Solar The Options
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Solar the Options
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The sun is almost an endless supply of energy unlike fossil fuels that we are depleting at an incredible rate. We have approximately 30-40 years of fossil fuels remaining assuming that we keep our consumption of 17 million barrels each day.
Most people are aware of solar panels which can be fitted to generate energy but it can take some time for the energy saved to payback the initial cost of installing them. But how many people consider how they can use the sun to heat their homes for free through design.
Most of us have access to some level of solar energy, it is how we harness this that is the question.
We have divided this into two areas passive solar and active solar.
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When buying a new home do you consider its orientation? South facing gardens are desirable as they will get the most sun during the day when you want to use them. Living spaces with south facing windows will also benefit from the sun entering and warming the space in the winter months. This is less important for kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms which are used less often or mostly in the mornings and evenings. North facing living areas will be cooler.
Houses could also be extended with a conservatory or sunspace but again these should ideally be orientated south. Sun enters the space and heats it up during the day if you use materials with good thermal mass the heat will be absorbed and slowly released when the sun goes down. There should be some kind of thermal seperation between the conservatory/sunspace and the main heated house so that when there is no sun, heat is not lost through the large areas of glazing. It is an absolute environmental taboo to heat a sunspace as glass has poor insulating properties and you are essentially wasting heat.
Care should also be taken to avoid overheating during summer months. This is why sunspaces are preferred nowadays to conservatories which tend to get too hot in summer. Sunspaces have a solid roof and overhang to block out the high summer sun. In the winter when you want the free heat, the sun is lower and can still enter.
Orientations of the Sun
This starts with the very basics or orientating the property towards the sun and having larger windows in the side which can gain from the sun and smaller in the side that does not. Also the use of the right type of glass to maximise this is important as is making sure there is the right amount of ventilation in it to circulate air throughout the property.
Passive solar engineering can take the form of glazed porch/entrance hallway to have a large number of glazed windows on the side of the property.
This ranges from standard solar panels to modern photovoltaic PV panels to new developments such as where the solar panels follow the path of the sun to maximise the energy they receive to concentrated PV systems where what we understand is a dish with mirrors.
Go to the BritishEco.latestprojects.info website and get the 20 things you must know about solar PV systems before you buy.
Concentrated solar power CSP and uses lenses or mirrors to concentrate a large area of sun for a small area, it is converted into heat which drives a heat engine, usually a steam turbine. This should not be confused with concentrated photovoltaic which is CPV, this focuses a large amount of sunlight onto a small area of the solar PV to generate electricity and is a much cheaper method and maybe the way forward.
There are two main types of active solar systems; solar thermal and photovoltaics. Solar thermal uses the heat from the sun to heat water and photovoltaics generate electricity. Both types of panel can be retrofitted on an existing home, although solar thermal requires a hot water cylinder and will not work with gas condensing boilers. Panels can also be integrated into the roof or fitted as tiles which is more visually attractive but might be more feasible for new build projects.
Since the government introduced the feed-in tariff, photovoltaic panels have become more desirable as energy companies will pay the home owner a tariff for the amount of electricity they generate and also for any surplus electricity which is fed back to the grid. This means that the payback period is now shorter. To give you an idea, I spoke to someone recently who had fitted 2kWp of PV on the roof of their home and had just received their first tariff payment of £64 for 11 weeks generation and supply.
There are different types of PV panel monocyrstalline is more efficient so you need a smaller panel to generate as much electricity as a less efficient panel, however these tend to be more expensive also so it is worth doing your research or seeking guidance from an expert.
PV systems which track the sun tend to be used more in commercial projects but are a way of getting the optimum performance from panels which are most efficient when facing south and lose some efficiency as the sun moves from the east and to the west.
Technology is constantly progressing and new products coming on to the market (such as PV film), but to qualify for the feed-in tariff the system must be accredited under the microgeneration certification scheme. This can be a lengthy process for manufacturers so newer products may not yet be accredited and this should be checked. The installer must also be accredited.
in Solar Technology
David Faiman working with Zenith Solar
Degree from University of London and research at Oxford University . He is professor at Ben-Gurion and lives in a passive solar house (of course) in Sde Boker , Israel where all its heating is taken care of by the sun.
They have produced a system which they quote is 75% efficient and has a solar collector of 11m² with 1200 flat facets of thin mirrors which concentrate solar radiation onto a single 100cm receiver which converts the solar radiation into electricity and thermal energy by means of high performance photovoltaic cells which is then fed to the Grid via a DC-AC adapter for its use.
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