The simplicity and elegance of small scale solar power
I write nearly daily on solar power topics for another company I consult for and it’s always exciting to see the latest products hitting the market or seeing other concepts that may do so in the years ahead.
I’m often writing articles on the “world’s biggest” solar farm of some type of late as records keep tumbling.
These solar farms are becoming massive – for example, the Castilla La Mancha solar farm in Spain occupies an area the size of seventy football pitches and will have 100,000 solar panels when fully operational; capable of generating 30 million kilowatts an hour.
That’s a lot of panels.
That’s a lot of land.
There’s increasing talk of turning our deserts into solar farms which sounds like a pretty good idea – except that deserts are habitats too; they aren’t all just sand and nothing else.
Another big challenge is something called line loss. This is the loss of electricity when it is transmitted along power lines. The lost energy is usually in the form of heat and the longer the distance between source and point of consumption, the more energy is lost.
In the USA and UK, this line loss averages around 7% and translates to a lot of extra panels required or worse still, more coal being burned to make up for the loss in the case of coal fired generation.
New transmission infrastructure will also be needed to cope with the output from the many solar and wind farms coming into operation.
While we’ll need these big farms, we can minimize these issues by having the majority of our power generation sources closer to where it’s being used – and it doesn’t get much closer than the roof of your house, or of neighborhood stores, factories close by etc.
The roof space in our towns and cities is so under-utilized; every roof should be collecting rain water and solar energy.
I’ve said this before elsewhere, but distributed power generation through massive uptake of residential and commercial grid connect solar power systems is also a good idea in terms of national security. Coal power plants and even solar farms for that matter are rather large and tempting targets.
While coal powered stations won’t be disappearing any time soon, they could increasingly be used just for base load; and even with that gradually decreasing as large scale renewable energy storage solutions are developed.
A major network of grid connect solar power systems also allows us as citizens to have a more hands on involvement in addressing electricity related greenhouse gas emissions.
Having solar panels on your roof is a bit like getting your food straight from the farm. You understand more about your power and people with solar power systems are often more energy conscious too.
It has been encouraging to see many governments subsidizing residential solar power through renewable energy rebates and feed in tariffs; but we’ve still got a long way to go. However, ff you haven’t checked out renewable energy rebates recently, take another look – solar power might now be affordable for you.
While large scale solar farms are certainly impressive, small scale solar is simple and beautiful. A grid connect system is comprised of very few components – solar panels and mounting frames, some wiring and an inverter to convert the DC power from the panels into AC power for your home. If the sun isn’t shining, there’s no problem – your house just uses mains grid power as usual.
If you’d like to learn more about solar power, here’s some articles I’ve published on the topic and relating to various other forms of renewable energy:
- Solar power basics
- Grid connect solar power
- Solar panel basics
- Renewable energy primer
- Solar power inverters
- Solar hot water
- Deep cycle batteries
- Solar regulators and inverters
- Renewable energy rebates
- Wind turbine choices
- How wind turbines work
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