Vertical solar panels, according to German researchers, may perform better than horizontal solar panels. In order to receive the most exposure to the sun as it moves across the sky, solar panels are typically positioned horizontally and pointed south. Depending on how far from the Equator they are, they are not resting flat but are slanted at a 20 to 35 degree inclination. The precise angle at which solar farm planners should put the panels in Pensacola, Peoria, or Penticton is determined by intricate mathematical algorithms. There are tracking systems that can move the panels to follow the sun during the day, but they are pricy and require ongoing upkeep.
What if, however, popular wisdom is incorrect? According to Leipzig University of Applied Sciences researchers, installing bifacial solar panels with one side facing east and the other facing west would increase the amount of renewable electricity produced and lessen one of the drawbacks of conventional solar energy farms—an abundance of electricity at noon and not enough in the morning or afternoon. Their research was released in the journal Smart Energy ‘s August 2022 issue.
Vertically installing solar panels has another benefit in that it leaves space between them for crops to grow without the requirement for tall mounting structures that allow farm equipment to run underneath.
Solar energy from both sides can be used using bifacial solar panels. The majority of power is produced in the mornings and evenings and is installed in an east-west orientation. According to research first author Sophia Reker of Leipzig University of Applied Sciences, this would decrease the need for electricity storage while at the same time maintaining a minimal area requirement for electricity generation. The researchers’ study is based on an EnergyPlan software simulation of the German energy system.
GERMANY EXPANDING ITS RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICIES The criminal invasion on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin has severely restricted Germany’s access to methane, so last month, the German government implemented new regulations to lessen the nation’s reliance on foreign energy imports and cut carbon emissions. The programs seek for increasing the proportion of renewable energy from the current level of just under 50% to at least 80% by 2030.
The price of bifacial solar modules is a little higher than that of traditional solar systems. However, as they increase the amount of solar energy accessible, they decrease the need for other sources of electricity, such gas-fired power plants. The solar power systems may be quickly installed on agricultural land when installed vertically. According to Jens Schneider, professor of networked energy systems and co-author of the study, this enhances the area potential for renewable energies in Germany and gives farmers more options to earn money. As a result, we would only need to import a little quantity of additional energy.
By shielding crops from wind and heat, solar panels erected on agricultural land can promote the growth of some crops. Directly beneath the modules, flower strips are a possibility for increased biodiversity. According to the experts, the federal government’s new legislation package would specifically support “agri-photovoltaics” in the future.
ANALYSIS OF THE ENERGYPLAN VERTICAL SOLAR PANELS The EnergyPlan program was used by researchers Sophia Reker, Jens Schneider, and Christoph Gerhards to predict an energy system for Germany that would produce 80% fewer carbon emissions in 2030 than it did in 1990. The experts predict that the present wind energy capacity will expand to 195 gigawatts, and the current solar energy capacity will increase to 400 gigawatts.
The research demonstrates that the demand for storage diminishes if the majority of the additional solar capacity is built vertically with an east-west orientation. This level of additional renewable energy would typically necessitate a considerable increase in battery storage. This alone can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 megatons annually in the absence of additional electricity storage.
The graph below illustrates the typical solar power output for conventional orientation, east-west orientation, north-south orientation, and a combination of orientations. Compared to a traditional solar farm, the east-west orientation starts producing electricity much earlier and keeps doing so for a much longer period of time. Midday, however, sees a significant decline in productivity.
During those noon hours, solar energy generally surpasses demand and must be either saved for later use or restricted, which usually results in it being wasted. The use of peaker plants, which normally come online in the late afternoon and early evening as demand rises but supply from solar farms wanes, could be reduced or eliminated with the use of vertically oriented solar panels.
It might be demonstrated that vertical PV systems allow for less storage or lower gas power plant utilization. The researchers assert that it is conceivable to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10.2 million tons annually in the absence of any storage solutions.
The space that may be used for PV power plants is a major concern, particularly in nations where there are many people living in each square kilometer. It is frequently debated whether a region should focus on producing food or electricity. Additionally, we require additional space to encourage biodiversity. Due to Germany’s abundant agricultural land supply, which may provide up to 1700 TWh of energy annually, which is more than quadruple the nation’s projected 2019 electricity demand of 500 TWh, APV systems have a very high theoretical potential for energy production.
THE CONCLUSION Is this the solar energy industry’s “Aha!” moment? It could be. It demonstrates what may happen when people challenge received wisdom more than anything else. The conflict between solar energy and the farming community, which is particularly virulent in some regions of the United States where many people are more concerned with preserving their way of life than dealing with the existential threat of a warming planet, could be resolved by vertically oriented solar farms.
Many companies are drooling at the thought of using cheap, abundant solar energy in the middle of the day to produce green hydrogen from water or cut back on the carbon emissions caused by creating steel. To make renewable energy the preferred option over brand-new thermal or nuclear generating facilities, more solar energy might be made available earlier and later in the day.
Well done to the scientists for thinking outside the box and coming up with a fresh method of utilizing the sun’s unbounded (for at least a few billion years) power. To keep the Earth habitable for the next hundred years and beyond, mankind will need to use all their inventiveness.
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