by Maria Juniper, Contributing Editor
Now that most governments, environmental organizations, scientists and even the Catholic Church have agreed on the need to combat climate change, innovative solutions are being sought in many quarters. The old ways of doing things simply won’t cut it now that we’re aware of the harmful effects of traditional means of power generation, such as the burning of coal and the combustion of gasoline. Solar photovoltaic panels are one means of addressing this issue, but this equipment often takes up a lot of space – land that could be otherwise put to productive use. Now entering the picture is a method for placing solar panels on top of water, a type of technology dubbed “floatovoltaics.”
Although there are issues with covering up the surfaces of lakes, ponds and other natural habitats, these elements of our beautiful landscapes aren’t usually under consideration for floatovoltaic projects. There are vast areas of salt water, waste water, reservoirs and other places in which floatovoltaic setups will have little negative impact on either wildlife or aesthetics. By employing currently-unused watery areas to collect solar rays, we can avoid having to devote agricultural or other productive land to this task. Floatovoltaic systems can achieve better efficiency in converting solar energy into electricity than traditional equipment. Because they’re constantly being cooled by the water beneath, floatovoltaic setups aren’t subject to overheating as ground-based solar arrays are. Research suggests that this cooling effect makes floatovoltaics 8 to 10 percent more efficient than old-school solar solutions.
The way it works is that the panels are tied together and secured atop bodies of water so that they can’t float away. Certain components, particularly the wiring, need to be waterproof, which means that floatovoltaic systems tend to cost more for the initial hardware and installation than a normal solar array. On the other hand, they’re relatively safe from erosion due to sand and damage from humans or animals. The electricity produced by floatovoltaics can be used locally or tied into the pre-existing electric grid to power homes and businesses some distance away. Indeed, one of the advantages to this means of electricity production is the fact that revenues can be generated by selling excess energy to energy providers and nearby utility firms.
Another aspect of floatovoltaics that’s getting a lot of attention in drought-stricken areas, like California, is the fact that by covering bodies of water, they counteract evaporation. The Los Angeles Reservoir has been losing a lot of water to evaporation, making drought-related problems throughout the state worse. In a bizarre scheme, officials released millions of “shade balls” into the reservoir. These balls are specially coated to block sunlight and thereby hinder evaporation, and they also inhibit the growth of algae. Instead of introducing these shade balls, which have raised ecological concerns among some observers, public authorities could instead employ floatovoltaic panels to achieve the same ends while simultaneously generating some revenue through the sale of electricity.
Several similar projects are already underway right in the Golden State. A winery in Napa Valley hired SPG Solar, since acquired by SunEdison, to place the appropriate infrastructure on an irrigation pond. This allowed it to avoid having to cut down valuable vines while still becoming self-sufficient in electricity production. Sonoma County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, has decided to lease the rights to six ponds full of wastewater to the company Pristine Sun, which will set up floatovoltaic cells. The project is expected to generate electricity for 3,000 households while bringing in $30,000 annually in payments for the water rights.
Japan’s Kyocera is one of the leading enterprises in developing this kind of solar energy. It has created the largest such system in the world in Hyogo Prefecture and is working on an even bigger project at Yamakura Dam in Chiba Prefecture. Amazingly, the equipment will be able to withstand winds stronger than 100 miles per hour and is designed so that earthquakes will not affect its operations. French firm Ciel et Terre is partnering with Kyocera for the job, and it’s also working on creating floatovoltaic systems for use in Thailand.
From populous India and arid Australia to tech-savvy Japan and green-energy-conscious Brazil, countries around the world are working on using floatovoltaic technology to augment their clean energy efforts. Because it uses much of the same equipment as normal solar power, albeit with certain modifications, we’ll see floatovoltaic solutions march step-by-step in line with further advances in the solar industry as a whole. Extending humankind’s renewable energy efforts to aquatic environs means that total solar production will increase without putting pressure on scarce land resources.
One of the points made by solar opposition is the intrusion of installations on existing ecosystems. For example, desert installations in the US are often subject to EIRs (Environmental Impact Reports) that may make or break a project. Albeit, this is done for good reasons and with the right intent for all involved (human and non-human). So, designers in Australia have come up with a solution that doesn’t harm the footprint of the solar array installation, all while working as a water conservation system for a water treatment facility.
As this solar array is situated on a buoyant foundation, it acts as an evaporation barrier for the water below (cools the surface temperature of the water that is shaded by the solar array, thus less evaporation from radiation as well as some blockage of lateral wind evaporation.) No additional land is used with this array (see scenario above), so the situation is optimized for both electricity generation and efficient water treatment. The electricity generated is used to power the water treatment operations with excess electricity sold to the local township.
