Category Archives: Solar Energy

Basics & Benefits of Going Solar | SCE & Solar Power

Nowadays, more and more people are going solar and taking advantage of the benefits of a residential solar energy system. A solar energy system will produce much of the energy your home needs which can help to offset how much energy you need to buy from your utility company.

And you’ll reduce your carbon footprint as well which is something else to feel good about. If you manage and monitor your usage, your solar panel system may generate more energy than you need. So, you could earn credits for the surplus energy you export back to the grid.

This part gets a little science-y but all you really need to know is this. Solar panels or solar photovoltaic systems absorb direct sunlight and convert it into electricity. Every panel is made up of solar cells which produce direct current or DC electricity.

That means the electricity flows in a single direction. Your home and appliances run on alternating current or AC electricity, which means electricity currents can flow back and forth in two directions.

So, to put solar energy to work in your home, your system must include an inverter that converts DC electricity to AC electricity. When your solar energy system is not producing enough electricity for your home when it’s say, a really cloudy day or at night, your home grid-tie solar system is still connected to receive electricity from the grid so you’ll have uninterrupted power.

Before you install solar on your Maine home, there are a few things you’ll need to remember. Every solar installation needs to be permitted in advance by your city or county. This is primarily for safety reasons and your contractor can help you with this.

If you’re part of a homeowners’ association, you’ll need to first obtain approval from your HOA. Not all solar panels are alike. Your contractor can help you select a solar technology that’s best for your home.

For more information on solar technology, visit our solar knowledge base. Congrats on your first step to going solar.

Source : Youtube

ARE ALL SOLAR PANELS BUILT THE SAME? Permanent vs Portable vs Solar Blankets

G day, everyone today we’re going to go through the question of whether all solar panels are built the same. This is all the essential info you need to know before deciding on a solar panel for your setup.

This is a crash course in solar energy without all the marketing hype so settle in the latest. Data from the Australian Government’s Geoscience Department tells us that Australia has the highest solar radiation on average on earth.

That means we get the most sunlight per square metre looking at it. Another way before we had a single solar power station covering 50 by 50 kilometres, with an efficiency of just 10 % about half the current consumer grade efficiency.

It would be sufficient to meet all of Australia’s electricity needs. It’s for all these reasons that solar power makes so much sense for your camping or full driving setup. Plus, it’s easy to use and reliable.

It doesn’t require fuel, so it’s clean and quiet, and these days it’s relatively inexpensive. Okay, let’s get into the most commonly used solar panels for camping and for driving and their uses. First, there are permanent solar set ups.

That means that while you’re driving a vehicle or while you stopped at camp or even while, you’re parked you’re charging your auxiliary battery with the right setup, your solar is taking the load off your alternator and saving your fuel.

Even if it’s a minor improvement, it’s still an improvement. There are a couple of options: glass covered panels with alloy frames are common and they offer a good combination of strength and durability, and then there are semi flexible panels that are gaining popularity, they’re much lower profile.

Lighter weight and can be shaped to gentle curves, so they can fit almost anywhere next. There are your portable solar panels. These offer the benefit that you can choose when to pack them. So if your vehicle is a daily driver, you might need to keep the roof rack free or you don’t need to carry solar around all the time.

The most common types are folding solar panels and folding solar blankets and both have their pros and cons of solar panels. A more cost effective and offer more power for their size, plus most will come with folding legs.

That mean you can angle the panel towards the Sun, the higher efficiency, but solar blankets are much more portable, lightweight and easier to transport and store some solar. Blankets do offer fall out legs for the best of both worlds.

All solar panels are most effective when they’re pointed directly towards the Sun and they’re kept relatively cool, so whether you choose permanent solar or portable solar, keep those two things in mind: you’ll need to point them towards the Sun as best you can and keep them well.

Ventilated Plus think about the type of camping and four wheel, driving that you’re actually likely to do. If you spend most of your time sitting around at camp, then a couple of big portable panels or blankets might be the way to do it.

