Tag Archives: solar power

Cleaning Solar Panels without Water

Most installations of solar panels are in desert areas that provide plentiful amounts of sunshine. While the desert property is cheap, winds are also common. When the wind blows, it carries a huge amount of dust, which forms a layer on the solar panels. Dust on the solar panel reduces their performance, and the electrical output from the panel can reduce by about 30% with only a month of exposure to the elements.

For a 150 MW solar panel installation, even a 1% drop in the output could translate to a loss in yearly revenue to the tune of US$200,000. According to researchers, a reduction of 3 to 4% power output from solar plants all over the world could lead to an annual loss of nearly US$3.3 billion to US$5.5 billion. Therefore, it is essential to keep solar panels clean, and the most common technique presently is by using water.

However, keeping solar panels clean presently requires an annual supply of nearly 10 billion gallons of water. This is enough water necessary for a million people in developing countries. Cleaning solar panels without water is a labor-intensive task, and carries with it the high risk of scratching and damaging the surface of the panels, which also leads to a reduction in the efficiency of the cells.

MIT researchers have come up with an innovative method of cleaning the surface of solar panels. The method does not require the use of water, is contactless, and is automatic.

This innovative new method from MIT uses electrostatic repulsion. This makes the dust particles jump off the panels and does not require water or brushes. When activated, the system runs an electrode just above the surface of the panel. This results in the dust particles acquiring an electrical charge. The solar panels have a transparent conductive layer on top of their glass covering, and this is only a few nanometers thick. The system applies the same electric charge to this transparent conductive layer.

The same charge on the conductive layer and the dust particles makes them repel each other. As the conductive layer cannot move, the dust particles fall off the panel because of the repulsion. The researchers had to change the voltage until they found a range that overcame the adhesion forces and the pull of gravity and allowed the dust to lift away. They then automated the system using guide rails on the sides of the panel and an electric motor.

This is not the first time that engineers have tried to use an electrostatics-based approach to keeping solar panels clean. However, most approaches used electrodynamic screens and interdigitated electrodes. The problem with such screens is they allow ingress of moisture that can damage the electronics. If the atmosphere is dry, and moisture is not an issue, such as on the surface of Mars, the arrangement could be useful. However, on Earth, this can be a serious problem, because even the desert has ample amounts of moisture.

The researchers have found that as long as the humidity is more than 30%, dust removal was easy. However, the process of dust removal got increasingly more difficult with a decrease in humidity. 

Solar Powered Drone Beams Internet

Certain regions of the Earth are presently out of the ambit of the Internet. Nearly 10% of the population or more than 4 billion people live so far from fiber optic cables or cell towers that they are unable to reach the Internet. Facebook is set to end this isolation by having a drone fly overhead while beaming Internet down to such areas.

At their Connectivity Lab, which is a division of Facebook’s Internet.org, researchers confirm the completion of such a drone. This is the first step Facebook is taking before it builds a larger fleet. They have not yet flown the craft, but Facebook has already been testing their concept over the UK with versions one-tenth the size. They intend to conduct flight tests of the full-size drone before the end of this year.

Facebook will be using the solar-powered V-shaped carbon fiber craft, named Aquila or Eagle (in Latin), for beaming down wireless Internet connectivity to expand Internet access. About a year ago, Facebook launched Internet.org. Although their intentions were to provide Internet access to those in the world who do not have a reliable connection, the project has received a lot of dissension for not adhering to net neutrality – especially in India.

Facebook has designed and built Aquila in 14 months. The drone will fly in the air for 90 days without touchdown. To launch it up into the air initially, technicians will be attaching Helium balloons to the plane.

With a wingspan of 46 yards or 42 meters, Aquila has to move constantly to stay aloft. Therefore, it will circle a three-km or two-mile radius. During the day, when the craft can generate energy from the sun, it will float up to 90-thousand feet or 30 Km. However, the craft drifts down to 60-thousand feet or 20 Km at night for conserving energy. While not planning to sell the drones at present, Facebook intends to use them for expanding Internet access.

