of the major pumped hydro storage projects are among others the Sardar Sarovar Pumped Storage Power Station and Bhira Pumped Storage Hydro Plant. These pumped hydro projects are open loop pumped hydro projects. Pumped hydro plants include high rated power capacity compared to other technologies. The types of technology implemented under thermal storage are molten salt, heat thermal, chilled water thermal and sodium-potassium nitrate molten salt thermal technology. Electrochemical storage projects are also being implemented, an example is the Sun-carrier Omega Net Zero Building in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, where a vanadium redox flow battery is used. The building was equipped with an electro chemical storage for off-grid solar powered facilities. The electricity charging the vanadium redox flow battery is provided by a photovoltaic system for the lighting and air conditioning of the building.
Storage solutions in India
Developed countries like USA, UK, Canada, Germany and Japan have already implemented many large scale energy storage systems. These energy storage systems are basically used for on-site power, ramping, transmission congestion relief, renewable energy time shift and load following. Moreover they include frequency regulation, electric energy time shift and black start. Also applications like electric bill management and voltage support are becoming increasingly important. Successful implementation of these large scale energy storage projects helps to supply reliable power. In India, currently there are four major applications for energy storage, which are renewable energy time shift, capacity firming, onsite generation shifting and electric energy time shift. The India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), which aims to facilitate storage solutions and microgrid deployment in India, identified some of the main applications for storage systems in the country, which are reasonable to be implemented in near future. Grid stabilization becomes increasingly important. This is reflected by the plans of the Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) to invest US $26 billion in the expansion of the transmission program for the next five to six years in India. In order to complement the grid extension Indian Central Electricity Regulatory Authority (CERC) is currently working on a policy framework to introduce ancillary markets with initial focus on frequency regulation. Moreover rural electrification is still a very important application field. Despite massive rural electrification plans, India has nearly 54,000 unelectrified villages. Even in most of the electrified villages not only the connected households are a fraction of the total but for many villages power is available for less than 8 hours per day. Off-grid power generation augmented by local renewable energy in a micro-grid mode is therefore an attractive option to energize 125,000 villages in India in addition. Indian government has also allocated about US$4 billion over the next eight years to promote hybrid and pure electric vehicles, through research and development and establishing the necessary infrastructure. The government aims the adoption of 6 million Hybrid (HEVs) and Electric Vehicles (EVs) across various customer segments in 2020.
Current and future development of Indian storage market
Based on the continued economic growth in India and the huge push given by various initiatives by Indian government for energy security, IESA analyzed the market potential for electrical energy storage solutions in India in detail. As a result a total potential of
15-20 GW for all technologies types (including thermal storage) in India through 2020 is estimated. Storage systems for micro-grids or grid connected applications in rural areas will be the most important segment in the future. Also the usage for industrial emergency backup and in the agricultural sector show big potential. With this expected market size, and the possibility of bringing down the cost of storage solutions through localization, the Indian market holds the potential to be a game changer for the energy storage industry.
Final Thought :
I hope climate science becomes the big thing. And then what I want is electrical engineers to solve the world’s energy problems, energy distribution problems. I want mechanical engineers to make better transportation systems. I want chemical engineers to develop better solar panels, and so on.
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