Utilizing Solar Energy for Distributed Power Generation
Solar energy systems come in all shapes and sizes. Commercial and residential systems are found on rooftops across the United States opting to install solar panels to offset their energy costs. Utilities, too, are building large solar power plants to provide cleaner energy to all customers connected to the grid.
Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the sun that is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies. It is an important source of renewable energy and its technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on how they capture and distribute solar energy or convert it into solar power. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar water heating to harness the energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light-dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.
At XLS Energy, our partnered teams consists of industry professionals that have many years of experience in commercial solar systems. The diversity of our team’s knowledge and experience enables us to provide top quality service at every stage of your installation. We use only state-of-the-art, current model, high-efficiency components and we won’t compromise on the quality and integrity of your system.
At XLS Energy, we never buy major system components in large lots and then try to adapt them to a customers project. Instead, we begin the process with a detailed on-site system feasibility study which allows us to design the best possible configuration for your particular location, then we source the components to best fit your needs.
TYPES OF SOLAR
There are two main types of solar energy technologies—photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). The most common are photovoltaic, which are utilized in panels. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the cells in the panel, which creates an electric field across the layers and causes electricity to flow.
The second technology is concentrating solar power. It is used primarily in very large power plants and is not appropriate for residential use. This technology uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity.
Photovoltaic (PV) materials and devices convert sunlight into electrical energy. A single PV device is known as a cell. An individual PV cell is usually small, typically producing about 1 or 2 watts of power. To boost the power output of PV cells, they are connected together in chains to form larger units known as modules or panels. Modules can be used individually, or several can be connected to form arrays. One or more arrays is then connected to the electrical grid as part of a complete PV system. Because of this modular structure, PV systems can be built to meet almost any electric power need, small or large.
PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR CELLS
Commonly known as solar cells, individual PV cells are electricity-producing devices made of different semiconductor materials. PV cells come in many sizes and shapes, from smaller than a postage stamp to several inches across. Solar cells are often less than the thickness of four human hairs. In order to withstand the outdoors for many years, cells are sandwiched between protective materials in a combination of glass and/or plastics to make a PV module.
PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS
PV modules and arrays are just one part of a PV system. Systems also include mounting structures that point panels toward the sun, along with the components that take the direct-current (DC) electricity produced by modules and convert it to the alternating-current (AC) electricity used to power the facility.
CONCENTRATING SOLAR POWER
Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a single point where it is collected and converted into heat. This thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity.
Concentrating solar power systems are generally used for utility-scale projects. The mirrors in CSP plants focus sunlight onto a receiver that heats a high-temperature fluid, which is used to spin a turbine or power an engine that drives a generator. The final product is electricity.
Smaller CSP systems can be located directly where power is needed. For example, single dish/engine systems can produce lower kilowatts of power and are well suited for distributed applications. There are several varieties of CSP systems such as:
- Linear Concentrator Systems
- Dish/Engine Systems
- Power Tower Systems
- Thermal Storage Systems