Smart design for a smart technology. Way to go Australia!
Mario @ Your Solar Link
In the last couple of weeks, the roof of the building at Lincoln Center that houses the Juilliard School and the School of American Ballet was converted into a construction site.
The 36 solar panels atop the Rose Building in Manhattan should yield more than 11,000 kilowatt-hours per year, enough to light the building’s lobby for that time. Credit – Ángel Franco/The New York Times.
More than 900 square feet of what had been empty space are now covered by solar panels that will convert sunlight to electrical current.
Lincoln Center officials say the 36 solar panels — on the roof of the Rose Building, on West 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue — symbolize another step in their operation to go green. They announced a deal in 2012 to supply electricity generated by wind power equal to most of the buildings at Lincoln Center and the central plant that heats and cools them. (No, there are no wind turbines whirling above Lincoln Center; it buys power from a company that supplies wind-generated electricity to the conventional commercial power grid.)
The solar array was arranged through the same company behind the wind-power contract, Green Mountain Energy, and was paid for with federal and state grants. A $100,000 donation also came from Sun Club, a program run by Green Mountain that donates solar power to nonprofit groups.
Lincoln Center will still draw electricity from Consolidated Edison, but it will pay Green Mountain, which will channel electricity from the solar array to the conventional commercial power grid. Green Mountain will make up the difference if the panels fall short of the 11,331 kilowatt-hours a year that they are expected to yield.
Steve DeStefano, Lincoln Center’s director of engineering, said that was enough to light the lobby of the Rose Building for a year, or to run the washers and dryers in the student dorms on the 11th floor for four months. He said the panels had been placed to receive the most sunlight possible — 800 to 1,000 more kilowatt-hours a year than if they had been installed elsewhere on the roof.
What is the life span of solar lights?
Many times the question pops up regarding the life span of solar powered lights. How does one ensure the best performance and prolong the life of solar lights? After a while, you might notice that your solar lights are not as bright as when you first bought them. And without knowing the basics of solar lights, you may become confused about what exactly happened. Could it be that your solar lights got old and need to be recycled or is there something that you just need to know about the maintenance of your solar powered products?
Solar lights need four essential components to function:
1. A rechargeable battery to store the power generated by the energy from the sun.
2. A small photovoltaic cell or solar array that captures sunlight during the day and converts it into electrical energy. The solar array is usually built right into the light fixture. Some light designs have separate solar arrays connected by a thin wire allowing the light to be located in a shady area while the solar array itself is placed in a bright, sunny location.
3. A “charge controller” to ensure the batteries don’t get overcharged in bright sunlight as well as to monitor the amount of light in the surrounding area and turn the LED (light emitting diode) light on and off.
4. An LED (or a series of LEDs) which provides the light.
10-Pack NiCd AA700mAh 1.2V Rechargeable Batteries at http://www.yoursolarlink.com.
Image by Your Solar Link.
Rechargeable Solar Light Batteries are the major cause of failure in solar garden lights (5 main reasons why your solar lights are not performing as well as new.)
Rechargeable solar batteries will self-discharge which means that over time the batteries will discharge to a point where they no longer work.
It is important to ensure you charge your solar lights at least every three (3) months to ensure the battery stays in good shape and lasts its life span, generally 1-2 years.
Replace your old batteries when they run their life cycle.
When you purchase your solar lights, the rechargeable batteries are often already included in the fixture. After 1-2 years (or a matter of months in some cases) it is quite normal to see their performance decline. Once you notice that the lighting time is considerably diminishing and the lights are not as bright as before, it’s probably time to replace your rechargeable solar garden light batteries.
Another reason of reduced lighting time and brightness can also be that the solar light batteries are not charging correctly.
For the best charging performances the solar panel needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. Dust and other accumulated residues can considerably affect the charging procedure. They form a coating layer on the solar panel and block the sunlight.
10-Pack NiCd AA600mAh 1.2V Rechargeable Batteries at http://www.yoursolarlink.com.
Image by Your Solar Link.
An easy way to check if the rechargeable batteries are dead is to test them by briefly replacing them with regular batteries, just long enough to check if the light is working. If you are testing the solar light during the day, don’t forget to cover it, or place the light in a darkened room. This will allow the photocell to trigger the light to its “on” position. If the solar light turns on with normal batteries it means that the rechargeable batteries are faulty and you will need to buy a new set.
Important: don’t forget to pay particular attention to the location of the solar lights.
Batteries will not charge properly if the solar panel is in the shade, they rely on the energy of the sun to charge.
