Tag Archives: Solar Power

Innovations in Solar: Solar Powered Stop Signs

Solar Powered ‘Smart Stop Sign’ Developed To Curb Rural Traffic Crashes

A low-cost, self-powered, intersection detection and warning system to alert rural motorists about potential dangers has the potential to improve driver safety and save lives, according to engineers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) who developed and are testing the new thermal technology.

The warning system, which was announced earlier this month, was designed to detect vehicles and improve the visibility of stop signs. It runs on solar power and is installed on stop signs. It is an important safety innovation, the engineers noted, as according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than half of the road crash deaths nationally occur on rural road. And without access to a power supply, rural roads are more likely than others to lack signals and active traffic signage.

“Stop signs on rural roads are difficult to notice, and this leads to dangerous accidents,” Ayetullah Biten, a doctoral candidate in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said in a statement.

The “smart stop sign” uses a multi-pixel passive infrared sensor that detects a vehicle as it approaches an intersection. When the vehicle is within range, a signal beacon triggers the stop sign’s flashing system.

Compared to current traffic sensing technologies in urban areas, the new system consumes less power, is much less expensive to produce, and offers better accuracy, the engineers said. (The “smart” system, they said, has a 90 % accuracy rate for vehicle detection.)

“Our off-roadway system can be installed on urban or rural roads completely independent of the utility power grid, because it is powered by small solar panels and functions in all weather conditions,” Sara Ahmed, a professor in the UTSA College of Engineering and one the system’s creators, said in a statement.

The project team expects to adapt the “smart stop sign” technology for other uses, including pedestrian detection, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and exportation to countries with limited access to power grids.

The potential international reach has wide-ranging implications, Natalie Draisin, the North American director for the FIA Foundation, a nonprofit based in London, told Forbes. 

“Low-cost innovations are important to improve road safety, particularly as 90% of road traffic fatalities occur in low- and middle- income countries.” 

But it is also important to remain focused on existing solutions, like monitoring speed.

“Around the world, we know that prominent signs encourage safer driving, but they must be coupled with proven infrastructure measures, and consistent enforcement to end the 1.35 million roads deaths each year.”

Source: Forbes

Solar Myths: Clouds Impact on Solar

Do clouds impact solar production?

Solar panels operate on cloudy days, but the productivity will be lower. Clouds blocking the sun limit the amount of direct sunlight the solar panels can absorb. The decrease in sunlight absorbed by solar panels results in less electricity produced. Overall a few cloudy days won’t ruin your dream of a successful solar project. The determining factor of a prosperous system is the amount of sun your area receives over an entire year.

“Photovoltaic panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power, though they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. The rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt. ”


SEIA

Solar Chief is a proud member of the Solar Energy Industries Association(SEIA).

5 Interesting Facts About Solar Energy

1. Solar energy can provide power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Technological advances in solar storage space has made 24/7 storage possible.

2. Homeowners in the U.S. have achieved break even point with solar in as short as 3 years

The cost of solar has plummeted while the cost of grid electricity has continued to gradually rise, and the concept of the solar “break-even point” with solar has become more and more attractive. Some homeowners are seeing break-even points as low as three to four years in states where utility prices are high.

3. Solar energy is a completely free source of energy

Solar is found in abundance. Though the sun is 90 million miles from the earth, it takes less than 10 minutes for light to travel from that much of distance.

4. First silicon cell was built in 1954

The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. On the first page of its April 26, 1954 issueThe New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

5. Solar Power reduces electricity bills

Solar power can significantly reduce the electricity bills. Moreover, there are many tax incentives and rebate programs designed to spur the use of solar, and save home owners money at the same time.

Innovations in Solar: Could Solar Power Stations in Space Supply the World with Limitless Energy?

Experts are saying that a solar power station in space would provide all of the energy needed around the world. While on the surface of the Earth, society still struggles to adopt solar energy solutions, many scientists maintain that giant, space-based solar farms could provide an environmentally-friendly answer to the world’s energy crisis.

“Above the Earth, there’s no day and night cycle and no clouds or weather or anything else that might obstruct the sun’s ray, so a constant power source is available,” said Ali Hajimiri, professor of electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and co-director of the university’s Space Solar Power Project.

Global energy demands are only going to grow, says Hajimiri. The global population is expected to reach a staggering 9.6 billion by 2050, according to a United Nations report, so methods of generating large quantities of clean energy must be found. A space-based solar power system could provide energy to everyone, even in places that don’t receive sunlight all year round, like northern Europe and Russia.

One of the biggest issues to overcome is that of getting an array of solar panels large enough to make the project viable into orbit.
However, with SpaceX and Blue Origin slowly driving the cost of orbital delivery down, suddenly the concept seems a little closer to reality.

