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Posts tagged with: solar panels

Cambridge based solar technology company Polysolar has developed a hi-tech photovoltaic glass which could be used at next year’s Olympic Games in London and also the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Polysolar’s transparent PV glass has been designed for use by architects in windows, cladding and glass structures as a way of generating green energy. The glass is already in use in other countries and is able to generate 100w of energy from each pane of glass making it an effective way of generating clean energy from wall and roof space.

Explaining the idea behind the glass, Hamish Watson the founder of Polysolar said,

“Our product is different from any other solar panel on the market, because it can be used as a building material, making it a highly cost effective integral part of the building. Unlike traditional solar cells, which need to be southward facing, the glass can be positioned anywhere, so is more flexible for large scale architectural and engineering projects and hence it generates a higher yield.”

Importantly, Polysolar’s glass has received MCS certification for the UK feed-in tariff. This means that where installed, landlords will be able to generate revenue from the energy which the panes generate which is used or fed back into the national grid. The Ploysolar product will also have the attraction that where installed, property owners will see massive reductions in their electricity bills. Aside from the obvious financial benefits, Hamish Watson is well aware that the green credentials of solar pv technology will be very welcome by event organising committees.

“Our PV glass has generated a lot of interest and we are in discussions to install it at the 2012 Olympic village, where it could be used to help generate power for information displays across the site. We have also had early discussions with the organisers of the 2022 World Cup and the developers of London’s Walkie Talkie building – both projects are obviously quite exciting for our company.”

Having just got back from Intersolar, Europe’s largest solar trade fair, I thought I’d give a round-up of some of my highlights from the show.

Thin film solar modules

I’m particularly interested in certain thin film modules that have now demonstrated their reliability and are starting to gain market acceptance. Some thin film PV companies have been around for over 20 years and many have fallen by the wayside. The surviving companies however are now looking very strong. Their products have now proven themselves in the lab and in the field, and the companies that make them have found ways to reduce production costs and improve efficiency. Thin film has inherently lower manufacturing cost than crystalline silicon, and the potential for efficiency improvement is greater. Therefore I’m confident that over time we will be seeing more thin film get installed.

Storage

A common theme of this years show is storage. Every inverter manufacturer had some kind of energy storage product on show this year. Most solar inverter manufacturers offer back-up energy storage systems that use batteries (typically Lead-acid or Lithium Ion). These provide day/night storage so that solar energy can be used after the sun has set in the evening. Batteries however are not great for storing energy over long periods, so they don’t solve the problem that more energy is produced in summer months than during the winter.

To deal with this problem, Fronius have unveiled their ‘Energy Cell,’ a hydrogen fuel storage system for the home. During the summer, an electrolyzer uses excess electricity from the PV system to split hydrogen from water and store it in a tank. During the winter, this hydrogen is then turned back into useful electricity via a fuel cell. The system has already been a prototype for several years, but this year’s Intersolar showed the system as being almost ready for the mass market. Of course the technology will start out very expensive, but it shows that solar energy can deliver constant power, and its only a matter of time before the cost of the technology falls.

How the Fronius energy cell works

Inverters

We spent some time with SolarEdge who have strengthened their product range and now offer a wider range of inverter sizes, all fully accredited for the UK. They have also been developing their system to be used on larger installations, so people may use them on commercial jobs as well from now in. They also launched a new solar ‘tetris’ game for Xbox Kinect – has to be seen to be believed!

Racking

Hilti have just launched their new flat roof mounting system and it looks amazing. It will make flat roof installations much more secure and manageable, and mean much lower risk of damaging the laminate. Also cool is this robot, used for cleaning solar panels on large arrays. It has 20 moveable sucker pads on the bottom that allow it to hop around cleaning the panels without falling off!

Solar panels cleaning robot

 

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has today announced they will press ahead with their 1st August cut off date for large scale solar farms

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said, “I want to drive an ambitious roll out of new green energy technologies in homes, communities and small businesses and the FiT scheme has a vital part to play in building a more decentralised energy economy.

“We have carefully considered the evidence that has been presented as part of the consultation and this has reinforced my conviction of the need to make changes as a matter of urgency. Without action the scheme would be overwhelmed. The new tariffs will ensure a sustained growth path for the solar industry while protecting the money for householders, small businesses and communities and will also further encourage the uptake of green electricity from anaerobic digestion.”

The new tariffs (below) will go ahead from August 1, 2011 and will apply to all new market entrants.

>50 kW – ≤ 150 kW Total Installed Capacity (TIC) - 19.0p/ kWh
>150 kW – ≤ 250 kW TIC – 15.0p/ kWh
250 kW – 5 MW TIC and stand-alone installations – 8.5p/ kWh

This effectively writes off large scale solar in the U.K. For a government that is attempting to be green this is a huge step backwards.

Greg Barker has ensured that for the same cost there will be less green energy produced. Here at solar feed in tariff we believe this is a terrible move for U.K policy.

 

On a rooftop in Suffolk there now sits a vast 500KW solar panel project which, much to the pleasure of the solar installation firm involved Going Solar and client, Debach Enterprises has been completed in advance of the August cut-off date for the current feed-in tariff rates. For projects completed after that date, tariff rates will be reduced as part of controversial reductions in the money paid out as part of the scheme. The £1.2m project would have fallen foul of the cutbacks in the tariff as it is over the 50KW threshold putting it in the large scale project bracket.

The 2,200 solar panel project completed by Going Solar will generate up to 440,000kw hours of electricity every year, enough to power the warehouse and provide a surplus to the national grid which as well as being enough energy to power 100 homes, will generate a healthy revenue stream via the tariff pay outs. The government’s cuts in the feed-in tariff come as they try to move the emphasis away from large scale solar farms and into smaller scale roof mounted solar projects. Going Solar Director Charles Houston believes that not all rooftop schemes should face the cuts and that size should not necessarily be a factor in precluding them from the tariff scheme.

“The consultation has only just been completed and we are arguing there is a case for treating rooftop installations differently. The government has a valid point trying to address large solar farms, but with rooftop installations the energy is often used on site and you are only using dead space that is up on a roof. If a business wants to cut its carbon by using that space then it should be encouraged to do so.”

Going Solar has announced that they will be focusing on solar thermal projects in the future with Houston going onto explain that,

“The Renewable Heat Incentive is about to make solar thermal collectors very attractive to schools, hotels and other sites with high water demand, while there is a real window of opportunity for 50kW solar installations. The feed-in tariff went up in April as it is linked to inflation and at the same time solar panel prices have come down. There is now an opportunity for businesses installing mid-sized projects to complete installations before the long track review of feed-in tariff likely recommends further cuts to come into effect from 31 March next year”.