There is another simple test you can do before replacing the solar light rechargeable batteries. Place your solar lights under direct sunshine for a day or two and see what happens. If, after this duration, the illumination time is back to normal, it means that the solar panel was not getting enough light from the sun. Commonly, solar lights should be in direct sunlight for at least 4 hours a day to adequately charge the rechargeable batteries.
If you store your solar lights for long periods of time, take the batteries out!
When you had to store your garden solar lights for a long period of time (during winter months, for example), did you take out the batteries? If you did, your solar light batteries will have a longer life span.
10-Pack NiMH AA1000mAh 1.2V Rechargeable Batteries at http://www.yoursolarlink.com.
Image by Your Solar Link.
Replacing solar light batteries is not a difficult task.
All you have to do is to locate the solar light battery cover, remove it, take out the defective batteries and replace them with new ones. If no battery cover can be found, the solar light needs to be taken apart, usually with one or two screws. On most models you’ll find the screws on the top or bottom of the light. Once the unit is open you’ll have access to the batteries.
Types of rechargeable batteries.
Most solar garden lights need between 1 to 4 batteries to work. 2 types of batteries are usually used in garden solar lights: AA size – NiCad(Nickel Cadmium) 1.2 V / 500 to 900mA, and AA size – NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) 1.2 V /1000 to 2000mA.
When it is time to change the solar light rechargeable batteries, the choice of battery also plays an important part in ensuring the enhanced performance of your solar lights.
Nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH) will have up to three times more capacity than the same size Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery, meaning they are capable of lasting longer and more reliable.
NiMH batteries in your solar lights may cost a little extra but they are more environmentally friendly than NiCd batteries. NiMH batteries are more environmentally friendly because they use a dry liquid, which can be disposed of more easily. They will also withstand greater temperature fluctuations operating in temperatures ranging from -20 to 60 degrees Celsius (-4 to 140F). Ni-MH batteries have a “non-memory effect” which means they will continue to charge on cloudy days. The battery performance will not be diminished by these partial charges, as what can occur with lead acid batteries.
10-Pack NiMH AAA900mAh 1.2V Rechargeable Batteries at http://www.yoursolarlink.com.
Image by Your Solar Link.
Solar light replacement batteries are standard and can be found easily. If you know these solar lights basics, with minimum maintenance effort you will enjoy your solar powered lights for years.
Juicebar Pocket Solar Charger.
This stylish, sleek and reliable pocket size Universal Battery Charger (Juicebar Solar Charger) is proven to be your best friend in a situation when conventional electric supply is not available or if you are trying to use eco-friendly renewable power supplies.
Great as a solar phone charger for any type of Mobile Phones, IPhones, PSA, PDA, Mp3 Players, Satellite Navigation, and much more.
Get it HERE.
SOLAR PATH LIGHTS.
Stainless Steel Conical Solar Path Light (Set of 2).
Path solar lights are an excellent choice for lighting your garden paths, walkways, driveway perimeters and other regions in your landscape. They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.
Featured Stainless Steel Solar Light set uses 2 ultra-bright LEDs for maximum light output and minimum battery usage.
The lights are safe around kids and pets and water and corrosion resistant.
Read more HERE
STONE SOLAR SPOT LIGHTS.
Stone Solar Spot Lights (also known as Solar Rock Lights) completely camouflage with existing landscapes and look like any other rock in your garden.
SOLAR GARDEN FOUNTAINS.
How to start using ecologically friendly energy to power up your garden fountains and other garden water features?
Why not go with a solar powered water pump?
To accommodate your needs the Solar Fountain Pump Systems we carry range from 2 to 8 Watt. Browse our collection of solar water pumps for your fish ponds and solar fountains.
Enjoy your garden water features and your energy savings at the same time. Make a note of the various power levels and the flow rate of the solar water pumps before your purchase.
Please write us your review after your purchase. Your opinion is important to us!
DECORATIVE SOLAR ACCENT LIGHTS.
Solar accent lights (Set of 2) create an enjoyable and inviting glow for your landscape.
They are designed to mark a place.
Solar Spot Light - $26.99
Super High Output Spot Light (4 Super Bright LEDs). Free Shipping!
Solar spot lights like this one rely on energy from the sun to charge their batteries and provide light throughout the night.
This means that there is no need to tap into the electrical grid for these lights to operate.
The solar spot lights will work consistently, even if the whole neighborhood is dealing with a power outage.
Learn more about Solar Spot Lights at http://www.yoursolarlink.com/solar-spot-lights, where we have a great selection of solar spot lights to choose from.
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