They’re easy to pack easy to set up and easy to connect. That means you got power running into your vehicle, while you’re sitting at camp. Otherwise, if you’re doing long drives throughout the day, permanent solar might make more sense, particularly if you pair it with the right DC to DC charger with solar priority charging.

That means that, while you’re driving your solar panel will be charging your auxiliary battery first and then your alternator will pick up any slack plus, it means your old 12-volt set up is running off the one system, a very basic way to think about how solar works Is that it’s two layers of silicon sandwiched together and different materials added to each layer, so there’s an excess of electrons on one and an excess of holes or free space on the other? Now, in this case, the top layer has an excess of electrons and the bottom layer has an excess of holes.

Those electrons want to travel through the cell to get to the holes when sunlight hits the solar cell, the light particles which are known as photons knock. The electrons out of those holes and back to the top layer where, instead of going back to the holes, they travel along these thin wires known as fingers, and then these thicker wires known as bus bars after that they go through your battery, delivering charge.

Then, back to the base layer where the process is repeated, each of these solar cells is only very low voltage and very low current, which is why connecting many of them together gives you enough usable output to charge your batteries generally more cells equals higher output.

Not only do you need to think about what type of solar panel best suits your setup, but you also need to think about the actual construction of the cell. The three most common consumer grade solar panels on the market will either be monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous silicon.

Each type has its own pros and cons so starting with amorphous thin film solar. Now they are slightly better in low light and cloudy conditions, they’re, thinner and more flexible, but that comes at a massive cost, they’re much more expensive to produce and buy and they’re much less efficient, you’d need about twice the surface area of a monocrystalline or polycrystalline.

To get the same energy output, the absolute top shelf amorphous solar cells are about 10 percent efficient, so they’re able to convert about 10 percent of sunlight into usable energy. Next up we’ve got polycrystalline solar.

These are the cheapest to produce, which means they’re the cheapest. For consumers to buy and they’re more efficient than amorphous panels, however, because of the way they’re produced, which is pouring molten silicon into a mold, they cool at different rates, so you’ll see fractures and cracks.

Now they lead to inefficiencies overall, they have a maximum efficiency of just over 22%. Finally, there’s monocrystalline solar yeah. This is the most efficient for its size and it performs slightly better than polycrystalline as it warms up and in low-light conditions, but it costs more to produce and that’s because it’s made from a single piece of silicon.

That means, though, there’s no cracking or fractures, and you do get an efficiency boost about 26.5% overall efficiency, that’s more than the polycrystalline and much more than the Amorphous. These figures are achieved in ideal conditions in the lab, with a single solar cell.

So in the real world, with real solar panels, those figures will vary, but it’s a good place to start when you’re thinking about what type of solar you need for your setup before choosing a solar panel, do your research and find out what cell technology the Panel is the next thing to look for on each cell is the number of bus bars? As I said earlier, when sunlight hits the solar cell, it knocks electrons free from the silicon.

They then travel along the fingers, which is the thin wires and then the thicker wires known as bus bars. If fingers are the back roads, then bus bars are the highways, and that means the more the better.

Not only do you get higher efficiency, but you get better durability and longevity as well early consumer grade solar cells had two bus bars. Then they evolved into three and more recently, four and five.

So that means, if you’re looking at a solar panel, make sure it’s got four or even better. Five bus bars any less than four and it can be sure that it’s old, outdated stuff, that’s probably being sold at a clearance price plus.

If you have an older panel, that seems to be underperforming and it’s got two or three bus bars. It might be the time to upgrade. Bus bars can appear silver like this, or they can be coated with black silicon, which might make them look nicer, but it actually leads to a tiny loss in efficiency.

There are some exceptions to the bus bar rule, though, because bus bars are on top of the cell, they create shade, which means a loss in efficiency. So new technology, like shingles cells, are shaking up the industry.

They have bus bars on each end of the cell, which overlap like a tiled roof of the house. That means even better efficiency, more power and longer life, but the trade-off is that they’re more expensive too.

