Alternative Energy: Solar Power

Alternative Energy: Solar Power

Benefits of using solar power

There are many benefits to using solar power. Many cities around the United States have invested in solar power as an alternative to coal, oil, and nuclear sources due to the following:

  • It is a renewable and infinite resource.
  • It is free of any emissions, including carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas).
  • It is a free resource after capital cost of installation (excluding maintenance).
  • Maintenance is comparatively low.
  • Its maximum power output corresponds very well with peak power demand.
  • Energy production with solar power prevents significant water usage associated with coal, nuclear, and combined cycle sources.

What is solar power?

Solar power is the conversion of received solar radiation into usable energy. It is a process that consists of harnessing the sun's present emissions of heat and/or light. This heat and light are the effects of the sun's constant nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei. The process of fusion produces helium nuclei as well as large amounts of energy. This energy is expressed as electromagnetic radiation (light is a specific frequency range of this radiation) and radiated temperatures of more than 6,000° Celsius. This is actually fairly cool compared with the corona or core of the sun that burn at several million degrees Celsius.

How does solar power work?

Solar energy is captured by collecting solar radiation. The level of solar radiation a region receives is relative to latitude and local weather conditions. Palmdale is located in an exceptional region, and the climate is conducive to generating solar power for the community.

Are there different types of technologies associated with solar power?

There are a variety of technologies associated with solar power. They can include systems that function as stand-alone systems utilizing battery banks for power storage. Grid-tie systems are ones that directly connect to the power provider's grid system. With the final type being a hybrid system that are a combination of stand-alone and grid-tie and are typically used in areas where weather conditions play a bigger part in power production. There are also different types of panels but photovoltaics (PV) tend to be the ones utilized most often due to their output ability and space requirements.

What happens when the sun does not shine?

The effect of little or no sunlight on a home or business using solar power varies greatly depending on the physical location of the building and the nature of the solar system being used. For instance, if the system uses PV and solar thermal, and is connected to the standard electricity grid, a period of no sunlight will simply mean relying on grid power. On the other hand, buildings that are not connected to grid power must either be able to rely on other energy producers, such as a fuel cell, wind turbine, diesel generator, or on a supply of electricity stored in batteries.

PWD's First Solar Array

The Palmdale Water District in January 2003 completed the installation of 30 kW (kilowatt) PV solar array located on one of the District's shop buildings located at 2029 E Avenue Q, Palmdale, CA. The system was designed and constructed by Schott Applied Power Corporation with the purpose of reduced energy consumption, lower rates and assist in increasing public awareness of renewable energy. Eventually the system is expected to decrease environmental impact and dependency on power from Southern California Edison.

The 30 kW solar canopy installed at the District shop was chosen by the level of solar exposure and the amount of generation that can be produced by PV modules. The system itself is expected to produce the highest levels of generation during summer midday peak periods, which will lower the District's peak electric demand. Solar electricity, or photovoltaic energy, can be produced whenever sunlight is present, even in cloudy or overcast conditions. Reflection off of moderate cloud cover can even slightly increase electricity production.

Solar Panels at the District Office

PWD Solar System Facts

  • Solar array consists of 216 Schott SAPC-165 photovoltaic panels.
  • The PV system incorporates a data acquisition system that monitors several operating parameters of the system including:
    • Current power output in kW
    • Air temperature and wind speed
    • Photovoltaic (PV) cell temperature
    • Total energy production by the system
  • Each Schott SAPC-165 panel produces a maximum of 165 watts.
  • Data from the data acquisition system is used to produce the daily, monthly and yearly graphs for the website.

Topic Related Links

General Topics
State Incentives for Renewable Energy
U.S. Department of Energy
Photovoltaic Economic Calculator

Solar Topics
The American Solar Energy Society
EERE - Solar Energy Technology
National Center for Photovoltaics

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