Cooling solar cells, naturally

Cooling solar cells, naturally

Real-world data from monitoring equipment at the Denver Federal Center was used to investigate how spacing solar panels can help them cool down. Credit: Smith et al.

A bright, sunny, cloud-free day seems like the optimal setting for a solar panel. But too much sun and too much heat can actually reduce the efficiency of photovoltaics.

As operator rising temperatures increase by 1 degree Celsius, traditional silicon-based solar cells will reduce efficiency by about 0.5%. In a typical photovoltaic plant, where the modules operate at temperatures nearly 25 degrees Celsius higher ambient temperature, energy loss can reach 12%.

This requires efficient cooling measures for solar farms. inside Renewable and Sustainable Energy MagazineResearchers from Portland State University, the University of Utah, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have explored how to harness the geometry of solar farms to enhance natural cooling mechanisms.

Some modern cooling methods force wind or water to interact with the surface of the solar panel, while others use specific materials that are less sensitive to heat. However, these techniques require considerable resources to operate. In contrast, a solar farm with optimally spaced panels facing the correct direction can cool itself through convection using the surrounding wind.

The team improved models that calculate how much energy a given solar plant will generate based on factors such as materials, environmental conditions, and panel temperature. They specifically focused on the geometry of the solar farms, or the extent of “holes” present between the panels.

“Our hypothesis is that the most accurate estimate of solar plant convection and ultimately production efficiency, must consider the entire farm and all possible configuration changes. “, said author Sarah Smith, of Portland State University.

By design, it is rare for two solar plants to have the same setup. Each is uniquely designed to optimize solar radiation and match its surroundings. For example, the inclination of solar panels varies with latitude, and their height varies with vegetation. The spacing between rows usually depends on the available land area.

“This means that the heat-removing airflow will also move differently within each solar plant based on its arrangement, ultimately changing how efficiently heat is removed from the solar cells,” Smith said. module surface”.

The researchers performed wind tunnel experiments and high-resolution simulations, and collected real-world data to validate their model. They studied photovoltaic heating and cooling with variations in module height, row spacing, angle and wind. Raise height solar battery and increasing the spacing between the rows of the panel increased the power output from 2% to 3%.

“This correlation between geometry and efficiency is a major step forward in predicting convective cooling for solar farm based on their inherently unique arrangement,” Smith said. “It paves the way for more accurate energy production and cost prediction models in the industry.”

The article “Viewing convection as an extended solar farm phenomenon modern energy prediction for solar photovoltaics” is authored by Sarah E. Smith, Brooke J. Stanislawski, Byron K. Eng, Naseem Ali, Timothy J Silverman, Marc Calaf and Raúl Bayon Cal and will appear in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Magazine on November 29, 2022.

More information:
Viewing convection as a solar farm phenomenon extends modern energy predictions for solar photovoltaics, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Magazine (2022). DOI: 10.1063/5.0105649

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