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Efficiency of solar panels could be improved without changing them at all

Posted September 2, 2019

There is one easy way to improve the efficiency of solar panels – clean them. Dust and dirt covers the panels and reduce their efficiency significantly. But we are not going to talk about that now. Scientists from the University of Waterloo have developed another way to improve the yield from solar panels without introducing any hardware changes.

Even the most modern solar panel systems are not very efficient, but they can be improved without changing the hardware too much. Image credit: Intel Free Press via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Researchers created an algorithm, which reduces efficiency losses in the control system. That means that solar panels could make more energy without any hardware changes. The panels and their circuits would remain the same, but their control units would be ran better. This algorithm would help solar power plants to deal with fluctuations around the maximum power point of a solar PV system. Now control units are wasting too much energy collected by the solar panels.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are great because they do not require a lot of maintenance. Some cleaning, some minor repairs, weather proofing, but not much more. They are not terribly efficient, but they are collecting what otherwise would be wasted. New technologies are making huge advancements in improving efficiency and reducing the cost of the technology. In the future, many more houses are going to be covered in solar panels and we have to make sure they are efficient.

This new algorithm is able to control the solar panels more efficiently. Now some of the collected energy is wasted in controlling units, which is definitely not idea.

Milad Farsi, one of the authors of the study, explained: “For a small home-use solar array including 12 modules of 335W, up to 138.9 kWh/year can be saved. The savings may not seem significant for a small home-use solar system but could make a substantial difference in larger-scale ones, such as a solar farm or in an area including hundreds of thousands of local solar panels connected to the power grid”. At the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant, Canada’s largest PV plant, it would be possible to save up to 960,000 kWh/year – that is easily enough for hundreds of household in the country.

Furthermore, savings could be even greater in fast-changing ambient environment. Quickly changing conditions cause chattering effects, which could be taken under control using this new algorithm. This would bring even a bigger efficiency boost in conditions similar to Canadian winter.

These savings could be transferred to the users in a form of reduced power bills. Most importantly, this would be a relatively small investment to increase the share of renewable energy used. This is how we will reduce our carbon footprint and how we can encourage a cleaner future.


Source: University of Waterloo

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