Solar Panels and Solar Tracker Systems
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Solar energy has been developed for more than a century. Solar energy was initially employed largely to generate steam, which could subsequently be used to power machinery. But it wasn't until Edmond Becquerel discovered the "photovoltaic effect" that sunlight could be converted into solar electric energy. Following Becquerel's discovery, Charles Fritts invented the first true solar cell in 1893, which was made by covering sheets of selenium with a thin layer of gold. And it was from this humble beginning that the solar panel, as we know it today, was born.
In 1941, Russel Ohl, an American inventor on Bell Laboratories' staff, developed the world's first silicon solar cell. In 1954, the same business produced the first solar panel as a result of Ohl's concept. Recently, scientists in Australia have produced a bifacial silicon solar cell with a front efficiency of 24.3 per cent and a back efficiency of 23.4 per cent, yielding a total output of roughly 29 per cent. Oxford PV, situated in the United Kingdom, set a new perovskite solar cell efficiency record of 29.52 per cent in December 2020. In July, Oxford PV finished the construction of its manufacturing facility for perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells. With a 100 MW yearly output potential, the business currently plans to begin full commercial production in 2022. Solar panels and solar panel systems are now being used to power a wide range of applications. In the form of solar panels, solar cells are still employed in calculators. They are, however, being used to give solar energy to entire residences and business buildings, such as Google's California headquarters.
What is a Solar Panel?
A solar cell panel, also known as a solar electric panel, photovoltaic (PV) module, or simply a solar panel, is a collection of photovoltaic cells that are put in a framework for installation. Solar panels generate direct current electricity using sunlight as a source of energy. The solar panel is one of the most important parts of a solar-powered system. Solar panels are priced differently based on their efficiency and technology.
How do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels gather and convert pure renewable energy in the form of sunlight into electricity, which may subsequently be utilised to power electrical loads. Solar panels are made up of several solar cells, each of which comprises layers of silicon, phosphorous (which gives a negative charge), and boron (which provides the positive charge).
Solar panels absorb photons and generate an electric current as a result. The energy released when photons collide with the solar panel's surface causes electrons to be pushed out of their atomic orbits and released into the electric field generated by the solar cells, which subsequently pulls these free electrons into a directed current. The Photovoltaic Effect refers to the entire process. The average home has more than enough roof space to accommodate the required number of solar panels to generate enough solar electricity to meet all of its power needs. Any excess electricity generated is fed into the main power grid, which pays for itself in reduced electricity use at night.
What is a Solar Tracker, and how does it work?
A solar tracker is a device that moves the sun across the sky. When solar trackers and solar panels are used together, the panels can track the sun's movement and produce more renewable energy for you to utilize.
Solar trackers are typically used with ground-mounted solar systems. However, rooftop-mounted trackers have lately been available. Solar tracking equipment is usually attached to the racking of solar panels. The solar panels will thereafter be able to move in sync with the sun's movement.
How do Solar Trackers follow the Sun?
Solar trackers follow the sun's position using a variety of drivers, software, and physics. Drivers are motors attached to sensors that react to light from the sun or follow GPS coordinates of its position, which are used in activity trackers. Separate, smaller PV panels are used to power the driving system in some tracker versions. When exposed to sunlight, passive trackers rotate utilizing compressed gas and liquid that travels between channels in the driver.
The type of system determines the movement of a solar tracking system. Sun tracking systems are divided into three categories:
Manual Solar Trackers
Manual trackers require someone to physically change the panels at different intervals throughout the day to follow the sun. This isn't always feasible because you'll need someone to constantly watch the sun and adjust the solar panel system's location.
Passive Solar Trackers
When exposed to solar light, passive trackers contain a liquid with a low boiling point that evaporates. The tilt system becomes unbalanced when the liquid evaporates. As a result of the imbalance, the panels tilt in the direction of the sun's beams.
Active Solar Trackers
Motors or hydraulic cylinders are used to adjust the position of active trackers. Active trackers use motors to rotate the PV panels so that they face the sun. While this is more convenient than manual trackers, the motors' moving parts are prone to failure. This could result in greater maintenance expenditures during the system's lifetime.
Solar trackers can then be further classified based on the direction in which they move:
Single-Axis Solar Tracker
Single-axis solar tracking devices move in a single axis to follow the sun (vertical or horizontal). In most cases, the inclination angle is manually adjusted at regular intervals throughout the year, and automatic movement in the east-west direction is given. Single-axis systems are less expensive than two-axis systems. However, they have lower efficiency yields. Single-axis solar tracking systems move vertically or horizontally depending on the solar trajectory and weather conditions. Single-axis trackers track the sun's location as it travels from east to west. Typically, these are employed in utility-scale projects. A single-axis tracker can boost output by 25% to 35%.
Dual-Axis Solar Tracker
Because the Earth's rotation relative to the sun varies throughout the year, with an arc that varies by season, a dual-axis tracking system will consistently produce more energy than a single-axis tracking system because it can directly follow that path. Dual-axis trackers are more commonly utilised in home and small business applications, but utility-scale adoption is on the rise. Dual-axis trackers have the capacity to handle up to 20 panels per device. To account for the higher range of angles that the installed panels will reach, each of these trackers is put atop a single elevated post.
