Solar power

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Colour-coded world map produced by NASA showing where solar energy has maximum effect. Photo: Reuters
Colour-coded world map produced by NASA showing where solar energy has maximum effect. Photo: Reuters
Australia's solar energy potential (NASA)
Australia's solar energy potential (NASA)
Greensborough house 2 1.98 kW array
Greensborough house 2 1.98 kW array
Ivanhoe house 9.8 kW array
Ivanhoe house 9.8 kW array
Knoxfield house 2.4 kW array
Knoxfield house 2.4 kW array
Greensborough house 2.5 kW array
Greensborough house 2.5 kW array

Solar power is produced from the sun with zero carbon emissions.

Contents

Sunnier Times Ahead

A turbulent future of violent storms, devastating drought, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels is inevitable if climate change is left unchecked

"Human activities led by burning fossil fuels is “very likely” to account for most of the warming in the past 50 years" - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, February 2007

The need to address ‘climate change’ NOW is an opportunity to change direction and embrace a truly sustainable path.

Electricity produced from the sun emits no greenhouse gases. The sun is the only perpetually renewable source of energy which the planet possesses and should be around for another 4 billion years.

"The whole world in half a year uses about the same amount of energy as the solar energy that hits Australia in one summer day"Professor Ian Lowe, 7:30 Report 31 January 2007

Solar power plants could power Australia Some of the largest investors and power companies in the USA have realised that solar thermal power is a probable replacement for coal, nuclear and oil - Professor David Mills, a world leader in solar research states. Professor Mills has left Australia for California, which has the target of 33% renewable energy by 2020. Australia’s renewable energy target is 2.5% by 2010.

How can we use solar power?

We do not have to wait for solar power stations. We can install our own solar modules, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.

A solar array cleanly produces electricity when the sun is shining and any surplus electricity can be exported to the grid. At night, when the sun does not shine, electricity is imported back from the grid. An alternative arrangement is the installation of batteries, which store the electricity generated during the day for use at night.

To use solar electricity which is generated as direct current (DC), we convert the DC to alternating current (AC). The device which converts DC into AC is known as an inverter and is easily installed.

The power from the solar module is proportional to the amount of light shining on it. The key requirement for a suitable solar site in Australia is a north facing roof or ground space that is not shaded during the day.

Solar modules, often referred to as PV (photovoltaic) panels, have no moving parts so there is nothing to wear out. It is estimated that they should last for 50 years or more. Solar modules can withstand a wide range of climatic conditions, including snow, frost, hail and high temperature.

How many solar modules do I need?

Consult your latest electricity account for your average energy use over the last 12 months. It is then a simple calculation to work out the number of solar modules required to meet your particular energy needs.

For example,

  • If your daily energy use is 10 kilo watt hours (kWh) = 10,000 watt hours (Wh)
  • Using the weather conditions in Melbourne where the yearly average hours of sunshine per day = 4.79 h
  • Modules are available in sizes from 2 – 250 Watts. If we choose 175 W solar modules,

Number solar modules = Daily Energy Use (Wh) / ( Module power (W) X Hours of sunshine (h) )

= 10,000 / (175 * 4.79)

= 11.9, therefore install 12 modules

Further information on sustainability ideas

ATA Alternative Technology Association www.ata.org.au

Purchase from your local newsagent:

  • Renew Magazine (ATA)
  • Sanctuary Magazine (ATA)
  • G Magazine www.gmagazine.com.au

Grants and funding

Credits

  • Issue 1, March 2007
  • Text by Margaret and Suzi Young
  • Photos courtesy RJM Sunpower Pty Ltd [email protected]

See also

Other references

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