Solar photovoltaic (PV), concentrated photovoltaic and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies are a global trend in building a cleaner and brighter future. It is estimated that the entire human population of the earth uses almost 117.3 terawatt hours of energy in average per year. The sun is capable of producing more energy than what is being consumed by humans by a factor of 20,000 times. However, all this energy is not directly available and has to be converted to usable energy.
The radiation that reaches the earth’s surface is represented in different ways, namely, global horizontal irradiance (GHI) and direct normal irradiance (DNI). GHI is the total amount of solar irradiation from the sky that is received by a surface horizontal to the ground, independently of its direction. Normal PV technologies have been optimized to capture global irradiance, combining diffuse radiation (e.g. scattered through clouds) as well as direct normal irradiance. DNI on the other hand, is irradiance that is received by an area that is always held perpendicular to the sunrays incoming directly from the suns position in the sky. The utilisation of DNI is in the interest of concentrating technologies such as CPV and CSP which need to be tracking the sun throughout the day.
The behaviour of GHI and DNI vary based on geographical locations on earth. Normally GHI is copious in areas below latitudes of 45°N and areas particularly near the equator such as the Sahara, Australia and Saudi Arabia as shown in Figure 1.
DNI on the other hand has high presence in sub tropic regions normally around latitudes of 23°N and 23°S ±10°. Global areas such as Chile, North Western Australia, Northern Mexico, South Africa and pockets of sub-saharan Africa receive high amounts of DNI.
The altitude of particular areas of the planet can also affect the usable irradiance available in a per unit area. Countries such as Chile and the Himalayan region, receive abundant amounts of DNI as a result of their high altitudes. At high altitudes, the sun’s rays require less distance to reach a given landmass and therefore atmospheric absorption and scattering is kept at a minimum.
Pollution negatively impacts the total available solar irradiance of a given area. Places such as eastern China, as seen in Figure 2, receive the least amount of solar irradiation as a result of heavily pollution and increased humidity produced. This makes it very difficult for the sun’s rays to reach the earth’s surface due to the dense smog absorbing the available irradiance supplied from the sun.
Temperature and dirt factors derate the conversion efficiency of the solar plant equipment. Imagine installing a solar plant in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa or Saudi Arabia that is surrounded by sand and extreme ambient weather conditions. The sand in some cases will cover the collector surface of the plant and the scorching temperatures may damage the electronic equipment required to convert the power being generated.
The population in a given area will heavily influence the feasibility of installing a utility scale plant. Building utility scale solar plants requires a large area that is ideally clear of natural habitat and manmade structures to avoid shading and pollution. From these considerations Chile could be among the ideal candidates for building CSP, CPV or PV utility scale plants. It is rich in GHI and DNI solar irradiance and has comfortable temperatures for electronic equipment to perform optimally. However, some of these areas may be too remote to population and therefore the grid connection may become too costly.
Overall, the trend in building a cleaner and brighter future for our planet will depend on the our success in harnessing the suns solar energy with CSP, CPV and PV utility scale plants. At Sustainable Solar Services we are able to provide in depth analysis of potential solar sites worldwide. For more information please contact us.
Tier 1 panels are those considered of highest manufacturing quality, performance and reliability. Tier 1 solar module suppliers are vertically integrated, heavily invest in R&D, they use highly automated manufacturing techniques and they must have at least 5 years of solar panel production history.
Vertically integrated that they do not rely on other companies in order to build solar panels. This ensures the companies control over the whole engineering process from elementary principles such as producing the silicon cells to designing modules, frames and eventually the entire panel.
Research and development is the key to better understanding and advancing solar panels to become more efficient and less costly. Tier 1 manufacturers ensure this is an ongoing strategy to provide customers with high quality products that are continuously improved.Precision automated manufacturing techniques are in place to benchmark every unit and batch that comes off of the production line. They ensure that human error and contamination during the production process does not occur.
Tier 1 companies require at least 5 years of solar panel production history. 5 years is more than enough time for a company to prove that manufacturers are committed to build and maintain their customer base. This also reflects the minimum time required for a company to have proven solid production techniques, a proven product and survival among competitors. A minimum of 5 years into the business will give customers a sense of security, given that manufacturers will cover them for servicing or replacement of their system later down the track.
Furthermore, most Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers offer reinsurances to cover their warranties in case they were to go bankrupt in the future as added peace of mind.
If you want to finance a larger solar system, lenders will usually only consider Tier 1 panels to be financed. Below is a list of Tier 1 solar module manufacturers:
Tier 2 solar panels are the next line of competition in the solar panel market. Tier 2 solar panels contribute to 8% of the total number of panels out on the market. Tier 2 companies are existent for 2-5 years. Normally they do not invest much time into research and development for their very own solar panel products. Their production line is not as heavily automated like Tier 1 companies. Nevertheless, some quality control of components and an increasing degree of automation would be required for such rating. Tier 2 panels gain the upper hand in terms of capital price as they’re a cheaper option and still reside within a niche market. If you are looking for somewhat reliable panels at a low price, Tier 2 may be a suitable option for you.