This completed array would orbit about 22,000 miles above the Earth and “beam” the energy back down to the surface. The photovoltaic array converts the sunlight into electricity, which in turn is converted into RF electrical power (microwaves) that are beamed wirelessly to ground-based receivers. These would take the form of giant wire nets measuring up to four miles across that could be installed across deserts or farmland or even over lakes.

A solar facility like this could generate a constant flow of 2,000 gigawatts of power, Mankins estimates, compared to the largest solar farm that exists today in Aswan, southern Egypt, that only generates in the region of 1.8 gigawatts.

Source Forbes

Going Solar: Paying for Solar System

Going solar is a financial no brainer. What are the ways to purchase solar system?

Homeowners can pay for solar with cash, credit cards or financing. There are also solar lease options available, some even include no-money-down programs. However, you wouldn’t qualify for rebates or tax breaks if you lease the solar panels; those incentives go to the owner of the system.

For homeowners who are eligible to refinance into a lower, fixed-rate mortgage, a cash-out refinance might be a low-cost way to pay for a solar system, provided you can afford the monthly mortgage payments.

Finally, if you decide to make the clean-energy switch, be sure to look out for any federal, state and county-wide incentive programs, which could save you thousands of dollars. Politics can be unpredictable so take advantage of the tax credits available now. The federal tax credit of 30% will only be valid till 12/31/2019. After 12/31/2019 the federal tax credit will decrease to 26%. Then on 12/31/2020, the tax credit will be reduced to 22%. Now is the time to act in order to receive the tax credit advantage.

Before going solar contact your accountant to fully understand the tax credits impact on your financial situation.

Federal Solar Tax Credit*

The Federal Government offers a Tax rebate of 30% of your total solar system cost. There is no set cap to this rebate. It must be used on the same tax year that the system was installed.

State Tax Credit*

South Carolina has a state tax credit of 25% of the total cost of your solar system. This is capped at $3,500 or 50% of your tax liabilities. These tax credits can be carried out for up to 10 years.

Contact Solar Chief for free site evaluation and quote! We would be happy to discuss all of your financial options.

Solar Radiation Basics

Solar radiation, often called the solar resource, is a general term for the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. Solar radiation can be captured and turned into useful forms of energy, such as heat and electricity, using a variety of technologies. However, the technical feasibility and economical operation of these technologies at a specific location depends on the available solar resource.

BASIC PRINCIPLES

Every location on Earth receives sunlight at least part of the year. The amount of solar radiation that reaches any one spot on the Earth’s surface varies according to:

  • Geographic location
  • Time of day
  • Season
  • Local landscape
  • Local weather.

Because the Earth is round, the sun strikes the surface at different angles, ranging from 0° (just above the horizon) to 90° (directly overhead). When the sun’s rays are vertical, the Earth’s surface gets all the energy possible. The more slanted the sun’s rays are, the longer they travel through the atmosphere, becoming more scattered and diffuse. Because the Earth is round, the frigid polar regions never get a high sun, and because of the tilted axis of rotation, these areas receive no sun at all during part of the year.

The Earth revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit and is closer to the sun during part of the year. When the sun is nearer the Earth, the Earth’s surface receives a little more solar energy. The Earth is nearer the sun when it is summer in the southern hemisphere and winter in the northern hemisphere. However, the presence of vast oceans moderates the hotter summers and colder winters one would expect to see in the southern hemisphere as a result of this difference.

The 23.5° tilt in the Earth’s axis of rotation is a more significant factor in determining the amount of sunlight striking the Earth at a particular location. Tilting results in longer days in the northern hemisphere from the spring (vernal) equinox to the fall (autumnal) equinox and longer days in the southern hemisphere during the other 6 months. Days and nights are both exactly 12 hours long on the equinoxes, which occur each year on or around March 23 and September 22.

Countries such as the United States, which lie in the middle latitudes, receive more solar energy in the summer not only because days are longer, but also because the sun is nearly overhead. The sun’s rays are far more slanted during the shorter days of the winter months. Cities such as Denver, Colorado, (near 40° latitude) receive nearly three times more solar energy in June than they do in December.

The rotation of the Earth is also responsible for hourly variations in sunlight. In the early morning and late afternoon, the sun is low in the sky. Its rays travel further through the atmosphere than at noon, when the sun is at its highest point. On a clear day, the greatest amount of solar energy reaches a solar collector around solar noon.

DIFFUSE AND DIRECT SOLAR RADIATION

As sunlight passes through the atmosphere, some of it is absorbed, scattered, and reflected by:

  • Air molecules
  • Water vapor
  • Clouds
  • Dust
  • Pollutants
  • Forest fires
  • Volcanoes.