Another thing to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping for a solar panel system is what grade or class the solar cells are, that make up the panel so a grade A or Class A means that there’s no visible defects there.

A uniform colour and the output is within specifications, grade B or Class B cells show minor defects, scratches yellowing or tiny parts of the busbar missing, but the electrical data is within specifications, Class C or grade C cells show visible defects, including chips or cracks large missing Sections of bus bars and the electrical data is not within spec.

Finally, plus D or grade D cells are essentially rubbish with major defects, breakages or damaged. Finally, it’s important and compare each solar panel you’re, looking at like the like solar manufacturers and retailers, use the same standard test conditions in the lab to rate their solar panel wattage.

They light up the panel with a thousand watts per square meter of light and then set the ambient temperature up to 25 degrees Celsius. Then they simulate the amount of atmosphere that the light needs to pass through.

That’s the am 1.5 figure here AM stands for air mass 1.5. Air mass is a good average for most areas as it represents the sun coming through the atmosphere on a slight angle, directly overhead. It have an air mass of 1 and, as the sun goes close to the sunrise or sunset, the number would increase has to go through more atmosphere.

The next thing you’ll see on your solar panel specifications is the normal operating cell temperature. Now, that’s the temperature that your solar panel will reach in normal operating real-world conditions, so 800 watts per square meter of light 20 degrees ambient and about a 3.

5 kilometre per hour wind. Now the back of the panel is elevated, so it’s ventilated as well a solar panels. Normal operating cell temperature might be listed as high as sixty degrees Celsius, but the lower the number the better because it means the panel is more efficient at dispelling Heat and that’s important because for every degree of solar panel reaches above 25 degrees, it could be losing Around half a percent efficiency, so here’s a hot tip the reason power decreases, while temperature increases is because each individual cells voltage drops as they heat up.

The good news, though, is that the current increases as the temperature increases. So if you have a DC DC charger with an MPPT regulator, it can take advantage of that extra current plus boost the voltage to the correct level that your battery requires.

Although you’re losing some power due to the heat of the panel, the MPPT is more capable of then outputting the correct power to correctly charge a battery. My last piece of advice is to go for a more powerful solar setup than you.

That means no matter. The conditions you can always keep your batteries charged up any campsite running smoothly. Now whether that means you opted for a bigger permanent solar panel or at a portable solar panel, tear setup which is easy to use whenever you need it.

Tricks and techniques cheers guys.

Source : Youtube

The Truth About Solar Panels

Thanks to a 70% drop in price since  2010 and plenty of government subsidies,  solar panels have become an integral part of  the utility grid, as well as many home rooftops.

However, this renewable energy technology isn’t  all sunshine. There’s shadows looming over its bright future. There’s a potential tsunami of solar panels that will be nearing their end-of-life   in the coming years.

That fact has concerned many  people, as the vast majority of panels here in the   U.S. aren’t recycled. Why is that and what happens  to these panels at the end of their service life?   Is it even possible to recycle them? There’s  some interesting advances there that we have   to talk about.

Let’s see if we  can come to a decision on this. Solar panel recycling has been a topic I’ve wanted  to talk about for a while, but just haven’t gotten   around to it. Not too long ago, the LA Times  published an article that painted a pretty   grim picture and a bunch of you started asking  me about it.

So, can we recycle solar panels and is the problem really that bad? Yes, we can  recycle them … but it’s complicated. And as a big proponent of solar energy, I can’t  ignore that this is a big, looming issue.

Unlike solar energy, solar panels aren’t  a never ending resource and most panels   will hit their end-of-life in 30 to 40  years. Many people talk about 20-25 years,  but often they’re talking about the panel warranty  period.

They can last much longer than that, but   when they do hit end-of-life, what happens to them  at that point? The answer is kind of complicated, as photovoltaic (PV) panels are multi-layered  sandwiches made from different materials.

According to the Solar for Energy Industries Association (SEIA), easy-to-recycle materials   like the glass pane and aluminum frame make up 80%  of a typical PV module. How about the remaining   20%? This changes depending upon the type of  panel.

