Solar Power Plants
Solar energy can be used on an industrial scale to provide electricity to the masses. The solar power plants that make this possible are becoming increasingly efficient as new technologies are developed, helping to make industrial solar electricity an economically viable and thriving industry.
A solar power plant utilises vast quantities of solar cells to convert photons contained within the sun's rays into electricity. This process is one of the best and most efficient thermal systems in our reach. This varies depending on the type of material in use, but the main principle is that the solar semi-conductor contains electrons and when photons strike these electrons (if the photon had enough energy) then the electron would be transformed into a conduction electron which is capable of carrying an electric charge.
The Different Types of Solar Power Stations
Solar power stations are just a large collection of interconnected solar power panels that generate energy from the sun. The operators of these power plants can then sell this energy in the form of electricity to a national grid or even direct to the customer.
There are two main types of solar power plants, both of which use vast amounts of solar cells to generate electricity. The most common type is the traditional design of tilted panels spread out over hundreds of hectares, all interconnected into one system. A more modern design utilises a tower that can enhance the intensity of the sun's rays and focus this energy on a smaller number of panels that are capable of harnessing this additional energy. This system is advantageous in the fact that less space is required for the development of a solar power station.
Some solar power plants have systems that rotate the panels throughout the day to ensure they are continuously facing the sun and therefore utilising the highest level of solar energy as possible.
Small Scale Solar Power Plants
Some land owners have decided to construct their own small scale solar power plants over recent years. These systems work the same as the larger, more industrial power stations but with far fewer solar cells. The electricity generated can then be used to power that person's property or even be sold back to the grid for a profitable source of income.
Where Can Solar Power Plants Be Found?
Most solar power plants are constructed in countries that receive high intensity sunlight for a large proportion of the year. You may think that equatorial countries would be the most ideal candidate but this is not the case as heat can affect the efficiency of solar panels. A balancing act has to be taken into account and therefore countries situated between the equator and the poles are often the best candidates. The USA and southern Europe have the vast majority of solar power stations in operation today.
In the USA, some renewable energy development companies have installed small scale solar power plants on the flat roofs of large department stores which can greatly reduce the cost of new developments on their own land. This can be advantageous to the companies who agree to have these systems placed on their roof either through a source of additional income or free energy bills all year round.
- Written by James Bratley