Some of the Most Innovative New Solar Projects
The solar industry achieved its most profitable year in 2020. We saw increased rooftop solar, solar panels being added to fields and farms, utility companies initiating solar projects and more. As additional panels reach the market, companies continue to develop unique renewable energy extraction methods and have created a number of innovative new solar projects.
Whether solar systems generate energy from a roof, or a field, or another innovative source, increased production supports President Biden’s newly established climate change prevention plan. The Build Back Better plan works towards a carbon-neutral nation. We can conserve natural resources and enhance global air quality by expanding solar energy production and use.
Challenges With Photovoltaic Systems
Conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels have some production limitations, though, like their low-efficiency levels. Today, the efficiency of a PV system ranges between 15% and 20% on average. Companies counter low production rates by installing more panels.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has limited available space for expansive solar farms. In order to expand production, companies have begun to develop their own fields. High solar demands has caused clear-cutting, in an effort to help businesses access optimal sun exposure.
The problem with this is, when individuals clear-cut a forest, they generate adverse environmental effects. The destruction of vegetation degrades habitats, resources and carbon filtering trees. The negative impacts of solar farm expansions decrease the industry’s sustainability.
Rooftop panels also create a common challenge deriving from overheating. When placed on an asphalt shingled rooftop, the system can reach high internal temperatures and decrease efficiency levels. Like a smartphone, panels only function at specific temperatures.
The steep upfront cost of a PV system limits homeowners’ abilities to install panels, particularly with decreases in incentives and the eventual drop in tax credits for solar panels. Without a renewable electric grid, individuals will only be able to access direct renewable energy from a personal system. A lack of funding will cause solar power to generate a minimal percentage of the global energy supply.
Some companies are challenging the issues with current solar systems, increasing their efficiency and community-wide clean energy availability. One solution involving using floatovoltaic energy systems, wherein the solar panels are over water, like a floating solar farm. Singapore recently established the first floating solar farm on the ocean, generating nearly 6,022,500 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually.
The new project limits the adverse effects associated with clear-cutting. It uses naturally open spaces, expanding production without ecological impacts. The water below additionally increases the efficiency of production.
Without heat absorbent shingles below, panels remain cool and reduce efficiency degradation from overheating. The system also protects the water below from increasing evaporation rates and algal blooms. Rising global temperatures decrease the consistency of water lines.
An increase in evaporation causes water displacement. Shading a water source decreases its exposure to high temperatures. It also limits the amount of light distributed to the ocean floor.
With few regulations on synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use in the agricultural industry, toxic runoff fills many bodies of water. When combined with sunlight, the runoff promotes algal blooms, depleting localized oxygen levels. The floatovoltaic panels restrict sunlight from reaching the ocean floor, preserving natural habitats and resources. Of course, action still must be taken to prevent harmful pesticides and toxic runoff.
PV Panel Bike Path
In 2020, the Netherlands began developing a PV paneled bike path. The solar lane extends for 25 meters, increasing the production of renewable energy. Additionally, the project promotes citizens’ use of alternate forms of transportation.
Increasing the clean energy supply while decreasing the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions can significantly decrease climate change effects. The solar energy generated from the path powers its lights and a heating system, designed to reduce snow and ice accumulation in the winter. So, the PV-lined path is warmed and lit by zero-emission energy.
In the U.S., the transportation sector generates 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions. We could significantly shrink our carbon footprint by installing PV bike paths (and potentially PV-lined roads, as well). Though construction introduces sustainability challenges, renting and reusing machinery can decrease waste.
Another unique solar project altering the transportation sector is solar paneled buses. One company developed a solar-powered vehicle, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from conventional fuel sources. The power generated by the panels directly charges the buses’ batteries.
The current buses reduce diesel use by 10 liters a day. If the entire public transportation system adopted green vehicles, we could have a significant image on further climate change effects. The company who developed the bus plans on using its rooftop solar mats throughout the transportation industry, thus improving the sustainability of various residential and commercial projects.
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also developed a solar-paneled transportation device. They generated a single-person vehicle reaching 38.4 miles per hour without external charging. Panels line the top of the vehicle, accumulating enough electricity to power the car throughout its journey.
The solar powered-car remains in the development stage, not yet reaching the consumer market. Fortunately, individuals can access similar emission-less transportation benefits when utilizing solar power charging stations. When you charge an electric vehicle (EV) with renewable energy, you decrease its contribution to atmospheric pollution. Envision Solar developed EV charging stations that connect to a paneled canopy. Professionals expect EV purchases to increase as the price of car batteries decreases. Individuals can eliminate their transportation-related emissions by powering their vehicles with renewable energy.
The Electric Grid
Technological advancements in the solar power sector can help the U.S. achieve its electric grid development. Biden plans on reaching carbon neutrality by converting our energy reliance away from fossil fuels towards renewable electricity. Generating an abundant solar power supply can decrease emissions and support climate change prevention.
As America’s sustainability standards increase, we can expect scientists to develop more innovative solar projects. Enhancing the efficiency of panels and adopting electric technology can support the transition towards an emission-less grid. With accessible, clean energy, we can decrease atmospheric pollution generated by the transportation sector and similar industries.
Author Bio: Jane Marsh works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.