Let’s take silicon-based PV modules, which represent 90% of the global market. In this case,  you have a silicon cell with a silver grid on top. Also, there’s an ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)  layer sandwiching the cell.

Finally, at the back of the panel, you have a plastic junction box  with copper wiring inside. While all of these materials are potentially recyclable, separating  them out is a labor-intensive and complex process.

In the best case scenario, solar panels end up in glass recycling facilities, where they mechanically pop off the  aluminum frame and the plastic junction box, and they strip off the copper wiring.

Then, recyclers shred the glass pane without isolating the sandwiched components  and sell a not-so-shiny glassy powder,   a.k.a. cullet, which can be used as building  material or for other industrial applications.

In the worst case scenario, solar panels are  shredded as received. However, this isn’t worth   the effort for recyclers. A paper estimated that  you can barely make $3 from the recovered glass, aluminum, and copper of a 60-cell silicon  module.

That amount is dwarfed by the expenses, as the cost of recycling a panel in the U.S. can  cost up to $25. In contrast, sending a module to a landfill costs just $2. So, you may see  why only about 10% of US panels get recycled.

Things could change if we could recover  silicon and silver, accounting for 60% of   the module’s value. To do this, you would need  high-temperature thermal and chemical treatments on top of the mechanical steps,  which translates into higher costs.

Recovering silicon may not even be  enough to offset the cost. That’s what researchers found out when assessing the  feasibility of a 2,000-ton recycling plant. According to scientists, the process wouldn’t  be profitable as, unlike thin-film modules, silicon-based panels lack valuable metals like  indium and gallium.

Besides their low intrinsic economic value, solar panels are fragile and could  be classified as hazardous waste when they fail a heavy metals leach test. This means you need  a specialized workforce, treatment, packaging, and transport to handle them safely.

Not to  mention the potential environmental impact of contaminating the soil and groundwater with nasty  chemicals like lead and cadmium when being chucked into a landfill. As reported by the LA Times,  panels go through a treatment, such as glass laminate encapsulation (GLE).

This process seals the panel and minimizes heavy metals leaching out. Researchers simulated and ran multiple tests on  the effect of GLE on lead leaching potential. How well does it work? In one case, GLE reduced  the lead mobility by up to 9 times, making it nearly harmless for the environment.

However, one  of the tests revealed that GLE was not enough to limit lead spreading. Factoring in solar panel  disposal and panels getting early retirement for newer more efficient panels, the Harvard Business Review predicted that the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of solar panels could quadruple  by 2035.

I think that’s a little aggressive, but we’re in uncharted territory here. The absence  of a nation-wide law mandating recycling doesn’t   help either. In fact, only 5 states have put in  place solar panels end-of-life policies so far.

With a solar trash wave looming, we’d better find a way to recycle more … and we need to be quick to   stay ahead of it. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IEA), by 2050 we could   have nearly 80 million metric tons worth of solar panel waste.

That sounds like a pile   of solar garbage that could eclipse the sun. That  sounds like something Mr. Burns could get behind. Clearly, the sun isn’t shining on solar panel  recycling…yet … but we shouldn’t get stuck in doom and gloom here.

We’ve already managed to  sort out similar problems in the past and we can learn from that. Let’s look at the lead acid batteries (LAB) success story, for instance. A study from the Battery Council International  (BCI) reported a LAB recycling rate of 99%   between 2014 and 2018 here in the US.

LABs  are the most recycled American product today,   but how long did it take us to get there?  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we recycled around 70%  of LABs on average in 1985.

Back then, lead price was so low that recycling LABs wasn’t  economically attractive. It’s not that different from what we’re seeing today. Yet, pushed by  strategic legislation, it began to ramp up.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was one of the most important   nation-wide regulatory drivers. Signed off by the  US government in 1976, this law identified some   “metals of concern”, including lead.

However,  it took us another 15 years or so to really   see the impact. In the early 1990s, several  states finally banned LABs from landfills.   On top of that, local authorities implemented some  policies to build their recycling supply chains.

