Solar panels are a modern technology that allows you to forget about many problems. They work silently and cleanly: no generators and fuel fuss, and energy can be obtained completely free of charge. All this is wonderful when you live somewhere on the equator, where the sun shines all year round. But do solar panels work in colder climates? Where else is solar power being used, and how is the US military trying to get it directly from space? Talks about this and more program “Science and technology” on REN TV.
How solar panels are made
In June 2021, residents of the Chinese city of Shihezi woke up from a terrible roar. A terrible fire started at the largest polysilicon plant in China. The fire was extinguished for several hours, and later it turned out that the so-called silica reactor had exploded. In this high-temperature facility, silicon crystals were grown for more than half of the electronic devices manufactured in China.
Manufacturers felt the consequences of the fire within a week. The management of factories for the manufacture of solar panels began to complain about the lack of components. Some experts said that solar energy would not recover soon after the explosion in Shihezi – the damage was too great. The fact is that solar cells are made of silicon. They convert solar energy into electrical energy. But the natural mineral is not suitable for this purpose – there are too many impurities. Therefore, it is grown in special factories around the world.
“We prepare silicon raw materials, load them into the crucible. The crucible is transported to the furnace, installed, silicon melt is produced. Then the seed crystal is immersed in the melt, and by lifting this crystal and rotating the crucible, we carry out the process of growing a monosilicon ingot. The process takes from 80 to 90 hours, quite a long and laborious process,” – said Leonid Bortnikov, operating director of the plant for the production of silicon ingots and wafers.
Do batteries work on cloudy days?
According to experts, in pursuit of the speed of production, the Chinese simply violated the technology, and this provoked an explosion and fire. It was the combination of the words “explosion” and “reactor” that scared some social media users so much. They began to write about the dangers of solar energy, and that after the explosion in Shihezi, it should be abandoned. But in fact, no one was injured in the fire, and the black smoke, despite its frightening appearance, was absolutely safe for both people and the environment. It turns out that the terrible silicon threat is fiction.
And this is not the only myth associated with solar energy. The most popular is that solar panels are effective only in warm countries, and in colder climates they are useless. However, this is not at all the case. Vladimir Fedyushkin’s car center is located not somewhere in African Morocco or hot India, but in Dmitrov near Moscow. Vladimir spent three and a half million rubles on the purchase and installation of batteries. This investment paid off in five years, and now he does not pay a penny for electricity. And after all, these years were not distinguished by any particularly large number of sunny days. The secret lies in the battery itself.
“Solar batteries work even in cloudy weather. Electricity generation at the same time decreases slightly, but heat with temperatures above 25 degrees adversely affects the conductivity of silicon cells, it reduces the efficiency of batteries by almost 25%”, – noted the candidate of technical sciences Sergey Presnov.
Batteries-shutters and other wonders of technology
This pattern has long been noticed by the Americans. Therefore, cooler San Francisco has nearly three times as many solar panels as hot Las Vegas. Residents of high-rise buildings may think that free energy will be available only to owners of private houses, there is simply not enough space on the roof of high-rise buildings for everyone. Very soon this will become a myth. In Spain, solar panels are already installed on the windows, because they are made in the form of blinds.
“The batteries are mounted directly on the modules. During the day, the blinds close and perform two functions at once: they protect the rooms from the sun and collect energy. One square meter of such blinds generates up to 150 kilowatts of energy per day. And you can control the blinds from your smartphone,” – says Evgeniy Erik, the inventor of battery shutters.
And this is Bhadla Solar Park – the name of the largest Indian solar power plant. The total area of all panels: about 40 square kilometers. The design capacity of Bhadla is more than two thousand megawatts of electricity. For comparison, the largest nuclear reactor in the world, which is located in China, produces a little more than one and a half thousand. This solar power plant dispelled another popular myth. It was believed that the panels could not be installed in the desert, because they would be covered with sand, and cleaning would require too much water. So: the Indian panels were not covered with sand – they are cleaned by robots.
“Our robots do not need water. They are equipped with soft microfiber brushes and a blower. This cleaning method does not damage the panels. In addition, the robots do not need operator attention. They work automatically,” – Eran Meller, co-founder of the robot manufacturing company, said.
Energy from space
The imagination of engineers knows no bounds. In France, a huge solar power plant was created right on the surface of a quarry filled with water. In China, solar panels have been installed on the slopes of a dozen mountains. And in Austria they came up with panels in the form of a flower, which opens only during the day and turns after the sun’s rays. But the American military turned out to be the most inventive of all: they proposed to collect solar energy directly in space.
“In the future, we plan to create a whole system of solar panels deployed on satellites. This will provide energy to any military unit, regardless of its location and the nature of the tasks performed. Perhaps the excess energy will be used for peaceful purposes,” – said US Air Force Major General, Research Laboratory Commander Heather L. Pringle.
The Science and Technology program on REN TV talks about the latest achievements in science, shows incredible technical innovations and gives the most fantastic predictions about what the world of the future will be like.
Ray Bly is an accomplished journalist in the field of Automobile. He currently works as a writer at 24 news breaker. With a deep understanding of the Automotive industry and a talent for uncovering the latest developments, Ray’s writing provides readers with insightful and informative coverage of the latest news and trends in the field.