The research team has been able to increase the data capacity of the lasers involved in the project. This is one of the biggest breakthroughs as the new system can communicate at speeds of 10 GB per second using a ground-based laser to talk to the dome on the underbelly of the plane. This is about 10 times faster than the current capabilities allow.

Facebook is not alone in their endeavors to bring wireless Internet to rural regions. Rivals Google also have a program up their sleeve – Project Loon. They plan to put up high-altitude Helium balloons with transmitters attached. Although Google has not launched their project yet, they claim it is in a more advanced stage compared to where Aquila is at present.

Therefore, very soon, you may see a huge 900 lb. drone nearly the size of a Boeing 737, slowly circling 11 miles up in the sky. Currently, Facebook’s mission is mired in controversy. All over the world, critics are questioning several practices of Facebook’s Internet.org on security, fairness and privacy grounds. There is a danger countries may spy on and repress their citizens. In addition, first-time users of the Internet might be limited to what Facebook provides them as news and information.

Energy Harvesting – How & Why

What Is Energy Harvesting – Why Is It Needed?

The process of extracting small quantities of energy from one or more natural, inexhaustible sources, accumulation and storage for subsequent use at an affordable cost is called Energy Harvesting. Specially developed electronic devices that enable this task are termed Energy Harvesting Devices.

The world is facing acute energy crisis and global warming, stemming from rapid depletion of the traditional sources of energy such as oil, coal, fossil fuels, etc., which are on the verge of exhaustion. Not only is the global economy nose-diving, but the damage to the environment is also threatening our very existence. Natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods, storms, etc., have become the order of the day. Economic growth is generating a spiraling demand for energy, goading us to tap alternative sources of energy on a war footing. Our very existence on the planet Earth is at stake, and we must find immediate solutions to meet the energy needs for survival.

Alternative Energy Sources Available

There are many, almost inexhaustible, sources of energy in nature. In addition, these energy forms are available almost free, if available close to the place where required. Sources include: Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Tidal Energy, Energy from the waves of the ocean, Bio Energy, Electromagnetic Energy, Chemical Energy, and so on.

Recent Advances in Technology

The sources listed above provide miniscule quantities of energy. The challenge before us is to gather the miniscule amounts and generate meaningful quantities of energy at affordable cost. Until very recently, this has remained an unfulfilled challenge.

Today, research and innovation has resulted in creation of more efficient devices to capture minute amounts of energy from these sources and convert them into electrical energy. Besides, better technology has led to lower power consumption, and hence higher power efficiency. These have been the major propelling factors for better, more efficient energy harvesting techniques, making it a viable solution. These solutions are considered to be more reliable and relatively maintenance free compared to traditional wall sockets, expensive batteries, etc.

Basic Building Blocks of an Energy Harvesting System

An Energy Harvesting System essentially consists of:

a) One or more sources of renewable energy (solar, wind, ocean or other type of energy)
b) An appropriate transducer to capture the energy and to convert it into electrical energy (such as solar cells for use in conjunction with solar power, a windmill for wind power, a turbine for hydro power, etc.)
c) An energy harvesting module to accumulate, store and control electrical power
d) A means of conveying the power to the user application (such as a transmission line)
e) The user application that consumes the power

With advancement in technology, various interface modules are commercially available at affordable prices. Combined with the enhanced awareness of the efficacy of Energy Harvesting, more and more applications and utilities are progressively using alternative sources of energy, which is a definite sign of progress to effectively deal with the global energy crisis.

Optional addition of power conditioning systems like voltage boosters, etc., can enhance the applications, but one must remember that such devices also consume power, which again brings down the efficiency and adds to cost.

Solar Energy – a beginner’s look

Solar energy is an exciting field for both scientific study and home and office use, representing the modern drive to find clean, sustainable ways to power everyday life while protecting the planet for generations to come. Solar energy is created by the sun, which plays host to constant explosions of heat and energy. This energy radiates light that eventually reaches Earth, where water, land, and the clouds in the atmosphere absorb a portion.