This tracker follows the sun not just as it goes east to west but also as it moves north to south. Two-axis trackers are more prevalent in residential and small commercial solar projects with limited area, allowing them to generate enough electricity to meet their energy needs. Dual-axis trackers can boost energy generation by as much as 40%. Panels are less accessible for cleaning at higher elevations. On the other hand, dual-axis trackers have more headspace, allowing the ground beneath them to be used for various purposes such as agriculture or even carports.
Although it's a relatively untapped market niche, tracking solutions for rooftops are beginning to emerge. These roof trackers work similarly to dual-axis trackers in that they rotate on a carousel-style track at the bottom of their racking and modify panel angle to track the sun more precisely than single-axis trackers.
Advantages of Solar Trackers
Because tracking systems are able to follow the sun's movements, they produce more energy than stationary solar arrays.
Solar trackers are especially useful in locations where electricity is charged by the hour. Because more energy may be produced during peak hours, you won't have to pay for grid energy when it's most expensive.
Disadvantages of Solar Trackers
Solar trackers are quite expensive, and they can potentially treble the cost of a project.
Because solar trackers contain moving elements, they are more likely to break. As a result, maintenance costs rise.
If you decide to install trackers, you may need to do some additional site planning and preparation, such as excavating additional wiring trenches and grading.
Are Solar Trackers worth it?
Solar trackers are not worth the extra cost in virtually all cases, especially for home solar systems. Solar trackers aren't extensively employed in the domestic solar sector because of this.
Solar trackers come in handy when you just have a small amount of room to work with. If you don't have enough space for more solar panels, a solar tracking system might help you produce more power in a smaller location. Large-scale utility or commercial installations can also benefit from solar trackers.
In recent years, companies that make tracking systems have improved their systems' operational efficiency, including monitoring software for preventive maintenance and optimising angles for higher energy production. Installers will be able to enhance the electricity output of solar systems as tracking technology improves. It's critical to speak with a local solar contractor to determine the actual cost of a solar tracking system.
Top 10 Players
Qualcomm has the lion’s share when it comes to the number of patents to its credit. The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) sits at the second spot with a 303 patent count, followed by Boeing with a 112. HEBEI University of Technology is fourth in the race with 71 applications, while IBM is fifth with 69 counts of patent applications.
Top 10 Patent Application Countries
China has the lead with 13,978 patents, followed by the US with 6177 patents. The European patent office has 3175 patents, while Korea is seen with 2104 patent applications. Japan and India are with 2074 and 2047 patents, respectively. Germany has 1435, WIPO 1269, and Great Britain has 1087 patent applications to their names, respectively. The last in the top ten countries is Canada, with a 1037 patent application count.
Patent Filing Trend
Increased environmental degradation and government incentives and tax refunds to install solar panels are driving the growth of the solar energy sector. Furthermore, the reduced water footprint of solar energy systems has boosted their demand in the power generation sector. The patent trend in the Solar sector is quite dynamic, with a fair number of highs and lows. The first five years saw a slow but steady growth with 182, 212, 275, 323 and 465 patents, respectively. The next five years saw exponential growth with 666, 961, 1259, 1717 and 1885 patents in line. The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth years saw a positive growth rate but a comparative slump with just 1911, 2052 and 2082 count of patents respectively. Further, the fourteenth year saw a dynamic increase with 2791 patent applications, followed by 3407 applications in the fifteenth year. 4243 patent applications were recorded in the sixteenth year. The seventeenth year saw negligible growth, with just 4296 patent applications on record. There was a dip in the eighteenth year, with the number of applications falling down to 3717 patent applications. The sector seemed to be getting on track with a recovering nineteenth year with 3842 patent applications. However, there was a fall again, with the number of applications falling down to 2066.
Future of Solar Technology
Solar is on track to gain even more market share by 2024, but there is still work to be done if it is to fulfil its promise of helping to supply clean, sustainable energy to the masses. With a wider reach and better storage solutions, we need to push the boundaries of what is feasible. Here are some forecasts for solar energy's evolution in the following year with that in mind.
The most significant impediment to widespread solar power deployment is the lack of reliable, cost-effective storage systems. The big solar industry players are aware of this and are adapting their business strategies to reflect it. Instead of just selling panels and inverters, more and more companies are also selling storage.
This is good news for the industry as a whole because it implies more money is going into storage research and development. This will almost certainly lead to smarter, more durable solutions to the problem of long-term solar energy storage. Merging all aspects of solar installation under a single business would lower costs and make the process easier for consumers, just as it does in other industries that have moved toward a unified commerce model. Streamlined solutions can also help skeptics see the benefits of solar energy.
Solar's future lies unquestionably in systems that can operate regardless of weather or time of day. This necessitates the use of long-term battery storage. Huge strides have been made in solar energy storage, and with so much attention being paid to this sector right now, more breakthroughs are sure to follow. New technologies that have been under research for years are starting to surface, and there will be many more competitors shortly. Chemical storage is expected to evolve, with new concepts and forms taking hold of the market. Solid-state storage will almost certainly become increasingly common.
To meet the constantly expanding demand for electricity around the world, we need a strong solar power market. Solar energy is adaptable, widely available, progressively economical, environmentally friendly, and long-lasting. Let us all look forward to strong collaborations in the coming year that will lead to the development of new technologies and reinforce the argument for solar.
Solar photovoltaic cells are getting more adaptable as a result of new technology and continuous progress. Solar energy can readily supply large amounts of low-cost, environmentally friendly electricity. The adaptability of this tremendous energy source is being demonstrated by new solar power technology. From design to street lights, practical applications are helping to save energy and money. They're also clear indicators that solar power is the way of the future.