What are Solar Powered Systems?
The electrical energy produced by photovoltaic panels is extracted by connecting the panels to a load. The nature of the load will determine how the potovoltaic panel should be connected to achieve the highest efficiency for the system. Solar powered systems can be used for a wide range of stand-alone and grid applications.
Stand-alone (off-grid) photovoltaic systems are typically located in remote rural locations or urban areas where connection to the electricity grid is not practical or economically viable. For the system to run effectively the voltage output of the solar panel, the battery size and the load power need to be matched appropriately. When continuous power supply is required, battery storage can be used so that the load can still be powered during the night and under low light conditions. One application of stand-alone photovoltaic systems is to power the pumping and treatment of ground water to draw it from a well underground and make it suitable for drinking.
In urban environments where photovoltaic panels are installed on or are integrated into a building's exterior, the electricity produced is typically connected to the grid. These systems do not require battery storage, however do require inverters that can convert the DC power generated by the photovoltaic panels to AC, which the grid system is based on. The advantage of these systems is that any electricity generated by the photovoltaic panels that is not used during the day can be exported directly to the grid.
What are the advantages of Solar Powered Systems?
An increasing demand is being placed on electricity supplies in both urban and remote areas. Solar powered systems can significantly aid this challenge. The integration of solar powered systems into buildings and infrastructure during the construction process will lead to a new generation of electrically efficient buildings, in addition to providing a wealth of new architectural design possibilities. Stand-alone spplications, including water treatment systems, have particular advantages in remote environments and developing countries where the access to a reliable electricity supply is essential for safe drinking water. The development of power electronics to control the electrical output of both stand alone and grid connected systems will further improve the overal efficiency.
What are the challenges of Solar Powered Systems?
New photovoltaic materials that can be easily integrated into the construction of a building are required to enhance the uptake of solar within the construction industry. These materials should be available in a range of colours to broaden their design range. Improvements to the power electronics and integration of solar photovoltaics will increase the overall efficiency of the system, making them more economically viable.
Developing the application of solar powered water treatment could result in profound improvements to the health of remote and rural communities across the world that rely on underground water sources for drinking water. As the price of solar cell technology decreases, these systems are becoming more economically viable and so could become available to those who most urgently need it.
Please click on the links below to learn more about different types of solar powered systems and the work being carried by SISER researchers.