Solar Applications in Space

Solar Applications in Space

Solar Applications in Space

The Sun produces a huge amount of energy in the form of radiation. This energy can be used to create heat or electricity.

Solar power uses a variety of technologies to capture the Sun’s energy. These include concentrating solar-thermal, parabolic troughs and solar power towers.

When sunlight shines on PV cells, it causes electrons to move, creating electric current.

Photovoltaic (PV) Technology

PV technology converts the sun’s rays into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. This produces zero emissions and no noise while producing electricity for a wide range of applications from powering calculators to generating energy at large generation plants.

The heart of a PV system is a solar panel made of multiple individual PV cells, or photovoltaic modules. These can be ground-mounted, rooftop mounted or wall-mounted. They can also be configured to use a single or double-axis tracking system that follows the path of the sun across the sky (building-integrated PV, BIPV).

A standard monocrystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cell has a conversion efficiency around 12 %. Polycrystalline silicon is also available, but has a lower efficiency than monocrystalline silicon. Amorphous (“thin-film”) silicon is a less expensive alternative to c-Si. It uses a simpler manufacturing process, but has a conversion efficiency of only six percent.

A PV system is composed of one or more solar panels, a power conditioning unit (PCU) or inverter, charge controllers and batteries. Grid-connected systems are interconnected with the utility power grid to supply homes and businesses with electric power or earn a feed-in tariff compensation for the electricity they produce. Other types of stand-alone PV systems are used to provide electricity for remote fixed applications such as parking meters, trash compactors and emergency telephones.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

CSP uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver that converts the sunlight to heat. The heat can then drive a turbine to produce electricity. CSP technology is practical at utility scale and is similar to other renewable energy technologies such as hydropower, tidal energy and nuclear power. CSP plants are generally large and require a significant amount of land. They are often located in arid environments and can have a negative impact on Solar Applications local wildlife. Birds may be killed by flying through the highly concentrated solar light and there are concerns about their effect on water resources.

Unlike PV, the heat transfer fluid in CSP can be stored to make the power plant dispatchable during cloudy periods, addressing intermittency challenges that are sometimes seen with other renewable energy technologies. Early projects, such as Khi Solar I and Ivanpah, were designed without thermal energy storage but since then CSP projects have included several hours of storage to increase their competitiveness with fossil fuels and PV.

The Department of Energy is investing in research to further improve and promote this promising solar technology. SETO is also supporting research to improve the collector, receiver, thermal energy storage, and other power cycle subsystems of CSP plants in order to lower operations and management costs. Sandia National Laboratories has digitized a large collection of historical documents related to the development of concentrated solar power and made them publicly accessible online. This archive will help new researchers and companies avoid having to reinvent the wheel and accelerate the development of this important solar technology.

Portable PV

Small portable solar panels use silicon solar cells, a nonmechanical device that converts sunlight into electricity. They are typically used by campers, hikers, and travellers who do not have access to traditional power sources like grid electricity. Typically, they are made of monocrystalline silicon, which has a higher efficiency rating and produces more energy on a sunny day than polycrystalline silicon.

They are typically folded, suitcase-style with a handle, and come in a variety of sizes rv photovoltaic system and capacities. The panels are connected to a charge controller, which regulates current and voltage. They are then connected to a battery pack, which stores the electricity. Lastly, an inverter converts DC to AC so that the device can be powered from the battery.

PV systems are gaining popularity as backup energy sources in remote areas where connection costs make utility power prohibitively expensive. In rural areas, PV systems can help provide electricity to a wide range of remote fixed devices such as water pumps,[32] lighting for roadways, parking meters,[33] emergency telephones, trash compactors, and even remote guard posts and signals.

Canada’s cultural scene often includes temporary events and large-scale outdoor entertainment activities where traditional power access is a challenge. In these situations, solar powered systems can be an effective solution, delivering clean, quiet, zero-emission backup power. This demonstrates a commitment to sustainability in the event industry, while providing an attractive alternative to diesel generators.

Solar Energy for Space Applications

Solar energy has long been the primary way to power spacecraft. But it could be used for much more than that. The goal of producing photovoltaic electricity directly in space, and beaming it back to Earth, has long been the dream of scientists and entrepreneurs alike.

This “space solar power” (SSPP) could unlock new opportunities for a variety of applications. For example, it would allow rovers on the Moon or Mars to operate for longer periods of time, and it could enable the construction of an eventual human lunar base.

The technology is still in the early stages, but the potential is clear. Scientists have fabricated solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of up to 47.1 percent, and engineers are continually developing innovative designs and materials to improve these systems.

Some of the more advanced space solar designs, like China’s MR-SPS and Thales Alenia Space’s Solar Sail charging station, use large reflectors suspended on kilometers-long booms to concentrate sunlight on high-efficiency solar cells. Others, like the solar arrays on the American spacecraft SSPP-ALPHA and NASA’s Basic Space Power Initiative, deploy a network of small modules that collect and transform sunlight into electricity for transmission to Earth.

However, moving such massive amounts of mass into orbit and building the power plants required would be a costly endeavour. And even if the technology can be made to work, it remains unclear whether space solar power would be cost competitive with terrestrial alternative energy sources.

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