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SOLAR OF HAWAII | Best Buy Hawaiian Solar Power

Producing One Third More Solar Power

Double-sided solar panels that tilt based on the sun’s position could boost the amount of solar power energy collected. The two approaches existed independently before, but researchers have now looked at the effects of combining them.

Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore and his colleagues found that double-sided solar panels that track the sun would produce 35 per cent more energy and reduce the average cost of solar power-electricity by 16 per cent.

The goal for any Hawaiian solar panel is to absorb as much energy from the sun as possible. At present, solar panels around the world are predominantly installed with a fixed orientation, and absorb light only from one side.

The advantage of using two-sided solar panels in Hawaii is that they can also absorb energy that is reflected by the ground onto their rear side.

Two types of sun-tracking solar panels exist. Single-axis trackers follow the sun over the course of a day, moving from east to west. Dual-axis trackers also follow the sun over the course of a year, changing position according to the seasons, because the sun’s elevation is higher in summer and lower in Hawaii Solar Power in winter.

In their solar power analysis, the team calculated the global energy generated by a variety of combinations of different solar panel set-ups.

They analyzed global weather data from NASA’s orbiting Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument and then estimated the total solar energy generated in different set-ups. The team found that double-sided panels would produce 35 per cent more solar energy when combined with single-axis trackers, and 40 per cent more in combination with dual-axis trackers.

The group also factored in the costs involved in the materials, construction and maintenance of these solar panels, which differs between countries.

Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units of solar power called photovoltaic cells. (Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity.) Many solar power cells linked together make up a the Hawaiian solar panel.

Each photovoltaic cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semi-conducting material, usually silicon — the same stuff used in microelectronics.

To work, photovoltaic cells need to establish an electric field. Much like a magnetic field, which occurs due to opposite poles, an electric field occurs when opposite charges are separated. To get this field, Hawaiian manufacturers “dope” silicon with other materials, giving each slice of the solar power sandwich a positive or negative electrical charge.

Specifically, they seed phosphorous into the top layer of silicon, which adds extra electrons, with a negative charge, to that layer. Meanwhile, the bottom layer gets a dose of boron, which results in fewer electrons, or a positive charge. This all adds up to an electric field at the junction between the silicon layers. Then, when a photon of sunlight knocks an electron free, the electric field will push that electron out of the silicon junction.

A couple of other components of the solar power cell turn these electrons into usable power. Metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell collect the electrons and transfer them to wires. At that point, the electrons can flow like any other source of electricity.

Recently, researchers have produced ultra-thin, flexible solar cells that are only 1.3 microns thick — about 1/100th the width of a human hair — and are 20 times lighter than a sheet of office paper. In fact, the cells are so light that they can sit on top of a soap bubble, and yet they produce energy with about as much efficiency as glass-based solar power cells, scientists reported in a study published in 2016 in the journal Organic Electronics. Lighter, more flexible solar cells such as these could be integrated into architecture, aerospace technology, or even wearable electronics. 

There are other types of solar power technology for use in Hawaii — including solar thermal and concentrated solar power (CSP) — that operate in a different fashion than photovoltaic solar panels, but all harness the power of sunlight to either create electricity or to heat water or air.

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