This is called diffuse solar radiation. The solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface without being diffused is called direct beam solar radiation. The sum of the diffuse and direct solar radiation is called global solar radiation. Atmospheric conditions can reduce direct beam radiation by 10% on clear, dry days and by 100% during thick, cloudy days.

MEASUREMENT

Scientists measure the amount of sunlight falling on specific locations at different times of the year. They then estimate the amount of sunlight falling on regions at the same latitude with similar climates. Measurements of solar energy are typically expressed as total radiation on a horizontal surface,or as total radiation on a surface tracking the sun.

Radiation data for solar electric (photovoltaic) systems are often represented as kilowatt-hours per square meter (kWh/m2). Direct estimates of solar energy may also be expressed as watts per square meter (W/m2).

Radiation data for solar water heating and space heating systems are usually represented in British thermal units per square foot (Btu/ft2).

DISTRIBUTION

The solar resource across the United States is ample for photovoltaic (PV) systems because they use both direct and scattered sunlight. Other technologies may be more limited. However, the amount of power generated by any solar technology at a particular site depends on how much of the sun’s energy reaches it. Thus, solar technologies function most efficiently in the southwestern United States, which receives the greatest amount of solar energy.

Article from Energy.gov

Benefits of Co-locating Solar and Crop Production

Are you a farmer or investor looking to add solar on a large property? The benefits of adding solar to your land will benefit not only the environment but also you financially. Contact Solar Chief for a free quote and evaluation.

Benefits to Agricultural Land Managers Include:

  • Reduced electricity costs
  • Diversification of the revenue stream
  • Increased ability to install high-value, shad- resistant crops for new markets
  • Marketing opportunity to sustainability-mindful audience
  • Ability to maintain crop production during solar generation
  • Allow for nutrient and land recharge of degraded lands.

Benefits to Solar Developers Include:

  • Reduced installation costs – The use of previously tilled agricultural may prevent the need for expensive grading to flatten land to a usable level.
  • Reduced upfront risk – Geotechnical risks can increase the cost of solar installation due to increased testing needs. Previously tilled agricultural land was identified as the “least risk option” during a series of surveys with solar installers.
  • Reduced legal risk – By using previously disturbed land, solar installers can reduce the risk of up front litigation during the environmental review process.
  • Potential increase PV performance – Vegetation under modules can contribute to lower soil temperatures and increase solar performance.

Source: Energy.gov

The Solar Panel Recycling Process

Recycling solar panels is a relatively complex task because they contain many different types of materials. Panels contain metals, such as lead, copper, gallium and cadmium; an aluminum frame; silicon solar cells; and synthetic material that encapsulates the silicon. The various materials must be separated to be properly recycled. Undamaged solar cells, for example, can often be recovered and reused in new products.

Solar panel recycling has both tremendous environmental and economic benefits. A 2016 study by IRENA estimates the recyclable materials in old solar modules will be worth $15 billion in recoverable value by the year 2050. IRENA predicts solar panel recycling can help spawn new industries and will create green job opportunities.

Article from Earth911

Check out this great video demonstrating the process of recycling silicon-based PV modules.

Innovations in Solar: U.S. Solar Market Adds 10.6 GW of PV in 2018

Source: SEIA Press Release

For the third year in a row, the U.S. solar industry installed double-digit gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, with 10.6 GW coming online in 2018.

“The solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules, but this report still finds a significant reason for optimism,” said SEIA’s president and CEO, Abigail Ross Hopper. “The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth.”

Total installed PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to rise by 14 percent in 2019 with annual installations reaching 15.8 GW in 2021.

In total, solar PV accounted for 29 percent of new electricity generating capacity additions in 2018, slightly less than in 2017 due to a surge in new natural gas plants. However, in 2018, 13.2 GW of utility-scale solar power purchase agreements were signed, pushing the contracted project pipeline to its highest point in the history of U.S. solar.

Innovations in Solar: China Plans To Build The World’s First Solar Power Station In Space

China is planning to build the world’s first solar-powered space station. They hope to reach a source of “inexhaustible clean energy” for their space station. China claims to have tested the technology and expect to build the space station by 2050.


“We plan to launch four to six tethered balloons from the testing base and connect them with each other to set up a network at an altitude of around 1,000 meters. These balloons will collect sunlight and convert solar energy to microwave before beaming it back to Earth. Receiving stations on the ground will convert such microwaves to electricity and distribute it to a grid.”

– Gengxin

In 1968, aerospace engineer Peter Glaser proposed the concept of a power-generating platform in geostationary orbit, but in terms of development there were to many technological and financial hurdles.

Source: Forbes