Tier 3 solar panels on the other hand comprise 90% of the solar panel market. Tier 3 manufacturers are least involved in the entire engineering process of solar panel manufacturing.
Tier 3 manufacturers mainly focus on assembling components that are sourced from other companies. There is no research and development invested to build such solar panels. Manual labour is heavily relied upon in order to fabricate these solar panels. Due to the massive overflow of panels in recent years it is unlikely that Tier 3 companies will survive within the first 2 years out in the industry.
If you’re unsure what panels are best suited for your needs please contact us for more information.
If you’re considering investing in a solar energy system for your home, you will need to know the basics. Roof-mounted solar cells collect radiant heat and light from the sun and convert it to energy in order to cover some or all of your home’s electricity demands. You’ve heard that it can save you money and reduce you and your family’s negative impact on the environment. But before you dive in and get a solar system for your home, make sure you’ve explored the positives and potential drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons of residential solar energy systems. Head over to Modernize for more ideas on implementing solar in your home.
Installing a solar system requires an upfront investment, but the savings will start the moment your system is beginning to cover some of your home’s energy demands. This means self-sufficiency and independence from rising electricity rates. Your system will eventually pay for itself and provide you affordable, sustainable energy for many years to come.
We need to do what we can to create a better future for coming generations. Solar growth means less destructive fossil fuel use, which leads to a smaller carbon footprint and ultimately a cleaner, brighter earth for coming generations. The solar sector has also created economic growth and new jobs that help the economy thrive.
Every day, the sun produces thousands of times more energy than the whole earth needs to meet its demands. It’s constant, reliable, abundant, and cannot be monopolized.
Local and state incentives are a great motivator for people who want solar but are letting the cost hold them back. You could save thousands of dollars if your system qualifies for these rewards. The federal government is currently offering a 30 percent tax credit that will make the initial financial burden much easier to bear.
Grid-tied systems are more popular than off-grid these days, largely because batteries are costly. Without a storage option, you can’t save the excess energy your system produces. This means that during the night, when the cells can’t derive energy from the sun, solar users rely on local utility companies to supply their electricity needs.
While climate doesn’t have as much of an effect on candidacy as you may think, there are other factors that can stand in the way. A small roof, historic district stipulations, or heavy shade in your yard could affect whether solar would be a good idea for you. Before making such a big investment, you’ll want to make sure your home would allow the system to work at optimum efficiency and make the wisest decision for your situation.
While regulatory support is being wound back as solar Photovoltaic (PV) approaches grid parity, new business models and financing approaches are emerging. The combination of rapid deployment, decreasing solar system prices and high electricity retail prices has hastened progress towards grid parity for solar PV in Australia.
As markets move towards grid parity and feed-in tariffs are wound back, financing structures and business models are changing as can be seen in the recent RET review by the Abbott government and the expected aftermath. This imposes increasing pressure on PV companies to focus predominantly on building solid cases based purely on self-consumption for their residential or commercial customers.
In the US the tax credit incentive and cheap finance have led to an increase in popularity of solar products based on third party ownership, like Solar Leasing or Solar Sponsoring / Power Purchase Agreements (SPPA). In California over 70% of all new solar systems are installed based on these new approaches and they are just landing in Australia.
This trend is now arriving in Australia with retail grid parity being a reality in some areas, solar energy resources that are the envy of some much larger European markets, and the commercial-scale sector being largely untapped.
The most common arrangement is the Solar Sponsoring model, which sees the developer build, operate and retain title to the PV system on the basis of revenues from a long-term Power Purchase Agreement with the ‘host.’ In this win-win situation, the developer enjoys stable revenues and income from Renewable Energy Certificate sales while the host benefits from a below-retail PPA rate, protection from peak pricing events and, often, a minimum output guarantee.
In circumstances where PPA models cannot be offered, solar leases are an attractive alternative. In a similar arrangement to capital plant leasing, the developer again retains title to the PV system, which is leased to the host for a fixed monthly fee. Electricity generated by the system is consumed by the host and additional electricity is generally bought at the prevailing retail tariff.
A key difference between PPA models and leases is the allocation of energy production risk. The host will benefit from leasing structures only if the monthly lease payments are less than monthly savings in electricity bills. If the production estimate on which the lease price is based proves inaccurate, consumers may pay more per unit of electricity than under a PPA model – or if electricity is sourced from the grid. However, this risk can be mitigated if a minimum energy output guarantee is included.
Third-party ownership models present a significant opportunity for accelerated PV deployment and cost reductions in Australia. Solar Sponsoring is not affecting companies’ cash flow while providing instant savings and long-term security against retail price rises. With all the risks lying on the third-party, the only real barrier is a long-term commitment to buy the clean electricity. If the premises are leased, this approach to solar may prove attractive to the landlord as well, since they enjoy the added value of the PPA contract for their tenants to save on electricity cost and gain ownership of the system after the contractual period.
If companies are confident that they will remain in their current premises, adding solar in this way is worth considering and the first companies provide such offerings now in Australia.