Solar Continues to Grow Around The World
From rooftop installations to utility-scale projects, solar power generation continues to grow around the globe. In this article, we run down some of the more innovative recent projects that give us hope for solar’s expansion here in the mid-Atlantic.
The Solar Farm Floating on an Abandoned Chinese Coal Mine
Just like the mid-Atlantic, eastern China is coal country. So too, the problems that have plagued the industry here in the U.S. have also hit hard over there. Which is why we think the floating solar farm recently highlighted in this recent report in Time Magazine is so cool. Sitting atop a lake formed when a former coal mine collapsed and flooded, the installation comprising 166,000 panels produces 40 megawatts of power, enough to power a small city. As Time points out, floating solar farms enjoy some meaningful advantages over land-based designs. For one thing, the water beneath the panels keeps them relatively cool, which boosts efficiency. For another, there is less ambient dust and debris to reduce the panels’ output, and when panels do get dirty, there’s a lake of water available to rinse them off. Floating solar farms aren’t necessarily a new idea, but when it comes to re-purposing abandoned coal mines, they make especially good sense.
Floating Solar Innovation in India
China isn’t the only country to have gotten in on the floating solar power game. As a comment in the Indian economic journal MoneyControl noted recently, several floating projects have been considered for development there that show the potential for even greater leaps of innovation (even if they still have some kinks to work out). One design featured panels floating on a canal, which would not only generate power but also prevent costly evaporation from the canal’s waterways. That project has not grown beyond the trial stage, however, because the panels would have completely covered stretches of the canal, potentially harming aquatic life. Another innovative concept in development in India features a patented system that concentrates solar energy onto solar panels (imagine a magnifying glass focused on a single solar cell), thereby boosting energy output per cell while reducing the amount of surface area the panels cover. Floating the panels in water allows for dissipation of the intense heat created by such a system.
Putting the “Farm” into Solar Farms in the U.K.
As reported in Renewable Energy Magazine, the city of Leicestershire in Great Britain recently approved a 10-megawatt solar farm to be tied into the country’s National Grid. There is nothing particularly unusual about the design of the new installation. But, it held particular appeal for the Leicestershire City Counsel because it breathed “new life into disused farmland”, an issue we’re also familiar with here in the mid-Atlantic, where the economics of operating family farms can pose challenges that lead to fields lying fallow. At Mountain View Solar, we regularly install solar panels on agricultural properties around the region, both in unused field areas and on roofs of farm buildings.
Replacing Diesel Generators With Solar Panels in Zambia
Speaking of farms, Renewable Energy World reported last fall that Zambian farmers are getting a boost from solar power with the installation of an array that supplements the sporadic energy delivered on the local power grid. In the past, these farmers would use diesel-generated power as a backup when the grid failed and they needed to irrigate their fields. But now, a solar array capable of generating the energy equivalent of burning 150 gallons per day in a diesel generator supplies clean, reliable output. In Zambia, a nation where blackouts are common and only a fifth of the population has access to power, even a modest solar installation represents a major improvement in living conditions. Of course, you needn’t be farming a plot in southern Africa to reap the benefits of an off-grid solar installation or grid-tied solar backup system on a farm – just ask one of the many farmers with whom we’ve worked.
Microgrids to the Rescue in Storm-Battered Puerto Rico
One of the most enduring hardships that Hurricane Maria inflicted on Puerto Rico last fall was the destruction of substantial portions of the island’s aging energy infrastructure. Despite progress toward recovery, a truck accident that plunged the island into another blackout recently highlighted the continued challenges of restoring reliable electricity there. But, in some parts of the island, residents didn’t even notice the blackout, thanks to solar microgrids that have been supplying power to some of the more remote parts of the island for months. As the journal Microgrid Knowledge reports, a network of solar manufacturers and non-profits have been deploying solar microgrids to vulnerable Puerto Rican communities that would otherwise have been the last to reconnect to the grid. As difficult as the situation remains in Puerto Rico, the testing and success of solar microgrids may end up as a long-term silver lining of this tumultuous period in the island’s history.
24/7 Summertime Solar Power…in Antarctica
When someone expresses doubts to us about the viability of solar power in the mid-Atlantic, we often tell them about the places far to the north of our latitude that see healthy solar production, such as Germany, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic. But it’s that spot as far south of us as you can possibly go that’s really the wonder. The zero-emission combined solar/wind project at Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station supplies all of the power the facility needs. During the Austral summer, the solar panels and thermal solar panels supply electricity and hot water 24/7, storing excess generated energy in a battery bank. The project’s companion wind turbines supplement production in the summer and supply the facility’s entire need during the dark Austral winter. So, the next time someone tries to tell you that solar panels don’t work anywhere but a desert, tell them to think again. They’re even active at the South Pole!
About Mountain View Solar
At Mountain View Solar we design and install solar energy systems throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Taking our cue from innovators around the globe, we strive to put solar panels to use improving the lives of our neighbors, making local businesses run more efficiently, and finding creative ways to bring solar power to corners of the region in need of an economic and environmental boost. As your local licensed and experienced contractor, contact us today to learn more about how you can put the sun to work for you!