This light manifests as heat and helps to regulate the planet’s water cycles, including rainfall. Solar energy is converted into food for trees and plants via photosynthesis, and in turn provides the Earth with oxygen and the natural materials necessary for human habitation.

With the many intrinsic and ancient benefits of solar energy we’ve enjoyed over the centuries, it is perhaps unsurprising that modern man has taken it upon himself to truly harness the potential of this natural power source. Solar power is fast becoming a popular way for businesses and homeowners to cut down on energy costs while making a commitment to the health of the environment.

Solar power itself can take many forms, operating for instance through the means of solar panels, which convert radiation from the sun to practical electric energy suitable for a variety of uses, and can store this energy in batteries.

Other common applications for solar power include pumps, switches, and fans for various industrial purposes, greenhouse and other thermal agricultural uses, and special technologies employed in space, such as those used to operate satellites.

Taking advantage of natural solar energy is not only an efficient way to power machines, houses, and more, but is cost-effective as well. Many entrepreneurs and environmentally savvy homeowners find that using solar power greatly diminishes their average monthly electricity expenditures, adding a welcome benefit to the clean and green energy source.

As oil prices fluctuate, and we become more aware of our impact on the global ecosystem, it is becoming imperative that we search for and use renewable sources of energy, and seek to live in a sustainable fashion, so that future generations can enjoy a happy and healthy planet. The use of solar energy through solar power panels and other technologies is an important step in reducing your overall energy footprint, and can give you — and your wallet — a sincere sense of peace and well being.

Solar energy can help sell your home

Anyone who is trying to sell a house knows that some improvements like adding a new bathroom or a complete kitchen renovation may increase the value of a home however most people might not consider that an investment in solar panels or other renewable energy sources may be another positive investment in their home.

According to a study that was recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), solar photovoltaic (PV) panels added on average between 3 percent and 4 percent to the value of a home. This study, which examined homes in California, suggests that homeowners might fully recover their costs of purchasing and installing solar panels when they sell their home. Since solar panels require very little maintenance and are becoming increasingly more affordable to buy and install, this is another way to increase the resale value and marketability of your home. Some of the most common installations in homes are for water heaters, pool heaters and outdoor lighting. As the technology improves and the cost of solar panels continues to drop, more and more homeowners (and potential buyers!) will be looking for solar energy systems for their homes.

IKEA completes solar installation in Tempe; 8 more planned

Yesterday, IKEA announced it had flipped the switch on newly installed dual rooftop solar units at its Tempe, Arizona store. The new system is one of the largest solar systems in the Phoenix area and the third such solar energy system for the Swedish home furnishings retailer; they have similar units already in place in Brooklyn, NY and Pittsburgh, PA.

The 300 kW solar energy system will generate 960,000 kWh of electricity annually from 2600 solar panels. It is the equivalent of reducing at least 760 tons of (C02) – which equals the emissions of 133 cars or powering 84 homes annually.

IKEA has other renewable energy initiatives in place. Already operating is solar water heating in stores in Charlotte, N.C.; Draper, Utah; Orlando, Florida; and Tampa, Florida. In addition, a geothermal system is being installed in a store under construction in Centennial, Colorado.

It was also announced that eight California locations are on deck for solar systems. In all, IKEA will be installing nearly 20,000 solar panels at eight of its California locations. IKEA expects the panels to generate 6.65 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually which is enough to power 580 homes for a year. Pending governmental approval, it will begin installing the renewable energy systems later this fall at existing stores in East Palo Alto, Emeryville, West Sacramento, Burbank, Costa Mesa, Covina and San Diego along with its large distribution center in Tejon.

The New York Jets are green on and off the field

With the installation of an array of 3000 solar panels, the New York Jets have really set themselves apart from other professional sports teams. Their team headquarters and 120,000 square foot training facility will be powered by the solar panels that will generate an estimated 750,000 kilo-watt hours of electricity.