First, they required retailers to accept used  LABs from consumers, who were charged a deposit for each new battery bought without returning  an old one. Also, a take back program forced manufacturers to purchase recycled LABs from  retailers.

The benefit of this was that recycling LABs remained profitable even when the lead  price plummeted. And these policies worked. One year after introducing them, Rhode Island  increased its LAB recycling rate by up to 40%, reaching a whopping 95% rate in 1990.

While  that was a localized exception at that time,   BCI estimated that we reached a 99%  recycling rate on a national scale in 2011. A relatively simple chemistry and a  well-established technology such as pyrometallurgical smelting supercharged  LABs recycling rate over the years.

On the other hand, LABs conventional recycling  process is neither eco-friendly or safe,   as it consumes a lot of energy and releases lead  and greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere,   which is why researchers have been focusing  on the development of a greener method over the last decade.

On that note, something  interesting has already come out of the lab.   Instead of relying on the traditional smelting at  over 1,000 °C, ACE Green Recycling has designed an electricity-powered LABs recycling process.

They’re going to start building their first plant in Texas very soon, which is scheduled to go  live by the end of 2023. It’s expected to recycle   over 5 million LABs and avoid 50,000 metric tons  of GHG emissions once they reach full capacity.

Funny enough, the startup is looking into using  solar panels to power their whole facility…I   wonder if they’ll recycle their expertise  to promote PV module recovery too. The LABs example highlights how far-sighted  policies can catalyze recycling efforts.

Clearly, from the technological point of view,  the solar panels case is a bit more complex.   However, researchers, companies, and regulators  are working to improve the cost-to-revenue ratio.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main economic  challenges is to recover the higher-value   materials like silicon and silver. The current  method to etch pure silicon out of solar cells   means using hydrofluoric acid, which is  highly toxic and corrosive.

Last November,   Indian researchers came up with a  safer and more cost-effective recipe,   including sodium hydroxide, nitric acid  and phosphoric acid as ingredients.   Adopting a 3-step sequential procedure,  scientists not only extracted 99.998% pure silicon   but also recovered silver. As a result, they  estimated that integrating their technique into the recycling process of a 1-kg solar  cell would yield a profit of around $185.

Just a month later, a team including Arizona  State University (ASU) researchers, the TG   companies startup, and the energy firm First Solar  received a $485,000 grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for developing a process that  recovers high-pure silicon and silver from PV cells.

So, what’s their silver lining? First, TG  companies claim to have designed a heat treatment   to boil off the EVA protective layer without  damaging or contaminating the solar cell.   Unlike conventional furnaces, their oven will  operate at a temperature lower than 500°C,   which prevents iron and copper from leaching  into the solar cell.

At that point it gets a little fuzzy because they use their patent-pending  secret sauce to isolate silicon and silver. Their CEO said they’ll rely on less harsh chemicals that  can be regenerated indefinitely.

Having said that, as flagged by an industry expert, the startup  may likely face material losses when separating silicon cells from their polymeric coating. It’s  just a matter of waiting at least a couple of years to fact check their progress.

That’s when  the startup is aiming to have their first pilot   plant up and running, with a recycling  target of 100,000 solar panels per year. Aside from research and private sector efforts,  legislators need to do their part to power solar recycling, just like they did with lead acid  batteries.

Europe has been a pioneer in this, labeling solar panels as e-waste since 2014.  The Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive … known as WEEE … first defined   the ‘extended producer responsibility’ concept.

In short, the regulation compels solar panel manufacturers to fund their own products recycling  at the end of life. It also requires recycling 80% of the materials used in PV panels. This policy  led to opportunities for the EU recycling market.

For instance, PV Cycle developed a recycling  program to help manufacturers fulfill WEEE obligations. In February 2020, the  EU-funded company recycled nearly 95% of solar module content in France, which  is well above what’s required by WEEE.

They achieved this exceptional  result by partnering with Veolia,   who launched Europe’s first solar panels recycling plant in 2018. Leveraging robots, Veolia   dismantles the solar sandwiches layer by layer and  recovers silicon, silver, and other components.

It’s a completely different story here in the  U.S. We’re light years behind. In America,   the only law holding producers accountable for solar panel recycling won’t go live until 2025,   which means consumers are still paying the price  for it.

Although they aren’t shifting recycling   costs and responsibilities from user to producer,  California has switched their solar panel waste label from hazardous to universal hazardous in  2021.

Falling in this new category, PV modules collection, transport, and storage are subject  to less stringent requirements. For instance, recyclers won’t have to perform any leaching  tests, which is costly and time-consuming.

According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), their regulation will trigger   the recycling of at least 15% of the PV modules  currently in use. However, some of the policy’s   critics highlighted a couple of drawbacks.

First, the requirements for recycling PV modules are essentially the same as those for their  disposal in a landfill. And that’s a big problem since the landfill is currently much cheaper.

In  addition, California’s regulation doesn’t allow recyclers to apply the thermal and chemical  methods commonly used today. While binding rules are lacking, in 2016 the SEIA introduced  a voluntary recycling program similar to that run by PC Cycle in Europe.

As of 2020, a few  manufacturers, including First Solar, had joined their initiative and helped them recycle over 4M  pounds worth of PV modules and related equipment. Although recycling solar panels is currently an  expensive process, it could pay off in the long run.

In a recent report, Rystad Energy estimated  that the value of recycling solar panels materials   could reach $2.7 billion in 2030. Multiply that  30x to get their 2050 overall market potential.   The main drivers of this crazy  growth would be rising energy costs,   technological advancements, and  regulatory push.

Speaking of rules,   researchers from the National Renewable Laboratory  (NREL) published a paper last year advising   policymakers on how to create a financially viable solar panel industry. Their main suggestion was to subsidize the cost of recycling.

To  be more specific, with a $18 incentive, we could profitably recycle 20% of our PV  modules by 2032. And this could get even better as recycling technology becomes more efficient.  In particular, recovering 94% of the silver and 97% of the silicon contained in the PV modules  would be a significant profitability booster.

Giving a second life to all solar panel components would not only reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills but also shrink  the demand for new materials. Besides boosting   recycling profitability, regulations should  make landfilling less convenient.

While being   in its early days, new recycling technology  could improve the recovery of PV modules’ precious materials such as silicon and silver.  Although optimizing solar panels recycling may   take us longer compared to LABs, it’s just a  matter of time.

We’re actually seeing this type   of recycling improvement happen in the lithium ion  battery market right now … but that’s a different   video. What’s exciting is that, once the kinks  are worked out, this could lead to huge market   opportunities.

It could be a win for the economy  and the environment if we play our cards right. If you’d like to learn more about the  science behind solar panel recycling,   I’d strongly recommend checking out  either the “Scientific Thinking”   or “The Chemical Reaction” course at Brilliant.

They have fantastic interactive courses that can   help you wrap your head around some of  what we talked about with solar panels.   The chemical reaction course walks you through  how matter transforms from starting materials   into other substances.

You’ll work through puzzles  and patterns to determine the basic behavior of   molecules undergoing chemical reactions. All of  this plays a role in how we can install solar panels in Maine. I’ve been working my way through that one  and am really enjoying learning at my own pace.

If you get stuck, Brilliant will give you in-depth  explanations, which helps you understand the “why”   and “how” of something. And you’re learning the  concepts by doing it yourself and applying them   through fun and interactive problems.

Thanks to Brilliant and  to all of you for supporting the channel. So are you still undecided? Do you think  solar panel recycling will catch up to the   coming wave of solar panel waste? Jump into the  comments and let me know and be sure to check   out my follow up podcast Still TBD where  we’ll be discussing some of your feedback.

If you liked this video, be sure to check out  one of these videos over here. And thanks to   all of my patrons for your continued support and  welcome to new supporter + members Thomas Merritt and David R T Richardson, and producers  Sergio Martinez and Andrew Peabody.

And thanks to all of you for watching.  I’ll see you in the next one.

Source : Youtube