Other sports teams have installed alternative energy systems at their training camps and stadiums, but the system at the Jets facility is the largest to date.

The New York Jets can wear their long-time green jerseys proudly – their commitment to providing a source of green energy at their training camp is an inspiration for the rest of the league.

The future of solar power: Flexible solar panels

As the popularity of solar energy grows, so does the selection of solar equipment that is made available. The big trend in solar energy right now is flexible panels.

Flexible solar panels have many advantages over traditional framed solar panels. The flexible solar panels are lightweight so there is less worry in the installation process and during use. They can also be installed on a semi-permanent basis because they are very easy to remove and install elsewhere.

Probably the biggest advantage is that they can be manufactured in any size or shape so they can be used in unconventional places.

In the past, the biggest disadvantage of the flexible solar panels is that they could only power low-wattage devices however that has changed significantly in the past year as new solar technology has been introduced. The newest flexible panels that are available for commercial applications have the ability to collect more energy than earlier versions.

In the future, we will be seeing even more advances in solar energy products based on this emerging technology.

Deal Alert! 50W Solar Panels Prices Slashed!

Don’t you wish you could save some money heating your house? Here’s a super deal you won’t want to pass up.

If you’ve been waiting to start building a solar energy system, you’re in luck. We are offering our 50W Mono-Crystalline Solar Panels at a outrageously low price of $299.99. We only have 6 4 left, so don’t delay! We expect the 50W solar panels to sell out quickly at this price. We’re trying to get more, but we can not be sure we will be able to.

Multiple 50W Solar panels can be connected in series for more voltage, or in parallel for more current. Use these to in part to build complete on grid and off grid solar power generating systems. Excellent for use with deep cycle battery banks and solar charge controller regulator.

Added benefit: Our solar panels are made of Monocrystalline silicon. Mono-crystalline has been proven to be the best and most efficient raw material used in PV cells. Use Mono-Crystalline panels to capture the most energy from solar power.

Solar energy is a small investment that delivers big benefits. Once you are harnessing the power of the sun’s rays, you’ll wonder why you waited so long!

Choosing Batteries for a Solar Energy System

When putting together a solar energy system, like any other project, having the proper parts and tools for the job is paramount to overall success. With quality components and a little bit of know how, you can design and install your very own solar energy system whether for dedicated appliance use or as a complete replacement for conventional electric energy. Choosing the right parts is a big step in the process, and once you’ve decided which type of solar panels to use and how many you’ll need, the next logical step is to find appropriate batteries.

The most important step in choosing batteries for your solar energy system is making sure you purchase a bank with corresponding voltage to the panel array you’ve designed. The voltage of individual battery units on the market is 2; depending on how many individual battery units come in the bank, the voltage of the unit itself will be 2, 4, 6, 8, and so on. Once you’ve established the correct voltage for your battery bank, you can browse the available types and models to arrive at the perfect unit for your system. There are four basic kinds of battery banks widely available for purchase: marine models, and “industrial strength” varieties which include flooded, gel, and AGM features.

The marine models, commonly used on boats and small vehicles such as golf carts, tend to be the least inexpensive, and may be an option for small solar projects or those requiring solar powering for a limited period of time. In the long run, however, purchasing an industrial battery bank will save money. Flooded battery types are an economical option, with a moderate price and a reasonable longevity. These types release gas while charging, and so are not suitable for indoor use. Gel batteries, while a little more expensive, do not release gas allowing for indoor use, and come with a slightly longer life expectancy. Finally, AGM batteries may cost more, but have numerous benefits, including the longest longevity available, lack of gas or other leakage, and superior efficiency.

Taking care to select the battery bank that’s right for your solar system and its application is an important part of the overall design process, and, if done carefully, can lead to many years of nearly maintenance-free energy enjoyment. Shop with quality in mind and give yourself the gift of peace of mind for years to come.